Koh Kong Conservation Corridor overview
The hub of ecotourism in Cambodia, the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor centres on Koh Kong Province, with its rugged coastline and expansive jungle interior.
Incorporating part of the Cardamom Mountains and Cambodia’s highest peak of Phnom Aural at 1,813 metres, as well as Botum Sakor National Park – Cambodia’s largest national park, the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor provides a setting ripe for adventure. This is a place to hike or bike through the jungle, sleep in hammocks and try your hand at adrenalin-pumping sports.
Sleeping in a hammock on the beach is a great way to stay close to nature and the sea.
Get off-the-beaten-track and feel at one with nature in the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor – it’s like nowhere else in the world.
Koh Kong : What to See and Do
The Cardamom Mountains stretch all the way into Thailand and are home to the largest area of rainforest in Cambodia. A sacred location to many Cambodians and with huge tracts of biodiversity, this is a special place for many people. Phnom Aural is the highest peak, but Phnom Samkos, Phnom Tumpor and Phnom Kmoch follow closely behind and are popular with mountaineers. A wide variety of animal life lives in the Cardamom Mountains, including the largest population of Asian elephant in Cambodia, the Indochinese tiger, the clouded leopard and many, many others. Large areas of the Cardamom Mountains are inaccessible, so the only way to properly explore them is to embark on a hiking tour with a knowledgeable local guide. This can be organised through the local village of Chi Phat, and it’s possible to embark on multi-day hikes, mountain biking, boating and bird-watching tours. Those who want to participate in some of the wildlife initiatives in the mountains can visit the Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Release Station, the release site for animals rescued from illegal trafficking. Visitors can stay overnight, go on jungle treks and help with some of the tasks to prepare animals for their release.
Trekking through the interior.
The Tatai River passes through the Cardamom Mountains and is a popular vantage point from which to explore the locality. Boat trips are available which take in the verdant jungle banks, with options for kayaking stretches of the river too. For those who want to stay a few days and feel totally immersed in nature, some of the most beautiful accommodation bungalows in Cambodia can be found along the banks of the river. The Tatai Waterfall is one of the most popular places to visit along the Tatai River. The crashing waterfall, large rock shelf and surrounding pools ideal for swimming capture the imagination of everyone who visits.
Taking a boat to Tatai Waterfall is a great experience.
Another popular waterfall in the region include Kbal Chhay Prek Koh Waterfall, which also has pools perfect for swimming nearby.
Botum Sakor National Park is one of the main reasons visitors come to the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor. Cambodia’s largest national park at 1,712.5 km2 in size occupies an idyllic position along the curve of the coastline, while the jungle interior is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. With lowland, grassland, mangroves and swamp forests, this national park is a feast for the eyes and provides multiple habitats for its variety of inhabitants. Animals who call Botum Sakor National Park ‘home’ include the Asian elephant, Bengal slow loris, Sunda pangolin and pileated gibbon, as well as otters, Siamese crocodiles, deer, leopards and hornbills. A popular way to explore the national park’s mangroves is by boat from Andoung Tuek, while others hire motos or bicycles to cycle routes within the park. It’s also possible to go on four wheel drive tours along the dirt roads, followed by beach camping, hammock stays or island visits.
Dirt biking is a popular activity on Koh Rong.
The capital of Koh Kong Province is the town of Koh Kong. Located on the coast and alongside rivers that traverse inland, this is a popular place from which to embark on river tours. As well as the lush jungle vegetation, these tours also take in wildlife including the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin, the Finles Porpoise and the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin. Koh Kong town is a popular base for those who want to go off and explore the surrounding area, whether it’s the islands or the jungle interior.
Not far off the coast from the town, Koh Kong Island can be visited via guided tours that depart from Koh Kong or Tatai. A military presence on the island means it’s not possible to visit any other way, but it’s well worth the trip for the idyllic beaches, hidden lagoons and verdant hills. The island is also home to a postcard-perfect fishing village called Alatang, where it’s also possible to stay overnight in homestay accommodation.
Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many endangered species.
