Nine years ago, Aussie couple Rory and Melita Hunter embarked on a trip that would change their lives. A two week exploration of the remote Koh Rong Archipelago in southwest Cambodia led them to the twin islands known as Song Saa – Khmer, translation for the Sweethearts. The pair fell head over heels for the rugged, paradisic beauty of the land but were shocked at the consequences of human activity on the environment. Fortunately, they were moved enough to take some action and a little while later, the Song Saa private island resort and the Song Saa Foundation were born.
Song Saa was Cambodia’s first ever private island resort. As well as a beautiful luxury resort, the couple established the island’s first marine protected area and introduced natives to a brand new waste management system. We caught up with adventurer, philanthropist and resort co-founder Rory Hunter to find out a whole lot more.
We love your work Rory! Tell us a bit more about the beginning…
My wife Melita and I spent some time experiencing the Cambodian islands on a fishing boat. It began as a time of adventure; we were never expecting it to take us down an entirely new path in life. Along the way we both fell in love with the remarkable tropical environment. The pristine beaches, the rainforests and the vibrant communities were bewitching. The people we met truly inspired us.
So when the opportunity arose, quite suddenly, to create something spectacular in this part of the world, we jumped. We didn’t go travelling with an intention to come out the other end with an award-winning five-star resort and a foundation working so closely with the local community. But ultimately this has where our journey has brought us and we’re so grateful.
What has been the single most rewarding moment for you so far?
The single most rewarding moment has been weaving conservation and community development into a highly sustainable commercial model, in particular establishing Cambodia’s first ever marine reserve.
I love the bespoke and luxury aspects you offer within the Song Saa experience. What kind of people have you had visiting so far?
The Song Saa experience appeals on many different levels. We have bespoke Wellness Retreats which attract discerning guests who’ve experienced some of the best spas in the world. The philanthropic experience, Journeys of Change, attracts those who want to experience ultimate luxury but also want to take part in the work of the Song Saa Foundation at a grass-roots level, to make a real contribution. This in particular is very special to us because the profits go directly to the Song Saa Foundation.
What do you want visitors to get out of the experience?
We want our guests to fall in love with this place the way we did. There is a harmony in the way the elements of nature combine to make Song Saa so unique. It has been built with sustainable materials with the deepest respect for the environment, which is what underpins our entire business – luxury that treads lightly. We want our guests to lose themselves in the absolute luxury and intimacy of the experience.
What is your dream for the future?
We’re dedicated to continuing to build Song Saa as a brand that is recognized as an international leader in sustainable luxury. Along the way an absolutely key focus will be to ensure that we continue to work hand-in-hand with the local communities whose lives our business has the power to transform in a positive way.