Head to remote Mondulkiri province where nature unfurls in all her glory then discover Cambodia’s wild side. Drive through rugged mountains and trek to mighty waterfalls. Meet the land’s indigenous people in isolated villages and encounter Asian elephants in their natural habitat.
This day, head east towards the province of Mondulkiri. The estimated travel time is 7-8 hours, including several stops enroute.
First, take a ferry to cross the Mekong River to get onto quieter countryside roads. If the ferry does not arrive in time, walk to visit the nearby market of Psar Svai Tom where tourists are all but unknown. After a short crossing, the route covers a short unpaved road before unfurling to a smooth, new road which leads to Sen Monorom. As we travel further away from Phnom Penh, the scenery turns greener and the fertile, red soil are replaced with cassava, pepper, durian, and rubber plantations. There is a chance to stop on the way at a peppercorn plantation or to discover how rubber trees produce their milky, white sap. Lunch break will be made on the way.
Continue on to Mondulkiri province passing the Seima Protected Forest along the way. Upon arrival at the Sen Monorom, check into the hotel.
Mondulkiri is home to the Phnong indigenous tribe who speak their own native language, of which there is no written version. For many years, most of the older tribe’s folk only speak Phnong, whilst Khmer language is slowly making its way into the society. Mondulkiri is also rich on beautiful, hillside scenery, varied birdlife and ripe with elephants.
Late in the afternoon, visit the 8-meter-high Sen Monorom Waterfall, a picturesque location where swimming is possible. Alternatively, take a rest at the hotel. As with many cascades, the best time to visit is just after the rainy season. Overnight in Mondulkiri.
After the breakfast, pay a visit to Pulung village – home to the Phnong indigenous community. The Phnong extremely respect both forests and elephants, and consider the relationship with them special. Your local guide will deliver you knowledge of the culture and way of life of the tribe. There is also a chance to enter a local home, interacting with the indigenous people, seeing how they cook and live under the thatched roofs.
Hit the trails from Pulung on an easy to moderate hike of 8 km, through the valley, up and down small hills reaching a pretty waterfall before following the trail to the main road. From there, enjoy a 30 minute drive to Bou Sra Waterfall.
The Bou Sraa is the largest waterfall in Cambodia and is a particularly scenic two-tier waterfall. Being a very popular spot for local tourists and the few foreigners that reach this area, it cascades 10 metres on the first tier and 25 on the second. Enjoy the views of the waterfall.
After pinic lunch, travel back towards Sen Monorom and pay a visit to a coffee plantation. You could enjoy a cup of fresh coffee whilst walking through the plantation. After that, climb a hilltop known for its view of the ‘Sea Forest’, looking across the rolling hills. Enjoy sunset from the hill before returning to the hotel. Overnight in Mondulkiri. Trekking distance: 8km
Pulung village, Bou Sra Waterfall, coffee plantation
In the morning, enjoy a 30-minute drive to the Elephant Valley Project (ELIE), an NGO ecotourism project that provides an alternative approach to elephant care, rehabilitation, and conservation. The focus of the project is on creating the favourable conditions for elephants to exist by themselves. No riding is allowed.
After an introductory briefing, descend to the valley where the elephants graze or bathe by themselves. In the past, many of the 12 or so elephants at the project were maltreated and rescued from tourist-related enterprises in Cambodia, while other Phnong mahouts were not able to take proper care of their animals.
Start in the morning with the observation of animals, followed by an extended lunch break, and an afternoon of volunteering. Later in the afternoon, learn about the elephants’ stories and what is required care for them and nurse them back to health. The project's location is very picturesque, sitting in a hillside region embraced by valleys and streams - suitable for anyone with good mobility. Overnight in Mondulkiri
NOG Elephant Valley Project (ELIE), Bou Sra Waterfall, coffee plantation
NOTE: The project is open for visiting from Monday - Friday.
After breakfast, depart for Phnom Penh. On the way out of Mondulkiri, visit another Phnong village, village of Putang where the guide can further explain nearby traditions...keep an eye out for the large jars used to brew traditional Phnong rice wine! Take a break at the town of Kampong Cham for lunch at a local restaurant.
Continue to Phnom Penh with an optional visit to the Skuon market. Deep-fried spiders or "a-ping" at the market is a favourite snack of many Cambodians! The eight-legged creatures are caught in the soft ground of the surrounding countryside and dug out of their burrows. Reach Phnom Penh in the late afternoon. End the Mondulkiri Nature Heartland Tour.
village of Putang, town of Kampong Cham, Skuon market
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Anise Hotel and Restaurant offers air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi in Phnom Penh. It features a 24-hour front desk, terrace and bar. Free private parking is available at the property.
Anise Hotel is 1 km from Royal Palace Phnom Penh, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Riverfront Park is 2 km away while Phnom Penh International Airport is 9 km from the hotel.
All rooms have a seating area and safe. Private bathroom comes with a shower, free toiletries and hairdryer. Free bottled water is provided.
Other facilities offered at the property include a ticket service, tour desk and free laundry (5 pieces) per person per stay.
Nestled on 6 hectares of beautiful greenery, Nature Lodge provides a relaxing retreat in Sen Monorom in Mondulkiri Province. Guests can enjoy a refreshing dip in the spring located steps from the lodge. The lodge also organises community based trekking tours.
Nature Lodge Chomka Tai Village provides cosy rooms and standalone bungalows with private terraces and comfortable lounge areas. They all enjoy views of the surrounding mountains. Some bungalows have 2 separate bedrooms and a large bathroom.
The resort is a 10-minute drive from Sen Monorom City's Bus Station and 2 km from town centre. Phnom Penh International Airport is situated 370 km away. The property offers shuttle services to the city centre at an additional charge.
The Restaurant and Cafe serves a wide variety of foods, ranging from Mediterranean, European and Cambodian dishes. The Bar and Lounge offers a selection of wines and local drinks.