Down a potholed village road in Preah Vihear province in northern Cambodia, in what can accurately be described as ‘the middle of nowhere,’ you’ll find BeTreed Adventures, an excellent ecotourism project focusing on conservation and community development, with an environmental protection mandate over a vast swathe of forest.
BeTreed Adventures (the capital T keeps the focus firmly on the forest) offers rustic accommodation in treehouses or stilt cabins, as well as ziplining and guided hikes that give visitors the opportunity to experience Cambodia’s lush forest, a luxury rapidly disappearing across the Kingdom as pressure for land and resources grows.
Banteng, eagles, owls, hornbills, wild pigs, deer, monkeys, snakes, two ponies, a tame squirrel, a somewhat-friendly gibbon, and a three-legged dog called Mikey are just some of the animals you might spot during your stay.
Accommodation includes not just some of the best vegetarian food in Cambodia but three wooden houses (with glorious open air hot-water showers) — one is a treehouse providing a 360-degree views that attracts local tourists to gawp.
The amazing tree-top zipline is fantastic fun with unrivaled views of some of Cambodia’s last remaining forest (and handily the only place where Smart mobile users get a signal).
The owners, Ben, an American, and Sharyn, a native of Australia, seem locked in mortal combat with the forces of corruption and rural poverty. Ben, who has lived in Cambodia since 1992, is a passionate protector of the Kingdom’s flora and fauna.
“Hunters used to climb these trees using the roots or vines just like a ladder, then sit at the top all day and shoot the hornbills, while other hunters down below would pluck them,” he explained, looking up at a towering tree, part of a looping hike through the forests that surround BeTreed.
“Now, they just climb up and spray the fruit with pesticide and within minutes the birds drop dead. Much quicker,” he adds with a rueful grin, before continuing along the trail to check on camera traps intended to document the remaining wildlife.
Such is the challenge he and his team of rangers face against ever-adapting poachers and loggers, driven by poverty and the greed of others to exploit ever more of Cambodia’s natural resources.
The tigers, leopards, and elephants once endemic to the region are long gone. And the “snare epidemic” — traps made of wire and rope by poachers — that is ravaging much of Southeast Asia’s forests means that muntjac deer, guar, banteng, are destined for local cooking pots, exotic illicit city menus, and extinction.
A stay at BeTreed is not just a cathartic forest-spa like retreat in nature (they have Bodia bath supplies in the rooms and a seemingly endless supply of soda water) and an opportunity to hike amid ever-rarer giant trees and wildlife. Every stay also includes a conservation fee is used to fund community development and conservation activities in the local community, providing much-needed income to support the efforts of the rangers to limit loggers and poachers from operating with ease — and just maybe help preserve some of Cambodia’s nature for a little while longer.
Accommodation at BeTreed costs $60 per night for a stilt cabin that sleeps up to five people, or a treehouse that sleeps up to four people. Meals cost $6 for adults and $3 for children, and activities are optional. The conservation fee is $15 for foreigners or $5 for adults. Two-night packages are available that include all meals and activities for $250 for couples or $300 for families of four.
Ta Bos Village, Sdau Commune, Songkom Thmey, Preah Vihear Province
Tel: +855 (0)78 960420; (0)12 765136