Alternative Activities to do in Cambodia
Once the center of the influential Khmer Empire, Cambodia has long been famous for its awe-inspiring Angkor temples, making Siem Reap one of the most visited destinations in Southeast Asia. Increasingly though, travelers are discovering the kingdom’s other wonders, like its rainforests, amazing indigenous wildlife,white-sand beaches, and even its cuisine. Of course, visiting the spectacular temples of Angkor Archaeological Park is a must on any trip to Cambodia, but there are plenty of other fascinating things you can do as well that will make you realize there’s a lot more to discover than just the kingdom’s archaeology and ancient history.
Here are our top suggestions of destinations to help add some color and dimension to your Cambodian trip:
1. Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
Take an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center with the Wildlife Alliance and meet the animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, including sun bears, Asian black bears, Asian elephants, sunda pangolins, smooth coated otters, and various species of primates on one of their day tours. Alternatively, here you can also find out just what it takes to care for over 130 rescued sun bears and Asian black bears, also known as moon bears, with the volunteer Free The Bears team, who also operate tours to the center. Help the Bear Care Team to prepare food, enrichment toys and special treats to keep the bears happy and healthy in their forest enclosures. Best of all, by taking part in this unique experience, you’ll be contributing directly towards helping care for bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.
Beyond the tours to Angkor and other popular sightseeing attractions of Siem Reap, there’s another side to the town that most visitors don’t get to see. Unbeknownst to many tourists, there are many NGOs based in Siem Reap, who work tirelessly dealing with a broad variety of issues to help raise the living standards of the province’s rural population and keep them safe from harm. Including Siem Reap’s local APOPO Visitor Center, which aims to clear landmines in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces using rats that are trained to detect landmines and other explosives. Called the ‘HeroRATS’, these rodents, using their highly developed sense of smell, can search a 200 square meter minefield in 20 minutes – a job that would normally take a trained technician with a metal detector between one to four days. At the facility you can meet the rats and even watch a demonstration of them in action. Cambodia is the second most mine-affected country in the world after Afghanistan, with over a million tons of bombs dropped on it by the United States during the Vietnam War.
3. Koh Rong Sanloem
When most travelers plan a beach holiday in Southeast Asia, they usually think of popular destinations like the southern beaches of Thailand or maybe the stunning beaches of Bali. However Cambodia has some beautiful untouched islands with palm-fringed beaches that easily rival some of the best in the world. One of these is Koh Rong Sanloem, which lies about 25 km off the coast of Sihanoukville city in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s the ideal destination for beachgoers looking for relaxation off the beaten track, with easy trekking, snorkelling and swimming. On the east side of the island is Saracen Bay, a large heart-shaped cove with some of the most pristine white sandy beaches in the region. It’s the main tourist area on the island and yet it only has a dozen or so bungalows and a few high-end villa resorts. The crystal clear waters are ideal for swimming and since the island remains relatively untouched there are some beautiful coral reefs and rocky areas with an amazing variety of marine life, providing excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
4. Elephant Valley
If you’re looking for a great family activity, then visit the elephants of Elephant Valley, a wonderful experience that will keep your kids completely captivated and leave you in awe of the gentle Asian pachyderm. Elephant Valley is a part of the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), an NGO that aims to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants in Mondulkiri Province, as well as conserve the natural habitat of wild elephants and support local people, who work with these magnificent creatures. At Elephant Valley you can learn about and observe Asian elephants in their natural jungle habitat and even spend a full day shadowing them in the jungle, as well as feeding them and learning about their individual histories. Elephant Valley is the largest captive elephant sanctuary in Asia with just over 1,500 hectares of forest, rivers, grassland, and bamboo groves. With only 10 elephants, each animal has plenty of space to roam freely.
5. Cardamom Tented Camp (of course)
Situated deep in a protected area of Botum Sakor National Park on the Preak Tachan River, Cardamom Tented Camp is an ecolodge where everything about your stay is geared towards the appreciation of nature. While staying in our camp’s comfortable safari-style accommodation you can take part in all sorts of outdoor activities, including patrols with the Wildlife Alliance forest rangers, treks into the jungle, bird watching, and forays down the Preak Tachan River in a kayak to explore remote jungle areas. Each stay at Cardamom Tented Camp goes towards funding the 12 Wildlife Alliance rangers who patrol our 18,000 ha land concession and protect it from illegal logging, poaching and land encroachment. Your stay at Cardamom Tented Camp keeps the forest standing.