Our mission at Canvas & Orchids Retreat in Cambodia is to provide each guest at our luxury resort with an unforgettable experience, encompassing nature, culture, food, adventure and relaxation. Located at the foot of the Cardamom Mountains, we offer you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest.
There is so much to explore and witness in this magical paradise, where fireflies illuminate the evening skies and vibrant sunsets give the water of the Tatai River a glorious red glow. Remote but accessible, our eco-resort is located among lush green rainforests away from the hustle and bustle of any major city noise. The majority of the sounds you hear during your stay will be wildlife and the tranquil river meandering by. This is a peaceful paradise on an unparalleled scale and we guarantee that a visit to Canvas & Orchids Retreat in Cambodia is a trip you’ll never forget.
Canvas & Orchids Retreat was the creative vision of the husband and wife team, Valentin and Anna. Opened in 2009, this conscientious couple had a very clear vision. To provide an unrivalled level of luxury amidst the green and blue rural Cambodian landscape. They wanted to design and create an environmentally-friendly lodge that harnessed the beauty and magic of the region.
It was essential that the local villagers benefitted from the arrival of the lodge and that the surrounding areas would thrive because of its introduction. The mission was to construct an ecolodge that helped the area to flourish and for the local people to work with them to make their dream a reality and to show the locals that the forest can sustain their living by attracting international visitors.
Choosing the location was very important and the perfect spot was built upon, creating the first floating tented camp in the world. It was a tropical paradise that brought hundreds of visitors each year.
Local villagers, ex poachers and hunters became the lodges cooks, boat drivers, cleaners, tour guides and more, utilising the skills and knowledge that had been passed down to them through the generations. It was a dream come true, and the reputation of Canvas & Orchids Retreat grew and grew, winning many accolades from the tourism industry.
The lush mangroves, stunning river and waterfall, and breathtaking mountains provided the most incredible backdrop to the ecolodge. The team beamed with pride as many international visitors enjoyed the magical hideaway. But then disaster struck and the future of Canvas & Orchids Retreat was in serious jeopardy.
In July of 2018, a devastating flood destroyed most of our beautiful eco-lodge. The power of the current smashed into Canvas & Orchids Retreat and broke it into six pieces, carrying it five miles downstream, close to the sea. We are so grateful that no one was seriously injured and we worked hard to take care of those affected in the surrounding area. Many homes and hotels were seriously affected by the force of the water.
When the levels finally subsided, we took stock of the damage and despair that remained. It was truly heartbreaking and our spirits were crushed. But the Khmer people are resilient and strong-willed, and they come together during disasters and calamities. Our unwavering belief in the power of the community gave us hope that we could recover from the catastrophic flood.
There was much work to be done but the staff joined forces with local builders and engineers to rebuild Canvas & Orchids Retreat.
The first big decision was to relocate it to the other side of the river – this would ensure more space and a stronger, safer structure. It was essential that this family-friendly ecolodge put everyone’s safety at the forefront.
Repositioning it would definitely provide a better environment for everyone. It also meant that family-friendly tents could be added on land, increasing the occupancy and providing extra safety.
We knew that the road ahead would be long and tough, but we were encouraged by the determined efforts of those around us to rebuild Canvas & Orchids Retreat into a new and improved success.
By the end of 2020, there will be 13 floating tents and 5 on-land family tents. Each family tent can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children, meaning that the new location will be able to entertain 46 visitors at a time. The final stages of the construction are being carried out far away from the hotel and tents are towed in as they are finished, so the peace and tranquillity of the guests will be unaffected.
After such cruel and harrowing destruction, the entire team at Canvas & Orchids Retreat is proud to have created a new and improved version of their beloved lodge. We are humbled at how everyone banded together to help everyone affected by the flood. The spirit and love of the Khmer people shone brighter than ever during those dark times.
