The primary reason most travelers visit the Koh Kong province is to spend a few days exploring the Cardamom Mountains. These dense tropical rainforests can be visited by boat, foot or motorcycle, with all major operators in town offering a range of tours.
We chose a trekking tour, as it is by far the most exciting and immersive way to explore the forests. The Rainbow Lodge has its own trekking guide, Gerard Chartier, and he is fantastic! He is extremely enthusiastic about nature and you’ll leave the forest feeling like a wildlife expert. A full day jungle trek with Rainbow Lodge costs USD22.50, and there are future plans to run a two-night jungle camping experience, too.
Koh Kong island
Koh Kong Island is also a must-visit, as it is home to one of the best beaches in the whole of South East Asia. The most convenient way to visit the island is to book a day trip with a local operator in town, with prices ranging from USD13 to USD30 (Paddy’s Bamboo Guesthouse – USD13, Ritthy Koh Kong – USD18, Wood House – USD26).
The island is roughly a 2.5-hour boat trip from town, and the boats usually leave in the morning around 8am. We chose to tour with Ritthy, and it was a very enjoyable day. The first part of the trip was spent at the beach for swimming and snorkeling, followed by a delicious BBQ lunch. In the afternoon, the return boat journey took us through Peam Krasaop National Park, followed by a leisurely stroll through the mangroves, and a visit to a fishing village.
Waterfalls and the Tatai River
Exploring the Tatai River and waterfalls is another great way to spend a day whilst staying in Koh Kong. It’s possible to visit under your own steam, or if you would prefer, you can combine it with an organized trek through the surrounding forest. The tour is a far better option if you want to make the most of your visit, as the guides are very knowledgeable about the area. If you do decide to visit alone, it’s possible to negotiate boat hire up to the waterfall.
Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary
Those passionate about wildlife cannot by any means leave Koh Kong without a visit to Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is one of Cambodia’s Protected Areas, and it boasts the country’s largest area of mangrove forest. The main visitors’ area of the enormous sanctuary is Boeng Kayak, where the local community has built a 1km long elevated platform that snakes through the forest. It’s also possible to hire a boat for bird-watching or to try and spot the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins. The sanctuary costs 5,000 riel to enter, and boat rides cost between USD5 to USD20 depending on duration.
If you don’t mind travelling a little further afar, Chi Phat is a world class community-based ecotourism project, which was launched by Wildlife Alliance in 2002. The journey is a little complicated, and involves a 2-hour bus ride to Andong Teuk (USD5-7), and then either a 45-minute boat or motorbike taxi ride to Chi Phat (boat – USD10, motorbike – USD7). We would recommend the boat as the route is very scenic, and if you are lucky you might see some monkeys and birds.
The project has transformed a large area of the Cardamom forests into a source of income for local people, and a protected area for wildlife; it is the perfect trip for those looking for an ecological adventure.
Villagers are now employed to lead visitors on hiking, biking, camping and boating tours through the jungle. There are a range of itineraries to choose from, depending on your budget, interests, and also your fitness level! The number of activities on offer is actually incredible – visiting bat caves, sunrise bird watching, jungle treks, lobster fishing, firefly cruises, cooking classes and so much more (prices start from USD5). They also have accommodation, so it’s possible to stay overnight and really make the most of your visit. Accommodation options include a homestay, guesthouse, bungalows and jungle camping (prices per night from USD5).