Outdoor Activities in Cambodia – Cambodia Wildlife
Cambodia is the perfect spot for nature enthusiasts and avid adventurers who like to hop off the beaten track. Away from the major urban hubs, the country is mostly sweeping countryside, jungle-clad mountains and dense tropical forest. It’s awash with authentic adventures and opportunities to dive into the heart of the wild.
While the country’s collection of endangered flora and fauna is shrinking, thanks to decades of illegal logging and poaching, Cambodia is still home to an abundance of rare and exotic birds, mammals and marine life. The considerable range of conservation efforts taking place is giving many species a new lease of life, while a rising number of eco-tourism projects means guests can experience Cambodia’s wealth of wildlife first-hand.
Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre is operated by the wonderful wildlife rescue NGO Wildlife Alliance and is a great day trip from the capital, sitting about 30km away. The organisation works to stamp out Cambodia’s illegal animal trade and wildlife trafficking, and the rescue centre plays an integral role in its mission. Rescued and seized animals are taken to the centre, where they are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild.
It cares for a range of species, such as tigers, deer, leopard cats, elephants and gibbons. Wildlife Alliance runs a day tour, which includes feeding elephants, entering the tiger’s den, spending time with hand-reared baby animals and hanging out with macaques in their enclosure.
Elephant Valley Project offers respite to overworked and abused elephants at its sprawling sanctuary in the heart of the area’s rugged jungle
Another pioneering project from Wildlife Alliance that will tickle the fancy of nature lovers is its wildlife release station in the heart of Koh Kong. Here, sun bears, monkeys, birds and cloud leopards are all a step away from being sent home as they await their release back into the wild. Rangers are on hand to explain each of the animal’s story, with treks through the jungle available. Basic huts provide accommodation.
Outdoor Activities in Cambodia – Birdwatching
Birders will be in their element at Sam Veasna Centre. The Siem Reap-based organisation has been running tours to fund its work to protect and preserve the country’s birdlife since 2006. Half-day through to multiple day trips, led by English-speaking guides, showcase Cambodia’s range of birds, from Bengal floricans and giant and white-shouldered ibis, to critically-endangered species of vulture. You can arrange the trips in Siem Reap. This really is a great orgnaisation.
Outdoor Activities in Cambodia – Elephant Rescue in Cambodia
For some elephant action on your Cambodia travel, head to Mondulkiri. Elephant Valley Project offers respite to overworked and abused elephants at its sprawling sanctuary in the heart of the area’s rugged jungle. Visitors can sign up to a range of trips, from a full-day through to five days. These take in treks to watch elephants bathing in rivers or stomping through the trees and learning about the indigenous Bunong tribes that call Mondulkiri home.
The central province of Kratie is home to a small collection of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins
Outdoor Activities in Cambodia – Dolphin Watching
The central province of Kratie is home to a small collection of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. Inhabiting a 118-mile stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos, the dolphins are close to extinction, with an estimated 78 to 91 remaining – and some of them like to hang out in a spot of water just a short boat ride from Kratie.
It’s easy to organise a trip yourself – get a tuk tuk to the boat docks at Kampi, about 11km from the town of Kratie, and haggle the price of a boat to about US$10 – but a wonderful way to get a snapshot into authentic rural local life is to sign up to one of CRDT’s (Cambodia Rural Discovery Tours) offerings.
It works with underprivileged communities across the province to offer a range of homestays, eco-adventures and local experiences that steer well and truly away from Cambodia’s tourist hotspots. These include trips to see the dolphins and a breeding programme that is bringing the giant Cantor’s softshell turtle back from the brink of extinction.
Camping in the Cardamoms
If you prefer to inject a bit of glamour into your wilderness experience, then check-in to Cardamom Tented Camp. The luxury glamping resort in the heart of the Cardamom jungle sees a handful of safari tents, complete with a king size bed, Western-style toilet, and steaming hot power shower, dotted in a natural plain. All profits are ploughed into funding rangers who protect the jungle from loggers and poachers. Guests can accompany them on their patrols, kayak, trek, or relax on the sundeck. This is the ultimate eco-resort with power supplied by solar panels and waste water treated.
For a taste of the absolute high-life, Shinta Mani Wild (main image) – The Bensley Collection with 15 exclusive tents scattered along a 1.5km stretch of river and waterfalls. Located in an unprotected wildlife corridor connecting Bokor and Kirirom national parks, the resort offers curated adventures into the surrounding jungle. The ultimate in luxury, Shinta Mani is devoted to preserving the local wildlife working with Wildlife Alliance.
At the other end of the scale, the country has a wonderful number of homestays where money is invested back into the local community – just check out the CBET (Community Based Eco Tourism) site.
Really there are few stretches of Southeast Asia – or even the world – as unspolit as the Cardamom Mountains. The boat trip from Tatai to Koh Kong on the Thai border is a totally unforgetable experience as you drift through hours of mangrove swamps.
Discover more about the outdoor activities in Cambodia and about some of the CBET homestays you can stay at in Cambodia, when Mark Bibby Jackson went Wild in the Cardamoms.