Today we have a post from Max Harland and André Ruys, who both have a serious case of Cambodia jungle fever. They run small group tours of the Cambodian countryside and jungle and have shared some of their favorite spots with Move to Cambodia.
So here you are, living in Cambodia and (hopefully) enjoying every minute of it. Angkor Wat is your second home, Phnom Penh your playground, and Sihanoukville your favorite spot for weekend trips. But maybe you’re looking for a change of scenery… How about the jungle? For those with an adventurous spirit, you’ll find our top recommendations below.
Getting to Ratanakiri, the northeastern-most province in Cambodia, is quite a journey. Allow 10 to 12 hours by bus (a little less if you get a cab) to get from Phnom Penh to Banlung, the main town in Ratanakiri. A long trip indeed, but definitely worth it. Trekking in Ratanakiri is outstanding, and there are many different options. Here are our suggestions:
- Don’t miss Yak Lom Lake. This 49-meter deep crater lake is the perfect spot to chill out and get a fresh evening swim after a long hiking day. Stay there until sunset–you’ll get some stunning views when the sun goes down over the lake.
- Visit Kachon Cemetery, located close to the Lao village. There, you’ll run into dozens of wooden statues representing the deceased person buried below them. A unique experience.
- Many of the most beautiful waterfalls in Cambodia can be found in the Ratanakiri province. Among others, check out Katien waterfall and the seven steps waterfall.
- If you have the budget for it, go Gibbons spotting. This recently created activity allows you to see the northern yellow-cheeked gibbons, a rare and endangered species of ape.
- Watch locals mining gems. In order to find precious stones, locals get 10 to 15 meters deep into the ground, which is very impressive to watch. In some areas, you’ll also get to see locals gold hunting in the river.
- Mondulkiri is the least-populated province in Cambodia. It’ll take you 7 to 9 hours to reach Sen Monorom, the Province’s capital, which has a population of around 8000 people. The scenery there is beautiful, featuring jungle, mountains and wildlife.
- Get to Bou Sra, which probably the biggest waterfall in Cambodia, and definitely the most impressive.
- Visit a Phnong village. The Phnong people are the local minority in the Mondulkiri Province. Walk through one of their villages and admire the beautiful circular bamboo huts.
- Spend a day or two volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project. The organization works to protect wild elephants from captivity. Help them out with their daily or monthly projects and you’ll get to watch elephants roaming around their protected sanctuary in the Seima forest. Don’t expect elephant-riding or fun tricks there, as it is all about giving their wilderness back to the elephants.
- Go mountain biking in Mondulkiri! The green and hilly Mondulkiri landscapes are perfect for that.
- Get to the Sea Forest close to Sen Monorom and enjoy the exceptional panoramic view over the jungle.
Once very hard to reach from the rest of Cambodia, the Koh Kong Province is now easily accessible thanks to the newly-paved road that leads to it. Koh Kong home to the Cardamom mountains, a 300km mountain range that goes up to Thailand. The region has been badly hit by illegal logging and hunting, but things are slowly starting to change as ecotourism and myriad activities for tourists are being developed in the region. Here’s our selection of things to do there:
- Get to Chi Phat in the Cardamom mountains for a few days. Kayaking, hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching; there’s no lack of activities in Chi Phat. Until five years ago, this medium-sized village got most of its revenues from poaching. Then in 2007, The Wildlife Alliance started to work with the local community to transform the village into what has become the main ecotourism destination in Cambodia.
- From a couple hundred tourists the first year, tourism in Chi Phat has grown to host more than 2000 visitors last year. Everything is well organized and the equipment provided (mountain bikes, hammocks, kayaks) is top quality. However, Chi Phat remains a small village located in the middle of the jungle with basic accommodation (although you can stay at the eco-lodge for a bit more comfort) so expect a great immersive experience.
- Do the mangrove walk! This 1.5 km wooden walkway among the flooded forest is thoroughly enjoyable. The great panoramic view from the 15-meter high observation tower is a highlight.
- Go for a swim at Ta Tai Waterfall. The Rainbow Lodge river eco-resort is a perfect getaway for a relaxing weekend away from the city. If you want to add a little luxury to your trip, stay at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge for the night. The lodge is composed of 12 bungalows, which sit on Ta Tai River.
These remote Cambodian regions are definitely worth a visit, and will allow you to discover a different side of the Kingdom of Wonder. What you’ll bring home after a trip to the Cambodian wilderness? Sore legs, a few bruises and scratches… and priceless memories!
Max and André both work for Triple A Cambodia. While Max is still relatively new to Cambodia (he’s been here for less than a year), he’s already explored all of the least visited northern regions of the country. André, on the other hand, has been living and working in Cambodia for 13 years and has been pretty much everywhere in the Kingdom. Their goal with Triple A is to show short-term visitors a different side of the country by taking them to the provinces and letting them meet the locals.