Angkor Wat or the Khmer Rouge are often the first two things that spring to mind when Cambodia is mentioned. However, to solely focus on these two elements is serving the country an injustice because there is so much more to the country – with most of its beauty found off-the-beaten-track in remote rural provinces.
From hiking and trekking, to kayaking, biking and rock climbing, Cambodia is rich in pickings when it comes to activities for the thrill-seeking tourist.
The Cardamom Mountains, an expansive range that stretches from the border of Thailand in Koh Kong province to Pursat in central Cambodia and across to the Damrei Mountains, near Vietnam, is becoming increasingly popular with trekkers.
Hardened hikers wanting to tackle the jungle alone would be advised to seek the help of a local guide. Trekking in the Cardamoms is still in its infancy and there are few marked tracks, making getting lost easy.
However, there are an increasing number of treks and other activities being offered across the region. Community-based ecotourism village, Chi Phat, runs various activities in the depths of the jungle, all led by local tour guides and experts equipped with an intimate knowledge of the area. These range from half-day to several day adventures in mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, rowing and camping. Trips also range in difficulty.
The northeastern province of Mondulkiri is another great destination for adventurers. The off-the-beaten-track destination is most famous for its elephants, with its dense jungles home to a few elephant sanctuaries. Working to preserve the country’s dwindling elephant population and offer respite to over-worked beasts – many are used for hard labour and as tourist attractions in the area – visitors can watch the giants in their natural habitat, help bathe them and wander with them through the forests.
Elephant Valley Project offers volunteer packages, ranging from one night and two days to a week, combining visits with the elephants and helping to build up facilities while working with nearby Bunong hill tribe communities.
Elephants aren’t the only reason to visit Mondulkiri. Its rolling green hills that lazily stretch to the horizon are home to a variety of other flora and fauna that is well worth seeing and can be discovered through a series of treks in the province. Hikes take in refreshing waterfalls and swimming spots, caves, camping, Bunong villages and homestays with the area’s indigenous people.
Mondulkiri Ethnic Project was founded by Mr Vanny, a Bunong guide and project manager, and offers a series of informative treks.
Adrenaline junkies looking to explore the country at a much faster pace, can sign up to one of the many dirt bike or other two-wheeled adventure tours. Cambodia’s rugged countryside, winding dust tracks that snake through paddies, the jungle, mountains and everything else in between are the perfect landscape for dirt biking. Kick Start Cambodia and Cambodia Dirtbike Tours offer trips that range from one day to two weeks.
If you’d prefer to stick to something less powerful, then Grasshopper Adventures offer several bicycle tours.
If heights don’t have you freaking out, then Climbodia based in Cambodia runs a series of rock climbing and abseiling adventures. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a pro or not because they cater for all ages and levels of experience. Their trips are also a great way to see Kampot’s pristine landscape.
And for those who prefer to delve into the underwater world, Scuba Nation Diving Centre in Sihanoukville holds a variety of dive trips and courses, all lead by PADI Instructors.
So if your wild side is calling, then Cambodia is definitely the place to be.