There are two things that I love to do when I travel: trekking and community-based tourism. So when I was planning my trip to Cambodia a few years ago, I was thrilled to find Chi Phat.
I was of course planning a visit to the Angkor Wat Historical Park and wasn’t going to pass up history in Phnom Penh. But I wanted something a little more special and off-the-beaten-path. When I found out about Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, I knew that was where I wanted to go. Chi Phat is a community-based eco-tourism initiative there.
About Chi Phat
In 2007, the Wildlife Alliance started a program in Chi Phat, a small village in the Cardamom Mountains. Due to the terrain, much of the area remained forested and had become a hot spot for poachers. Realizing that using the forest for tourism, rather than poaching, the community worked with Wildlife Alliance to create a new program.
The village is tucked away in the mountains, away from the highway. To get there, you either take a two-hour boat ride up the river, or 45 minutes by moto on a dirt road. I highly recommend the boat ride.
Trekking in the Cardamom Mountains
There are a number of options for exploring the Cardamom Mountains. I had extremely limited time, so I went with a two-day trek, spending the night in the jungle and checking out burial jars and a bat cave.
Not far outside of the village is a beautiful waterfall, with some pretty good swimming. The guides for the trek are former poachers, so they know the forest inside and out, as well as how to forage for delicious foods to cook.
Some of the guides may not speak English, but that was an amazing bonding experience for me and my fellow trekkers. The cook was so eager to learn English, that he carried a notebook with him and he would write down words we taught him, along with a transliteration into Khmer and the Khmer word.
You will spend the night in the jungle, in a hammock that has a built in mosquito net. It was honestly a great experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, and want to contribute to a local community in a meaningful way, I highly recommend booking some time at Chi Phat.