Chi Phat village and the Cardamom mountains, Cambodia
Cardamom mountains in the south west Cambodia was once home to a huge variety of wildlife such as tigers and wild elephants. After a serious case of illegal hunting and logging, it is now become a protected area and is one of the last remaining rainforests in southeast Asia.
The matter was taken seriously as something needed to be done to save the rainforest and its animals. It is now an area protected through Wildlife Alliance. What Wildlife Alliance does is that they have built Chi Phat ecotourism community in the small village of Chi Phat. To prevent them from going into the forest for hunting or logging they now get their income from their guesthouses, home stays and employment within the community.
The surrounding areas with the rainforest and Cardamom mountains offers a huge adventure if you like to be out in the nature. We spent some time hear and learned about eco-tourism and they way of life here.
To get to Chi Phat you need to get to a village called Ankoung Treuk. Most buses departing for Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville (depending on which side of Cambodia you’re in) will pass through Ankoung Treuk. The tickets costs around 8-10 USD and you need to tell the ticket agency and bus driver that you are getting of there and not at the last station.
Arriving in Ankoung Treuk is like stepping out in a big nowhere. At first you think you have gotten of at the wrong place. There are only a few small houses along the road and a small restaurant. And from there where do you go? Sometimes the drop off point is a bit dodgy and you could end up at a smaller bus stop. Don’t be alarmed, you are still in the right place.
To get to Chi Phat there are motorbikes or some times a Tuk-Tuk available to get you through the 20 minute ride through the orange dirt road that leads to the river.
Once at the river you will be presented with a small ferry made out of two kayaks and some wooden planks. Sometimes run by a small motor, sometimes by hand. The mini ferry costs 500 Riel for locals and up to a Dollar for tourists depending on who is driving.
There is also a ferry which can hold two cars.
And then you are there.
Since the community is based on ecotourism and rely on tourists there are many guesthouses and home stays. Over thirty of them. So finding accommodation is not hard. You could book through bookings.com or you could choose one on location. The community office helps you with assigning a suitable accommodation for you. Prices for guesthouses runs from 4-15 USD/ night.
Sights & attractions
Chi Phat is all about protecting and rehabilitate the rainforest, the Cardamom mountains and the wildlife that comes with it. The locals in the community serves as tour guides on most of the activities offered by Wildlife Alliance. By paying for tours you contribute to a sustainable growth of the community and the protected forests.
A very popular tour is to go on the two days-one night trek in the djungle. You will go with a group or alone with local guides that takes you into the jungle where you will spend the night and spend the second day trekking back. Food and most equipment is provided.
Mountain bike adventure
Another popular activity is to go on a mountainbike trail.
A 45 minute walk from the Chi Phat office takes you to the Rapids. It is the perfect activity if you don’t want to spend a whole day out. Walk or take a bike there and spend some time there. You can swim there depending on season and weather.
The river here is perfect for kayaking. Its calm water and surrounding rainforest is a fun and exciting activity for all ages. Go on a tour or by yourself.
A two hours bicycle ride from Chi Phat village is the O’kay village. The village itself is not an attraction but it is the ride there that is the true award. Rapids, hang bridges, muddy slopes and jungle are just some of hat you will encounter. once you reach the village you will see some traditional built houses in old style where there are no tourists and no homestays. And only one small shop providing some drinks and water. There are some really good photo opportunities here as well.
The Nursery/ Reforestation project
Take a half-day trek or ride to visit the Million Tree Nursery. Learn how Wildlife Alliance is replanting areas of the Cardamom Mountains that have been disturbed. Discover how 99 species of wild tree seeds are gathered and inspected. Walk through the nursery with young trees, and see some maturing trees.
The price includes a $5 entrance fee that is used entirely to continue the important work. You can also plant your own tree – a further donation of $5 is enough to ensure that your tree is cared for throughout its life, leaving your personal contribution to protecting the forest.
If you are of the more daring type and would like some more challenge than a jungle tour you can join the forest rangers. They head deeper into the jungle and can take to to any place if the weather allows it. But keep in mind that this is not an easy trek. The rangers are professionals at what they do.
The resources in Chi Phat are not the best since there is no local farming other than sugar cane or coconut farming. Most ingredients are taken from other villages or from Phnom Penh and sold at the market. There are a few restaurants selling noodles or soup or stews. But if you are not used to Khmer food it might put you off. The Chi Phat office has breakfast, lunch and dinner if you tell them in advance. The cooks will make three types of dishes with rice depending on what’s available at the market. But the food is usually very nice.
There are many more things to do in Chi Phat. We have listed some of them. The staff at the Chi Phat office will help you customize activities for you if you’d like. Staying in Chi Phat is a true experience and for some a highlight of the holiday or travels.