A glass of cheap local whisky loose in my hand, I am deep in conversation with a group of travellers, bundled up close to a flickering campfire. A mix of nationalities, some of the group I have known for weeks and some only a couple of hours yet our mutual adoration of travel and adventure has bonded us instantly and we are all smiles, the conversation flowing effortlessly. I am 22 years old and two months into an epic 8-month long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Life is very good indeed and my new nomadic and unperturbed lifestyle is a welcome change after a difficult past year living in London.
We are on Long Beach on Koh Rong, a tiny secluded Cambodian island off the coast, a place I had been recommended to visit by other travellers met on the road. A short boat ride away from Koh Touch, the main ‘strip’ of the island, if you can call it that, we had decided to spend the night there camping. I had visited the beach earlier in the day and it was honestly the most beautiful I had ever seen; all the clichés of a long stretch of white sand, still waters and an unfamiliar quiet. Now at around 3am, there are only a handful of groups with the same idea as us, each fire sporadically set up across the beach, flames dancing wildly in the black.
‘Hey – it’s pretty dark out here, I bet we might be able to see some of the glowing plankton’ one of the English guys had piped up.
I stare at him nonchalantly. Swimming with glowing bioluminescent plankton had been a travel dream of mine – and not one I had expected to experience in Cambodia. It simply all sounded too good to be true.
‘No – surely not. Not here.’ I insist, dismissive.
Yet before I know it I am plunging into the lukewarm waters, completely unconvinced but content with taking a spontaneous night time dip all the same.
And then it happens. With every delicate move of every limb, shimmering spots of cobalt twirl along, sparkling like fairy lights in the dark. It is beautiful. The chuckles from my new friends hum in my ears, but all I can focus on is the glitter dancing with me in the water and I am laughing so very hard. It suddenly dawns on me that I am here, in the waters of Long Beach, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my life and I am swimming with bioluminescent plankton, something I had only ever dreamed of doing. And in that moment, I am happy, so very happy.