Also near Koh Kong town is the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, where local villagers have built a mangrove walk with elevated walkways and picnic platforms overlooking the mangrove ecosystem. It’s also possible to explore the national park on a motorboat tour or by hiring a wooden boat. Various fishing villages and hidden beaches can also be explored when visiting the sanctuary via these methods of transport.
Koh Kong : Culture and Arts
One of the best ways to get to know more about the local culture is to visit island communities, fishing villages and other small localities to be found across the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor. While homestay accommodation is available on Koh Kong Island, even further off-the-beaten-track is Koh Andet, an island on the Tatai River. Just a dozen families live on this island and it’s possible to arrange daytime visits to their homes, where they are happy to chat and enjoy refreshments together in the form of freshly picked coconuts.
A birds’ eye view of Koh Andet Lodge.
Villagers in Chi Phat also arrange homestays in and near the Cardamom Mountains, and this is an important local initiative to help locals find an alternative source of income away from illegal hunting and logging. Chi Phat is also a fascinating place to visit for the cultural artefacts to be seen in the area, including burial jars and wooden coffins.
Visiting Chi Phat Village.
The community at Trapeang Rung also runs another important project to protect the local area, which includes opportunities to go lobster or prawn fishing with locals and homestays with local families.
For some local arts and culture to take home with you, pay a visit to Dong Tong Market in Koh Kong town. This is a place where local life and craftsmanship combine – you can buy everything from fruit, vegetables and hot noodle soup, to locally made clothing and gold jewellery made in front of your eyes.
Koh Kong : Festivals and Events
The Koh Kong Conservation Corridor is a locality made up of small towns, villages and islands, predominantly visited by those who want to get out into nature. As such, this isn’t a place where people flock to in order to celebrate festivals and events, but of course, all the main festivals in the Cambodian calendar are marked in some way.
Khmer New Year is Cambodia’s biggest holiday, which happens in around April every year. The most visible celebrations centre on Koh Kong town and Chi Phat, where locals celebrate with street food, music, dancing, colourful balloons and a generally festive atmosphere with lots of people on the streets.
Food offering to Buddhist monks during Pchum Ben.
Pchum Ben (‘Soul Day’ or ‘Ancestors Day’) is the other public holiday that means most to Cambodians throughout the year. This is a 15-day Buddhist festival that takes place in September or October each year and is an occasion when Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. Expect a flurry of activity around this time in Koh Kong town and Chi Phat as locals mark the occasion in their own ways.
Koh Kong : Food and Drink
The Cardamom Mountains have some cardamom plantations where this spice is still grown today, although not as much as in the past. Look out for foods in local restaurants that use cardamom for an authentic taste of the area. Black, white and red pepper is also grown in abundance in these mountains and in the surrounding area, so be sure to try some of the foods on local menus that make use of this amazing resource.
Durian fruits at a local durian farm.
As well as spices, the local area is known for an abundance of other crops, with fruits including durian and jackfruit particularly popular. Don’t leave the region without trying these fresh fruits, whether it’s in a restaurant or from the market.
Those visiting the Botum Sakor National Park and other surrounding eco-attractions are often surprised to find an excellent meal at the visitors centre in Chi Phat. The daily changing menu offers just a few options for lunch and dinner, but all of the food is traditional Cambodian and locally sourced. For those heading out on a day-long adventure, the centre will also provide packed lunches.
Elsewhere in Chi Phat, Danatra Kitchen is a traditional Cambodian eatery serving local staples such as Khmer curry and noodle soups. Or for simple noodle and rice dishes, Chalin Restaurant is a local go-to.
In Koh Kong, a hub of the town is Fat Sam’s Restaurant and Bar. They serve a mixture of Asian and European cuisine, but people mostly come here for the sociable atmosphere of international travellers and locals. For Cambodian food in Koh Kong, there is a cluster of traditional restaurants at the roundabout. Given the proximity of the town to the water, seafood is a must-try here. This is at its best at Thmorda Crab House, which is built on stilts on the Kah Bpow River. Totally surrounded by mangroves, the location is magical. Try the crab with local pepper for a truly authentic experience.