A trip to Canvas & Orchids Retreat is a journey into the heart of paradise, wonder and unrivalled beauty. The nature and wildlife in this tropical paradise will be imprinted in your memory forever. Birds and monkeys call out, insects chirp and click, as the jungle provides one of the most relaxing soundtracks ever composed. Animal lovers will also be happy to know that we are a pet-friendly ecolodge.
With more than a decade of hospitality experience, we pride ourselves in taking care of every detail so that our guests can switch off, immerse themselves in nature and fully experience the exotic landscape and waters that surround us. Our floating, tented resort has a deep appreciation for its surroundings and a strong commitment to sustaining the land and culture of Koh Andet Island, the river and the local life.
Meet the Team
At Canvas & Orchids Retreat, we consider our crew as family. Our family staff team consists of local Cambodians who are fully responsible for the operations of the lodge and restaurant. All our team members are passionate about nature, wildlife and providing the best service possible to our guests.
As soon as you step off the boat our welcoming staff will greet you, headed by resort manager Ravy. You can expect a comfortable, personalized service every second of your stay. Never hesitate to ask for anything that you may need. Our crew oversees every single detail to ensure that you have the most amazing time possible.
Every member of our highly trained staff team shares our commitment to hospitality. They are our most precious asset and each one wants to make sure you have a comfortable and memorable experience. They are the ones who will share and brighten up your day.
The majority of the staff working at the resort originates from nearby villages or from the island itself. Before becoming employed at Canvas & Orchids Retreat, some of them practised illegal logging and poaching for a living. This means they know a lot about the forest, the river, the flora and fauna and they are keen to share this in-depth knowledge with our guests every day.
We also employ recent graduates from Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) school in Phnom Penh. It’s an NGO that helps disadvantaged children by giving them the opportunity to become skilled and work in gainful employment. Most of them work with us for a few years to gain experience.
Three of our key staff team members are:
Ravy (Vy) Chea Roda
He was crucial in finding the perfect people to join our ever-growing team. He asked that we hire those who would have become illegal loggers through the lack of any alternative. By joining Canvas & Orchids Retreat, they earn a steady income in an environmentally conscious way. We have Ravy to thank for that.
His enthusiasm, loyalty, and thoughtfulness shine brightly. We feel very proud and grateful that he has become our Hotel Manager.
Assistant Hotel Manager
Darong spends his free time teaching English to the local villagers for $0.40 per hour. He chooses to charge this small payment to teach the value of both money and time.
His business-orientated brain led him to recently start a laundry business. He employs and mentors two unschooled local female villagers who are thriving under his careful guidance. We’re proud to be one of his customers – his new venture handles cleaning the delicate linens and fabrics from the hotel.
His boundless enthusiasm and energy also have him leading some of our tours, including ones on the Cardamom Mountains. He is an inspiration to us all.
Naren was born into a poor family that could not afford to send him to school. He worked at a local gas station when he was a small boy, before moving into construction. While other children his age were learning and playing, he worked hard to provide money for his family.
In 2014, he joined Canvas & Orchids Retreat as part of our construction team. Naren took it upon himself to assume the role of a translator between Valentin and the building crew. Still unable to speak English, he tried his best to guess what his boss needed and passed it onto the local team. It was a skill that proved crucial to the building of our ecolodge and we instantly knew that we had found a very special member of our staff.
Naren went on to learn English so he could converse with our guests in his other role as a Tour Guide. He loves sharing local knowledge about the area. His joyful character is contagious, and he is now married with a baby on the way.
At Canvas & Orchids Retreat we have vowed to protect the beautiful nature and wildlife around us to the very best of our ability. Sustainable travel is more crucial now than ever before. We work together with our staff and our neighbors to ensure that the planet and fragile ecosystem is not irreparably harmed by our actions.
We constantly strive to find ways to manage and maintain the Lodge as efficiently and eco-friendly as possible. We constantly learn and adapt to ensure we protect the valuable and wondrous land and river where we are situated.
We have endeavoured to create a luxury resort that is kind to the environment. It’s incredibly important for us to take great care of both you and Mother Nature as you enjoy the ecological miracle and uniqueness of the Cardamoms Rainforest.
