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Overview

Explore the lesser-traversed eastern provinces of Cambodia. From visiting responsible Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri, discovering the traditional lifestyles of rural tribes in Ratanakiri, ziplining in Bousra Ecopark and giving back by planting a tree – this tour covers all grounds from cultural experiences to adrenaline-pumping adventure!

Trip Highlights

Eastern Cambodia Explorer

Bousra Ecopark and Waterfall

In addition to the massive two-tiered waterfall, there are several activities to experience at the Ecopark, including a zipline and a forest trek to the base of the lower falls.

Give back to the local communities

Participate in meaningful activities such as building stairs at the Elephant Valley Project and planting a tree on Koh Trong Island.

Visit rural tribal communities

Walk around villages, trek through the forest and rice fields where ethnic minorities largely live traditional lifestyles as they have for thousands of years.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Airport to Phnom Penh (11 km): 20 mins

Upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, be welcomed by the local English-speaking guide and be transferred to the hotel in the heart of the city.

Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its turbulent history and recent development, it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days of yesteryear and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.

Overnight at Phnom Penh.

2

Phnom Penh - Kampong Cham - Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri

Phnom Penh - Kampong Cham (125km): 2.5 hoursKampong Cham - Sen Monorom (265km): 4 hours

This morning be picked up at the hotel at by private, air-conditioned vehicle for transfer to Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri. Around 2.5 hours into the voyage, stop to visit Nokor Bachey temple in Kampong Cham. Wat Nokor is both charming and interesting, featuring beautiful wall paintings adorning a modern Buddhist pagoda built inside the grounds of an Angkor-era temple, the only temple of such design in Cambodia.

After visiting the temple, stop for lunch in the provincial capital of Kampong Cham, which lies along the Mekong River and features a riverside lighthouse, built during the French Colonial era.  Continue along a progressively less trafficked road, stopping briefly at an impressive monument commemorating the liberation of Cambodia by Vietnamese forces leading to the end Cambodia’s civil war, 40 years ago.

Upon arrival in Sen Monorom, enjoy the afternoon and evening at leisure.

Overnight at Mondulkiri

3

Mondulkiri - Elephant Valley Project

Sen Monorom - Elephant Valley Project ~45 minutes

Get picked up from your hotel at 7:15am for transfer to the Elephant Valley Project, a sanctuary for elephants within a 1,500 hectare reserve where the elephants can roam and learn how to be semi wild elephants again. Here you will hike out to meet one group of elephants in the morning in their natural forest habitat. On this immersive experience you will spend half the day with the elephants and also give back by volunteering and then join locals, staff, and other volunteers on the many projects it takes to keep the sanctuary running. In between experiencing the elephants and contributing to the project, enjoy the buffet lunch in the base camp at midday. Alternatively, if you don’t want to join the volunteer activities, you can take this time the afternoon to relax at the base camp and enjoy the beautiful scenery! Return to the hotel at 5:30pm.  Note: As the elephants are located in valleys that are accessible by dirt trails and stairs, visitors with mobility issues may not be able to visit the elephants in their natural habitat and may be constrained to the elephant center and “elephant spa” during dry season months and may be unable to visit EVP during Green Season, when the path down to the center can be very slippery. Only available Mon-Fri.

Overnight at Mondulkiri.

4

Mondulkiri - Bousra Waterfall, Sea Forest View and Coffee Plantation

Sen Monorom - Bousra Falls (35km) 45 minutes

Depart from the hotel at 8am for the approximately forty five minutes drive from Sen Monorom town to the natural highlight of the region: Bousra Ecopark and Waterfall. In addition to the massive two-tiered waterfall, there are several activities to experience at the Ecopark, including a zipline and a forest trek to the base of the lower falls.

After a safety briefing from experienced local guides, cross a wooden bridge to the far side of the uppermost falls to begin the zipline adventure. Following a route of progressively higher ziplines, sail through the forest from platform to platform and arrive at the forest at the edge of the lower falls. Clip in, hang on to the camera and fly across and above Bousra Falls, 100m above the lowermost pools! Then, join a local Bunong guide for a 30-minute trek through the forest to the base of the falls that was just passed. Along the way, learn about the different plants that native people use for various aspects of everyday life. At the base of the falls, enjoy a cold drink and the refreshing spray of the falls. Snap some memorable souvenir photos.

Please note: If enjoying time at the falls, where swimming is possible during the low-water months (approximately December to June), it is possible to stay here for lunch or a midday snack: there is a wide variety of exotic local fruits and nuts for sale at the falls.  Visitors with mobility issues may not be able to visit the lower falls, which requires descending a dirt trail through the forest that is particularly slippery in the Green Season months (June through November).

On the way back to town, stop at an overlook nicknamed the “sea forest” because of the expanse of tropical jungle that is visible from the breezy viewpoint. Then, visit the Coffee Plantation, where one of the many crops that grow exclusively in Mondulkiri’s cool weather climate is produced. The Coffee Plantation allows visitors to walk through the groves of coffee plants and learn a bit about coffee cultivation. Lunch can be enjoyed beside a picturesque reservoir if it hasn’t been taken at the falls. There is also a chance to pick up some roasted beans before heading back towards Sen Monorom town.

