Ecotourism in Southeast Asia is generally a wet, humid affair, but the rewards of visiting are worth the muggy climate. Take the Peam Krasop eco-tourism sanctuary in Cambodia's south-western Koh Kong Province - visitors venture into an extensive mangrove forest, deep into an ecosystem you'll never find anywhere else.
Visitors get to walk on an elevated platform through a path cut through the Cambodian mangrove forest. Where the path ends, a suspension bridge crosses the wetlands to an elevated platform that takes visitors above the forest canopy.
Peam Krasop's Mangrove Ecosystem
From high above the canopy, visitors can appreciate the sheer scale of the sanctuary - more than 23,000 hectares in area, the mangrove forests around Peam Krasop provide a safe harbor for saltwater crocodiles and Irrawaddy dolphins. The forest also serves as a stopover for migrating birds like the Asiatic dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) and the spotted greenshank (Tringa guttifer), of which the latter is an endangered species.
The scale of the forest belies the endangered state of mangrove wetlands in Cambodia - only 60,000 hectares of mangrove forest remain in the country, with the most pristine examples in Koh Kong province. Even these mangroves are threatened by villagers who cut down mangroves for charcoal.
Local communities are currently contributing to the salvation of the mangroves; under the auspices of the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, the people of Koh Kong province are now managing the ecosystem to their benefit, rehabilitating ten hectares of degraded mangrove cover, with more to come in the years ahead.
Exploring Peam Krasop
To fully explore this ecosystem, tourists should hire a boat to venture into the mangroves of Peam Krasop. The area isn't totally uninhabited - you'll cross paths with fishing boats on their way to work and villages on stilts rising above the wetlands. You can also venture onto the beach and take in the fresh sea air along Cambodia's coast.
Don't leave Peam Krasop without dining at the sanctuary's outdoor restaurant. Crab is a regular, and very delicious, part of the menu - always fresh, and always a good deal.
The wait staff's command of English is very tenuous, so you'll either need a local companion to order for you, or write down your food order on paper to show to the waiter. One hour advance notice is required for most seafood dishes.
Getting to Peam Krasop
To get to Koh Kong from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, take the bus: the Virak Buntham bus office on Street 106 (near the post office) sells tickets to buses that leave at 7am daily for the six-hour trip to Koh Kong. Tickets to Koh Kong cost $10. Call Virak Buntham at +855 12 322302 to inquire about the bus service, or check with their competitor Rith Mony (+855 23 882209) to inquire about theirs.
Tour agencies can take care of your transportation and accommodations in the area. Tourism Indochina offers tours to Peam Krasop and other attractions in Koh Kong.
Peam Krasop charges an entrance fee of 5,000 riel per person, or approximately $1.25.
For more inquiries about the Peam Krasop sanctuary, call Mr. Chrut Tith, chief of the local tourism community, or Mr. Yeam Yan, his deputy, at the following numbers: +855 97 905 1427, or +855 16 633 767.