We pride ourselves on having the lowest impact on the environment as we possibly can, to protect the delicate biodiversity. We use sustainable materials, recycle at the highest level possible and have developed a waste management system that won’t damage the local area. We know that we are living on precious land and it is our responsibility to protect and nurture it.
We are also proud of the education and information that we share with our team, the local villagers and our guests. As we share our methods and ways of helping, we know that this will be passed onto future generations for the good of Mother Nature and Planet Earth. As people of all ages and backgrounds learn the simple ways to lower our impact, we have hope that the solutions we’ve created here will spread throughout the world.
As much as we love and value the environment, we put people first. We strive to provide our guests with the most unforgettable experiences from the very first hour they arrive. We train and educate our staff to achieve promotions and gain as much fulfilment in their job as they can. We work closely with local communities on a number of projects and eco-tourism activities. These delight our visitors and provide sources of income to many local families. We have worked hard to achieve a wonderful balance here at Canvas & Orchids Retreat and we’re excited to welcome you to our home.
The Local People
Our neighbors in the Koh Kong region are our greatest ally – they have taught us so much about the ecosystem we are living in and how to protect it at all costs. We consider them our friends and we are delighted to work with so many of them at Canvas & Orchids Retreat. The strong sense of community spirit has only strengthened over time and we share our knowledge and education with each other. It’s a beautiful partnership that we truly value.
With this in mind, we have developed several projects aimed at improving the lives of everyone who lives in the region, as well as protecting the fragile fauna, flora and wildlife balance. It is essential that we do everything possible to ensure its survival and help it to flourish.
Here are just a few of the projects we launched that have helped the area to blossom:
Tatai River Clean-up
A few short years ago, the Tatai River was overflowing with the deluge of rubbish left by tourists. Unable to cope with the overflowing bins, the trash would end up in the water. It was a sorry sight that broke our hearts. We knew that we had to do something about it before the river was irreparably damaged.
So once a year, with the help of the community leaders, volunteer boat owners and children from the surrounding schools, we work together to collect the rubbish floating on the Tatai River. We collect food wrappers, plastic straws and cutlery, bottles and packaging. We delve deep into the mangroves to retrieve trash caught in the underwater branches and we dig out plastic waste buried in mud and sand. Throughout the day, we converse to discuss the importance of protecting the environment and reducing waste to the best of our abilities. Together we have spread information throughout the villages and communities that we are positive will help future generations to keep the river flowing freely.
Tatai Waterfall Clean-up
Sadly, collecting all the rubbish around the waterfalls is a daily activity, due to the sheer volume of waste that accumulates over a few short hours. We work on this with the help of the Tatai Tourism Community.
We are proud of river and waterfall clean-up projects as we know that it will benefit both the people and the land for years to come. The information sharing and passing down of educational tools give us hope for a brighter, cleaner future.
Every visit to the waterfall from a Canvas & Orchids Retreat guest helps us fund the clean-ups.
Children are the future and it’s up to us to help them learn ways to protect the environment and live a bright, clean future. We were thrilled to work with several local business owners to build a water catchment system that helped provide healthy, uncontaminated drinking water for school children here.
Additionally, we have built a school library, provided much-needed supplies and installed electricity in other schools close by.
Build a School
Our most recent project is completely renovating the Koh Kong Khnong School, situated two hours downstream. It’s located in the little-known Koh Kong Khnong district that receives little to no financial assistance from NGOs and charities.
We are working hard to raise money to repair the two classrooms of the school, as both have been severely damaged by moisture and bad weather. The roof is leaking and the students find it hard to concentrate in these conditions. We are doing everything possible to give them a dry, comfortable school so that they can enjoy their education once more.
The Koh Kong Region is home to a magnificent, yet fragile biodiversity. It needs to be protected and allowed to flourish and we take our role and responsibility in this very seriously. The foundation of Canvas & Orchids Retreat is to safeguard, reinforce and renovate our surroundings so as not to cause damage to the environment and to put in place actions to protect the gift of the land and water that encompasses us. We treasure this ecosystem and we will do whatever we can to ensure its safety and longevity.