Finally, depending the time of the day and energy levels, drive back into Sen Monorom town, take a drive up to Dohkrormom Mountain to enjoy the sunset and a great view of the rapidly growing provincial capital.

Dinner at hotel or in Sen Monorom town (own arrangement).

Overnight at Mondulkiri

5

Mondulkiri- Ratanakiri : Reclining Buddha, Waterfalls, Yeak Laom Lake

Sen Monorom - Banlung (185km) 2.5 hours

Depart early from Sen Monorom for the drive to Banlung. The 180 km route was once known as “the death highway” both because it was heavily bombed by American B52s during the Vietnam War and because it was once a multi-day slog of potholes and treacherous river crossings. The recently built road is now arguably the finest in Cambodia and the drive only takes around two hours.

Upon arrival in Banlung, stop briefly at Eisan Reclining Buddha Pagoda, which offers panoramic views of the rapidly-growing provincial capital. After dropping the bags at the hotel to freshen up (early check in depending on season), grab swimsuits and head out for the afternoon program.

Today, have lunch in the home of a local Tampuon family. The Tampuon are one of numerous tribal communities that populate Rattanakiri province. Enjoy local Tampuon food with the former village chief and his wife, who will play local music and discuss their lifestyle. After lunch, visit their neighbour’s home and try a hand at weaving local textiles. Next, visit another village where a local resident will show how rice wine is produced.

After learning about making wine, head over to Banlung’s star attraction: Yeak Laom. This almost perfectly circular lake in the middle of the forest was created by a volcanic eruption around 700,000 years ago. Take a walk around the lake, stopping at wooden decks along the waterfront to swim and relax with local visitors. The 2.5km trip around the lake takes 1-2 hours with stops to swim, if desired. Otherwise, enjoy the fresh, clear waters of the lake on a deck or in a hammock and enjoy the atmosphere.

Overnight at: Terres Rouges

6

Ratanakiri- Visit Tribal Village

Today explore the rural tribal communities that live in the Ratanakiri countryside. Departing the hotel at 08:00. The first visit will be to see locals mining for the gems after which Ratanakiri province is named (“Ratanakiri” translates as “Mountain of precious stones“). Unlike modern mining methods that devastate the land, traditional mining consists of digging a small hole, down which a miner descends, sending buckets of earth up to sift through for stones.

Next, stop at a Kreung village, another of Ratanakiri’s diverse tribal communities, for a walk around their village. Now located just beside the road, this tribe had long been isolated from the rest of Cambodia before new infrastructure was developed in recent years. Notice the tobacco pipes that most of the women in the village enjoy and stop to chat with locals if there is curiosity about their lives.

On arrival at the river, venture 25-metres or so into the forest to visit a Jarai cemetery. The Jarai people build elaborate graves for their deceased loved ones, constructing totems of people and animals to surround the interred body.

From Andong Meas town, depart on a local boat for a 45-minute ride upriver to an island where locals frequently pan for gold. When panning, locals can earn up to $10 a day in gold flake; look closely and it is possible to find gold mixed in with the sand. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the island’s sandy beach and take a dip in the river!

After lunch there is a variety of afternoon options available depending on how much time is spent on the island. Visit another tribal community that is known for its ‘bamboo shower’, return to Yeak Laom for a swim in the lake, visit one of several waterfalls outside of Banlung town, or visit the Banlung Market, where skilled smiths work gems and gold into jewellery.

Note: Due to the remote areas visited and the seasonal quality of the roads and water levels on the river, the villages visited and waterfalls you may wish to see are subject to change. In case of heavy rain and muddy roads, a 4WD may be required for today's excursion. Rubber boots are advised for today's activities.

Overnight at Ratanakiri

7

Ratanakiri- Kratie

Banlung - Sambor (235km) 2.5 hoursSambor - Kampi (20km) 30 minutesKampi - Kratie (16km) 25 minutes

From Banlung to Kratie, stop to visit Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy in the village of Sambo. The vihara (temple sanctuary) of the so-called ‘100 Pillars Pagoda’ is an important historical and cultural building and quite famous for its legend involving a princess and a crocodile.

Housed in the grounds of the 100 Pillar Pagoda and partnered with the Buddhist monks that reside there, is a small Turtle Conservation Center. Their goal is to conserve one of the world’s rarest and largest freshwater turtles, the Cantor’s softshell turtle, through a community-led nest protection scheme. The largest-known wild population survives in the Mekong River but it is endangered here and is almost extinct in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Depending on the season, stop for lunch and a swim in the Mekong River at a collection of floating bamboo platforms constructed each winter (beginning in December). These floating restaurants feature dozens of hammocks strung up within shady open-air platforms that are as ingenious as they are relaxing. Even those planning to continue to town for lunch may enjoy a swim or a cool drink simply to enjoy the view.

