By Radu Micu, on flickr
From rice paddies to dense tropical jungles, ancient temples to bamboo houses, breathtaking mountain ranges to untouched beaches, Cambodia has something to excite every type of traveller. Its smiley people are said to be the most inspirational part of any visit, no matter where you choose to go and what you do.
There are so many ways to see Cambodia. Whether you’re travelling independently, as part of a Cambodia tour, or even as part of a Thailand Cambodia Vietnam Tour (because let’s face it, all of South East Asia is worth a visit), your experience in Cambodia is guaranteed to be amazing.
I’ve done something a bit different for this bucket list and put the call out for other bloggers to tell us about their favourite outdoor adventure experiences in Cambodia. This is what they told me.
Trekking with elephants in eastern Cambodia
Image courtesy of Singapore n Beyond
If you’re looking for adventure in Cambodia that is away from the tourist hubs of Siem Riep and Phnom Penh, you should definitely head out to the Wild East where you’ll find the provinces of Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Kratie. This is Cambodia’s greenbelt and is surrounded by jungle that has not been cut down by greedy plantation owners and reforestation efforts are in full swing.
One of the best outdoor activities in Cambodia is trekking with elephants. While you should never ride an elephant, as these animals are treated terribly, there are luckily some organisations offering more animal-friendly experiences.
One such eco-friendly option is hiking with Elephant Valley Project (EVP), which is the reason most tourists travel to Mondulkiri. EVP focuses on obtaining captive or enslaved elephants and getting them into the wild where they can learn how to be elephants again. Some of the elephants arrive with trauma as in their past life they were chained up and overworked. For this reason, human interaction is kept to a bare minimum. The only people that are allowed to touch the elephants are the mahout.
You begin your journey at the quaint Hefalump Café on road 76. From there it’s about a 30min journey to “Elephant Heaven” – a massive stretch of land where volunteers help in reforestation efforts. After taking in the epic view, you will descend the valley into the basin which takes about 45mins. When you go on the trek, you will follow the elephants, who are allowed to move through the jungle freely, always keeping at least a 5-6m radius for personal space. The guides are passionate about conservation as well as the elephants and are very knowledgeable on both topics.
After a lunch of authentic Khmer food at the tranquil EVP base in the middle of the lush jungle you will go on the second part of your trek. Here you will continue to follow the friendly giants before trekking back up to the van. The experience is tough as there is a lot of walking, but if you’re fairly fit there is nothing to worry about and seeing the gorgeous animals in their natural habitat will warm your heart. You will leave feeling physically tired, mentally elated and very well informed. You can also choose to volunteer with the EVP where you will get to stay in the jungle overnight in their huts and you will receive a discount.
Angkor Zipline (aka Flight of the Gibbon) in Siem Reap
Looking for outdoor adventures involving animals that are 100% ethical?
Angkor Park’s Flight of the Gibbon zipline is just the experience for you. While some tour operators in Cambodia are still involved in the mistreatment of animals for the sake of entertaining tourists, these guys do everything right.
More than that, this experience is simply a lot of fun. Located not far from Siem Reap in Angkor Park (near Angkor Wat), these guys have been working hard for years to reintroduce gibbons in what is meant to be their natural environment and from where they have mostly disappeared.
Don’t think of it as an animal sanctuary, though. Tourists who visit are immediately told that they may or may not see the animals – just as it happens when they live freely. They are invited to enjoy a day of adventure and filled with adrenaline, where they fly across the forest on zip lines, and cross sky bridges – all the while admiring the lush nature around, and trying to spot the animals that live there.
When gibbons make an appearance, tourists are discouraged to get close to them. The whole point is protecting their welfare, and the zip lines and adventures in the park are meant to be used to raise funds for the conservation program.
The presence of excellent guides (or rather “sky rangers” as they like to be called) makes the experience even more interesting: they are ready to answer questions about the program, about nature in the area, and guide visitors through a memorable day, at the end of which they can enjoy a fantastic local meal.
Hike through Koh Rong’s jungle to a beach paradise
Image courtesy of Swedish Nomad
Koh Rong is one of the most beautiful islands in all of Southeast Asia and a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here you’ll have the opportunity to hike amongst untouched jungle to a beach that can only be described as ‘paradise’.
While the island is quite developed, most bars, restaurants and hotels are located next to the pier. There are some bungalows and hotels along the famous Long Beach but the centre of the island is wild, so getting to the beautiful beach is worth the journey.
To get to Long Beach, one could go by boat, or make an adventurous walk through the jungle. My girlfriend and I chose the latter. The jungle walk takes about 40-60 minutes depending on how fast you walk and if you follow the trail or not.
The trail starts 5 minutes from the pier, and it’s not really marked, but a lot of people, both tourists and locals have walked along this trail, so there’s kind of a marked path to follow. Make sure to bring water as it’s hot, even in the jungle, and there won’t be any place to buy water along the way.
There are a few houses where some locals live in the jungle, but not too many. The walk is easy in terms of hiking skills needed. But of course, it’s better if you have decent stamina and agility. Along the way, you will have to walk down a path where there is a rope that you can support yourself with for getting down.
Please note: Be careful where you put your feet. Some of the world’s most poisonous snakes live in this jungle, such as the Russell’s Viper, Monocellata Cobra, King Cobra, Banded Krait and the White Lipped Pit Viper.
Be especially careful about the White Lipped Pit Viper since it will easily camouflage itself to the trees. The green colour and small size make it hard to see. If you’re two people walking together, I suggest that one look up, and the other one look down to avoid snakes on the ground. Don’t worry too much though, these snakes will most likely run away if they notice someone coming. If you do see a snake or hear something in the bushes, don’t panic. Walk slowly or stand still so that you don’t threaten the snake. We saw a Russel’s viper but it did no harm to us.
A more fun side of the jungle walk is the many vines on which you can swing yourself like Tarzan. Just the feeling of being inside a real jungle is amazing. The best part is when you finally see the paradise beach of Long Beach, a 7-kilometre white sandy beach with turquoise water.
If you ever go to Koh Rong, I can really recommend to challenge yourself and go for a walk in the jungle.
Other outdoor adventures in Cambodia
I didn’t get as many responses as I’d hoped from other bloggers (bloggers are busy people – just ask my family) but there were some experiences that still needed to be mentioned. I recommend you click through and have a read about these:
Getting to Cambodia
While it’s possible to cross Cambodia’s land borders from neigbouring countries, most visitors fly into either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Flights from Australia are quite affordable. I find Kayak to be the best way to find the cheapest and best flight options.
Have you been to Cambodia? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any questions, comments, updates or corrections, let us know by commenting below.