It’s not just humans that depend on this incredible paradise. The Cardamom Mountains home many endangered animals, including elephants and bears. Local environmental experts have also identified over 500 species of birds, as well as many reptiles, frogs and lizards.
Canvas & Orchids Retreat works closely with Wildlife Alliance, an NGO committed to wildlife and forest conservation. As we learn more from them, we are able to pass that knowledge on to local children and villagers. It’s important to work together to bring the numbers of animals back up to a sustainable level. It’s encouraging to see that many species have already returned to the area in the short time we have been here, working with Wildlife Alliance.
Our nature tours are designed to show our guests the best fauna and flora in the area and our guides are experts that love answering questions. Their love for the job shines through and we are very lucky to have such a dedicated and enthusiastic team to teach you about the marvelous nature you will be living in during your stay, as well as tell you about their local culture and traditions. Tours to the waterfall and mangroves are extremely popular with our guests, so be sure to book your spot and let the exploration begin!
We also encourage everyone to take some time each evening to watch fireflies dance across the sky – their illuminated bodies are a joy to observe and it’s a magical sight many never get to experience. We feel very lucky that they are our neighbours.
A Sustainable Structure
Our vision was simple – to be surrounded by nature without adversely affecting it. We wanted to enhance the environment without causing any harm, so we used sustainable materials to construct Canvas & Orchids Retreat. Where possible, we used locally-sourced items so that we could help the local economy too. We aim to run the lodge as environmentally friendly as possible.
As most of the tents are constantly floating on water, we have chosen a material that’s a mix of wood and 100% recycled plastic, for sustainability and durability. Our solar panels provide electricity for our entire ecolodge from 10 pm each night until the morning. The water hyacinth plant is one of nature’s greatest gifts, as it’s abundant and extremely strong – it’s used to make much of our furniture throughout the resort.
We learn as much as we can from our local staff and the neighbouring villages about how to use natural renewable materials where possible, so as not to have a negative impact on the planet. We strive to educate ourselves and work together with like-minded people and groups for the common goal of living in harmony with Mother Nature.
Our Water Management System
We created our very own water pumping and treating system. We dug two wells, from which the water is pumped and then filtered through three different reservoirs – stones, then sand and finally carbon, to ensure that the water is safe and clean. We use this supply, along with our rainwater catchment system for showers, taps and toilets for the whole resort. We also clean all of our wastewater using a specially-designed system of septic tanks. Bacteria are used to clean the water in these tanks so that it can be released into the river without harming the fragile ecosystem of the Tatai River. It is because of this delicate system that we politely ask our guests to only use the eco-friendly toiletries that we provide in each bathroom. Any other product would cause an imbalance and we thank you in advance for helping us to protect the local environment by working together with us to maintain the ecosystem throughout your stay with us. The grey waters treated in the septic tanks are an excellent fertilizer for our garden.
Canvas & Orchids Retreat strives to reduce the waste it produces as much as possible. We work closely with our friends, local businesses and neighbours to have a minimum impact. This includes giving our food waste to local poultry farmers for their animals. All of our plastic is recycled or reused. Our toothbrushes are made from bamboo, as well as our drinking straws. We even turn empty wine bottles into glasses and vases – something that many of our guests comment on and do when they return home too! Drinking water is distributed in the rooms in recycled wine bottles and we refill daily.
We have come to learn that food-packaging is extremely harmful to the environment and takes decades to decompose – so we only use eco-friendly items from Ecosense Cambodia. Their recycled items biodegrade and we love partnering with them. Another company that we work with is CleanBodia – they have found an ingenious way to produce bags made from cassava starch. Cassava is a popular root vegetable eaten throughout Southeast Asia. The bags are extremely durable but completely biodegradable. We will continue to seek other such innovative local companies to work with and support, as we focus on the importance of protecting our precious environment and providing our guests with the highest quality of service and care.