The main aim of this initiative is to save the mangroves that are being torn from the province’s waterways. Serving as a shelter for fish and squid, their decimation has a direct impact on the minority Cham fishing communities that dot the area they rely on, with many plunging into poverty. In 2009, a group of villagers lobbied the government for help. In 2011, 56 hectares were assigned to mangroves, with an additional 337 hectares dedicated to fishing. Since then, the villagers have been cultivating mangroves in self-made nurseries and more than 1,200 trees have been planted. They have also developed a range of activities, such as kayaking, day trips with local fishermen, planting mangroves and swimming in the lake. And there is a homestay option, with all profits being ploughed straight back into helping the community.
Launched in 2007 with the help of NGO, Save Cambodia’s Wildlife, the community-based ecotourism site is partially located within Bokor National Park, about 30km from Kampot town. As well as being home to a string of wildlife, visitors can take part in grassroots activities provided by local communities. These include hikes through the forest, guided walks through villages to learn about traditional ceremonies, local cuisine and day-to-day life. Swimming in streams and waterfalls, watching traditional fishing, learning about local handicraft production and overnight stays at a small guesthouse.
Anlung Pring Protected Landscape is 217 hectares of seasonally flooded grassland that serves as a vital migratory site for many birds, especially Sarus cranes. From December to April, more than 100 cranes flock to the site, making for an incredible spectacle. Throughout the rest of the year, flocks of black-tailed godwits, garganey and many other species can be spotted. In a bid to support the conservation work carried out in the area, a series of tours and activities have been developed. Eight homestays have been developed, as well as a series of one- to three-day packages that take in cultural experiences, cooking, exploring traditional crafts, riding a traditional tractor and helping out on the farms.
Locally-run tour company Butterfly Tours operates a handful of tours throughout Kampot that put helping Cambodian communities at their heart. Advocating responsible tourism, the company tries to ensure the tourist dollar reaches those who need it the most, while offering authentic trips that show the real Cambodia. Famous for its Kampot pepper, Butterfly’s half-day Peppery Adventures takes guests through Kampot’s pristine paddies to the salt plains and pepper farms that dot the landscape, before heading to the Secret Lake and nearby mountain. And you can choose whether you want to travel by tuk-tuk or motorbike.
If you fancy exploring the countryside by bicycle, then hop on Butterfly Tours’ four-hour excursion of rural Cambodia. The flat landscape means this is a relatively easy ride, covering about 20 to 25km. The journey takes in lotus farms and rice paddies, and visits to a rice mill, local noodle makers and crafters of Kampot’s delicacy, rolled cake. A great introduction to life in the province.
Kampot native Kek Soon launched her company with two aims–to help elevate the impoverished community she was born into from poverty, while providing tourists with a glimpse into real Cambodian life. Harbouring a passion for food, the trained chef, who also runs a café at KAMA (the Kampot Arts and Music Association)–where she holds her cookery classes, buying organic ingredients from local farmers– has developed a series of tours that take in street food, seafood, countryside and countryside and cuisine trips, supporting local communities along the way.
Social inclusion falls under the ecotourism umbrella and supporting Kampot-based inclusive arts organisation, Epic Arts, is one way travellers can ensure their trip has a positive impact on the country. The organisation works with people with disabilities, using art as a form of expression and way to empower individuals. It also carries out educational work in communities across Cambodia, where discrimination against those with disabilities remains common. Keep an eye on its website for performances and drop into Epic Café, where you can also buy a range of art and accessories.
With fishing becoming increasingly tough to rely on, many fishermen are turning to tourism as an extra form of income. And there are plenty of trips along Kampot’s network of waterways that visitors can enjoy. Your guesthouse or hotel should be able to organise one, alternatively head to one of the many travel operators in Kampot town. Ranging from a couple of hours to a full day, the rivers and streams slice through mangroves, thick jungle and open countryside, passing by fishing villages along the way.
In similar style to the river trips, if you want to explore Kampot’s countryside alone, then there’s no shortage of tuk-tuk drivers who will happily spend the day taking you to all the highlights. Equipped with insider knowledge, they will tailor the trip to suit individual itineraries, taking in outlying communities along the way, meaning you can ensure your well-earned money is contributing directly to bettering lives. Again, your guesthouse or hotel should be able to recommend a driver, or simply find one you like on the street and get negotiating.
Mad Monkey is a backpacker brand that takes responsible travel seriously, an element that is reflected in its tours. Its jungle trek trip sees a local guide take visitors through the jungle for an intriguing trek up a mountain. Stroll through banana plantations and tropical jungle, taking in panoramic views of the countryside below. A leisurely lunch is spent at a waterfall, with time for a refreshing dip before heading back to town.