How little do we know of the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia and its inhabitants? This wide mountainous range in southwest Cambodia is home to more than 70 types of mammals. Many species are threatened or endangered, including the Indochinese tiger, pileated gibbon, clouded leopard, wild cat, and Malayan sun bear. 400 bird species flit around the trees, some endemic only to these forests. The once-thriving Siam crocodile still survives in the emerald rivers of the Cardamoms and the Asian elephants have one of the only remaining corridors there.
Barely Scratching the Surface of the Cardamom Mountains
All those wonders are just the tip of the iceberg. Biologists have only scratched the surface of the flora and fauna to be found in this area. Being so remote and inaccessible makes the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia very difficult to research. But it also makes it well conserved and wild. Only recently environmentalists set camera traps in the forests to detect and to study the diversity of wildlife here. Who knows what else could be living out there?
Overcoming Cambodia’s Dark Past
Twenty years ago, The Cardamom Mountains hosted a different kind of activity. Scattered amongst its forests were the last standing outposts of the Khmer Rouge, in one desperate attempt to fight back to power. After the guns went silent marking the end of a long guerrilla war, the Cardamoms began to attract attention. In the early nineties, loggers scraped their way through the virgin forests in search of mahogany, ebony, and other valuable trees. Fortunately, this ended soon, but another problem arose.
Wildlife Conservation in the Cardamoms
Local villagers, many of whom came here to escape the war and famine in other provinces of Cambodia, used the rainforests to survive. Poaching and hunting were their way of life. In 2007, something changed. Wildlife Alliance, an NGO fighting for sustainable development and preservation of the natural ecosystem, came to Chi Pat, once a hunters’ village, and managed to transform their way of life. The skills so badly need to survive in the jungle are now used to guide tourists off the beaten track. Women have opened their houses as homestays and small guesthouses. Most importantly, everyone has learned to protect and to preserve the beauty and the beasts of the forest.
The Cardamom Mountains Today
Now, the old hunting and poaching tracks are trekking paths through the jungle. You can choose between a light 4 hours’ trek up Ta Kiev Mountain or an in-depth 7-hour trekking exploration of the jungle. If you are quiet enough, you may spot wildlife activity or presence. Or you can discover the traditional way of life of this area. If trekking isn’t your thing, take a boat to the fishermen village of Koh Kong Khnong, surrounded by one of the largest mangrove forests in Asia.
Why not enjoy your time in the Cardamom Mountains in the most unique way. Stay in the first floating tented villas in the world at Canvas & Orchids Retreat. Our staff will be thrilled to show you some of the deepest hidden secrets of the evergreen Cardamom Mountains.