‘Watch out for the killer caterpillars’ – Sara Politz-Damergi. Jasmine Valley, Kep, Cambodia

We arrived in Kep in the afternoon. Kep is a lovely, Southern coastal town against the backdrop of a rainforest, still fairly untouched by the tourist boom (although numbers are rising each year). A sight for sore eyes as we got off the bus. Looking tanned, relaxed and sickeningly beautiful, our great friends Rick and Sara Politz-Damergi greeted us. We exchanged hugs and kisses then made the short trip to our home for the night, Jasmine Valley.

The beautiful couple on one of their THREE wedding days

Rick and Sara had already been staying at Jasmine for the week and had regaled in its beauty and charm. They weren’t wrong. Jasmine Valley is in its infancy as an eco-resort. Set in dense rainforest and national park terrain, it houses thatched, mud and brick bungalows. Everywhere you turn, the energy, beauty and wonderment of our natural world jumps out at you. It is powered almost exclusively by solar energy, with great care being taken into using natural resources to build this most elegant of places.

Created and managed by Owen and Jasmine, a wonderful and happy couple, who exude their happiness and peaceful beings to the rest of the staff, they have created a Utopia inside a Utopia. The reception area also houses the bar, chill-out areas and a wonderful pool that fills up in the rainy season. There is a nature walk that the able-bodied (grrr) can negotiate to the tops of the valley, where you will find all sorts of wonderful plant and animal life. Heaven!

Rick and Sara had booked us into the largest duplex tree-house (for an obscenely miniscule rate) which is where we dropped off our bags. The ground floor housed a natural toilet, shower and bathroom area. Walking up the wooden steps to the top floor, we all gasped, including the Politz-Damergi’s, even though they had been in these surroundings for the past seven days.

To our left was a beautifully and ecologically designed bedroom area; to the right was the real piece de resistance. An open plan ‘living room’, complete with a hanging chair, table, relaxing seats and best of all, a panoramic view of the huge national park around us. Utterly, utterly stunning.

Having caught our breaths, we headed back to the main area. Rick and Sara got into their swimming attire and frolicked in the beautiful pool. For someone whom I remember having the most inordinate fear of spiders, Rick was unfazed by the two large arachnids lazing by the water’s edge. As the happy newlyweds playfully splashed around in the water, whispering sweet-nothings into each other’s ear, Stannie and I took pictures and relaxed in the swinging chairs. Stannie was really in her element. Always stunning regardless, this late afternoon she glowed with the essence of her surroundings and them dimples were deeper than I had ever seen for the grinning.

For the first time in a month, I held a guitar in my hands, and proceeded to play some tracks into the evening. Owen, as Rick had pointed out to me beforehand, has this unique soft whistle. The type that you could sit and listen to for hours on end. He absent-mindedly provided us with a backing track to our catch-up stories and merriment. We decided to order dinner, of which I requested the Khmer Vegetable Curry. Divine! Eating food is always eventful in the bar area, mainly because of Owie, one of the family dogs who resides at Jasmine Valley. Constantly on the look-out for nourishment and a bundle of unsuppressed energy, nipping away playfully at the merest hint of attention and causing minor-havoc with anything within a 6-inch radius of his mush. Oh and untapped bravado when squaring up to the disinterested, much bigger canines, peacefully trying to laze in the sun.

With full stomachs and catching-up out of the way, we headed back to our tree-house. Into the night we chilled-out, playing Michael Jackson Top Trumps, which Sara had never played before (and got alarmingly competitive about!), taking pictures of an almost silent and wondrous electrical storm and listening to the wildlife showing off their impressive vocal skills. The next morning, we would be heading to Rabbit Island, just off the coast of Kep. Sleepy time for us. Mating calls, mischief-making and general boisterousness from the gibbons in the jungle…

To sign this off, here is the Jasmine Valley Philosophy, as found on their website, www.jasminevalley.com. Please visit it and have a look through what they offer, how they are building the resort and also, what they are doing for the local Cambodian people they hire. And for God’s sake, please visit this incredible place at least once in your lifetime. Thank you to Jasmine, Owen and the rest of the fantastic staff at Jasmine. Oh and of course, Owie, the little rascal…

Jasmine Valley – the philosophy

We hope to create a place for travellers to relax – completely. We like to work with what the environment already offers and draw from that as inspiration. The Cambodian jungle, by the sea in Kep, offers a wonderful range of things to satisfy all senses. We think we’re on the right track, as, often, our guests find themselves relaxing in Jasmine Valley, reading, spotting wildlife, trekking, enjoying good conversation, rather than going out and ‘doing things’ that they had originally planned.

We build with bamboo, thatch and the earth on the property. Of course, other materials are also necessary, but we like the idea of building off the land.

We work with renewable or inexhaustible resources as often as practicable, such as solar energy for electricity throughout Jasmine Valley.

We also have a number of ideas we’re working on, to create educational and employment opportunities for Cambodian people.