Next, stop in the village of Kampi, the best spot to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the Mekong. Get on board a local boat and be taken to the preferred feeding grounds of these fascinating creatures. As soon as the first dolphin is spotted, the boat driver will turn the engine off to follow the dolphins silently (duration 1 to 1.5 hours).

Finally, arrive in Kratie, and spend some time at leisure to discover the small town independently or choose to relax at the hotel, exploring the town, or enjoying a sunset over the Mekong. After dinner there is a chance to dine at Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center, where young locals are being trained in the principles of hospitality to ensure a better future in Kratie. Dining here means some delicious Khmer food paired with a very personalised service. The students are as excited to meet their guests as the guests themselves to meet the students.

Overnight at Kratie

Note: Those staying overnight at Rajabori Villas may need to skip the bamboo hammocks and head into Kratie town for lunch at Le Tonle, visiting the dolphins at Kampie on Day 8 as the transfer to Koh Trong for hotel check in requires additional time.

8

Kratie- Koh Trong Island by Bicycle and Kampi Pools Freshwater Dolphins

This morning, enjoy a ride around Koh Trong, only a 10 minute boat ride across the Mekong River from Kratie. This island displays typical Cambodian village life, where people’s livelihood largely depends on rice farming and fruit cultivation (Koh Trong is famous for its pomelo, a fruit similar to the grapefruit). Choose to take a local horse cart or pedal around the island on a bicycle. The first stop is the island’s wat, where a special activity awaits - a tree planting project initiated by a local farmer, in order to recultivate the once densely forested island. Contribute to the project by planting a tree here that will not only carry your name tag, it will leave a positive impact on the island.

After lunch, have several options to select from. There is a chance to visit Kampi (if it wasn’t visited yesterday or there was no chance to spot the dolphins) with an additional boat ride at own expense. Alternatively, relax on the bamboo hammock platforms north of Kampi, enjoy Kratie town or Koh Trong at leisure, or head south to Wat Rokakandal and Chhlong in order to sleep a bit later tomorrow or save some time on the return trip to Phnom Penh. 

Overnight at Kratie

9

Kratie- Chhlong- Phnom Penh

Kratie - Chhlong (35km) 45 minutesChhlong - Phnom Penh (230km) 4.5 hours

Breakfast at the hotel, followed by departure back towards Phnom Penh. While leaving Kratie town, stop briefly at Wat Rokakandal, a beautiful temple from the early 19th century with some unique wall paintings located on the banks of the Mekong.

Next stop along the way is the charming riverside town of Chhlong (transfer time ca. 45 minutes), a tiny village on the Mekong River with many French colonial houses that are amongst the most beautiful in Cambodia, including the boutique hotel Relais de Chhlong. Stroll around town briefly if desired, including a visit to the bustling morning market.

Continuing along the old river-front road through charming pastoral countryside, cross the Mekong River by ferry and arrive at the next destination: Wat Hanchey. This charming pagoda occupies a hilltop overlooking the Mekong River. Next to a large, modern pagoda stands a tall brick stupa from the pre-Angkorian era and houses a shrine featuring the head of a statue in the likeness of 12th-13th century king Jayavarman VII. This is likely part of a Jayabudhamahanatha, 108 of which the king sent out to the far-flung provinces of his empire. Stop for lunch at nearby Hanchey Bamboo Resort, which offers spectacular views of the Mekong and surroundings.

If travelling between December and June, there is a chance to take a brief detour to visit Kampong Cham’s iconic bamboo bridge. Traditionally constructed each year to allow access to the island of Koh Pen in the Mekong River southeast of Kampong Cham, the bridge is later destroyed by the river as the water’s rise each rainy season. Although a new, permanent bridge has recently been constructed to the south, the locals continue to build the bamboo bridge as it draws both local and international tourists to the riverbank.

Finally, on the way back to Phnom Penh, stop briefly at Skun, a village famous for its curious roadside snacks including grilled frogs, scorpions, and tarantulas! Taste some of the creepy crawlers if feeling adventurous and bold! It’s possible to play with the giant spiders who have been defanged prior to arrival at the market.

Overnight at Phnom Penh

10

Departure- Phnom Penh

Breakfast at hotel.

Be picked up by the guide and driver and be transferred to the airport for the departure flight.

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room in selected hotel
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner)
  • English speaking guide (for other languages a supplement applies)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle unless stated otherwise
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits
  • Daily drinking water
  • Green Season Supplement: Rubber boots, large poncho, waterproof cellphone case, and carrying bag

Our services do not include:

  • Visa for Cambodia (Visa issued on arrival for most nationalities, USD 30/pax, please bring 1 passport photo).
  • Other meals than mentioned
  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • Camera/video entrance fees if applicable
  • Personal expenses (drinks, laundry, telephone, tips etc)
  • Travel insurance including recommended helicopter evacuation for Cambodia
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above

Supplement: Rainy season gear (Rubber boots, large poncho, waterproof cellphone case, and carrying bag)

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