Cambodia is the home of spectacular natural wonders and some of the most mind blowing archaeological sites in the world. Popular destinations for most first time visitors include the Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwestern province of Siem Reap and the fast-growing party town of Sihanoukville on the country’s southwestern coast. With the tourism industry in Cambodia booming in recent years, let’s explore some lesser known experiences for your next adventure to get you away from the crowds.
5. Wash Elephants at the Mondukiri Project
Dedicated to their goal of protecting and providing genuine care for elephants, the team at Mondulkiri Project are committed to eco-tourism; this means no riding or sitting on the majestic giants – which we love! Located in the beautiful jungle areas close to Sen Monorom near Cambodia’s eastern border, this sanctuary is completely free of elephant exploitation, allowing for a guilt-free adventure. Spend time feeding the elephants whilst you learn about their habits and the close relationship they share with the Bunong hill tribe people, before swimming beneath a waterfall and washing the elephants. There are five of these incredible creatures under the protection of the Mondulkiri Project, and being locally owned means all money spent during your time here will be put back into the local community.
4. Explore the ruins of the Banteay Chhmar Temple
Its remoteness in the far north western corner of Cambodia has allowed the Banteay Chhmar temple to remain as one of the least understood archaeological complexes from the Angkor period in Cambodia. Whilst consistent looting in the 1990’s has caused this once great temple to lose much of it beauty, recent renovations to the temple have uncovered three enormous sandstone statue heads, indicating that there is much of this lost empire yet to be re-discovered! The Banteay Chhmaer temple complex is the 4th largest temple from the Angkorian period and dates back to the late 12th to early 13th century.
3. Spot the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin on the Mekong River
Irrawaddy Dolphins are found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, along with three rivers including a 190km stretch of the Mekong River and with recent estimates putting the population between 78 and 91, now has never been a better time to try and spot these elusive creatures. These dolphins don’t often jump out of the water like their saltwater cousins and are much shyer too, which is understandable considering they were nearly killed by fisherman to extinction in the past. The Irrawaddy Dolphin is considered to be a sacred animal to both the Khmer and Lao people and in recent years, efforts have been put towards educating fisherman about the importance of these creatures to the local community.
2. Discover the Ancient Ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk
If you have already seen the astonishing temples of Angkor Wat and are keen to discover more of Ancient Cambodia, then your next stop should be Sambor Prei Kuk. Built during the 7th century these amazing archaeological sites pre-date the Khmer empire which ran from the 9th to the 15th century. Abandoned to the jungle for centuries, some of the temples at Sambor Prei Kuk are now entirely covered in tree roots, making for a spectacular site – be sure to bring your camera for this one!
1. Swim at Night with Phosphorescent Plankton
Located near the east coast, Koh Rong is just a two hour boat ride from Sihanoukville, boasting a pristine white beaches this island that has only been open to tourism since 2008. There are only a few guesthouses and bungalows on the island, so booking accommodation can be tricky, but trust us on this one- its definitely worth it! Every night on the dark side of the island, travellers have the chance to experience the magical phosphorescent plankton. The plankton light up when disrupted- all you need to do is wait till dark and wade out into the shallows on the beach! Make sure you bring a snorkel with you to experience swimming in these incredible conditions.
For more information on our small group tours of Cambodia, click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.