A stunning island of towering forest amidst protected biodiverse wetlands.
Koh Han Island is well away from tourist traps, and well worth it. An hour from Stung Treng, Koh Han Island is host to biodiverse forest, wetlands and a myriad of beautiful birds. This sandy island, on the mighty Mekong provides a taste of what rural island Cambodia is all about. Ladies run the show here with more than half of the community-run project headed by women. The community are culturally influenced by Laos, with Laotion the main language on Koh Han. You can day trip, boat trip or stay overnight. Choose Koh Han Island for delicious food and amazing forest and wetland scenery.
In 2016, Cambodia based NGO co-operative Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) began an eco-tourism project with a community nearby Koh Han Island. The aim: to prevent logging and other natural resource depleting activities through eco-tourism. 27 people (16 women, 11 men) from the Koh Snaeng community lead the project. Bun Somphan, 48, was one of which. Her energy, motivation and leadership saw her voted as manager. Since then, Bun Somphan has been passionate about developing eco-tourism at Koh Han. Already, she can see the positive impact tourism from this project. Especially, on the community and the island’s forests and other natural areas.
“Before we started the eco-tourism project on Koh Han Island many people in the village didn’t care about the forest…illegal logging was a big problem. Same as for fishing. Now we know a lot about the need to protect these resources for ourselves. Also…so that tourists will want to come in the future too.
The project has been important for women too. Now there are employment opportunities in the village that we didn’t have before. Women work as cooks, homestay hosts and leaders – like me.
For the future I hope for more tourists to come to visit Koh Han Island and our community. I hope that all people in the village understand the value of eco-tourism and the natural resources we have here.”
Koh Han Island is an ecotourism project that brings together islands and Ramsar wetlands in Samaki District, north of Stung Treng town. The community on Koh Snaeng Island, together with not-for-profit NTFP-EP offer local homestays and nature based experiences for visitors.
Koh Han Island is a designated Ramsar site, a convention that highlights the significant biodiversity in the area. The site stretches 40kms North to the Laos border along the Mekong river. Most notable: flooded forests, stunning aerial roots of trees exposed during dry season, birds, limestone rocks and sandy island shores. The local community offer boat trips to explore these significant areas in and around Koh Han Island.
The community live on the island of Koh Snaeng, just next to Koh Han. The village is home to 280 families. Although the community behind the project are Khmer, Laos, Cambodia’s Northern neighbour, has a big influence here too. Laotion is the main language spoken and food takes influence from Laotion cooking too.
There are five homestays on the island, with plans to grow. The project employs community members for management, boat trips, security and cooking. 10% of all profits from tourism go back into the community for ongoing projects.
There are five family homestays at Koh Snaeng Island, just next to Koh Han. Accommodation is in a traditional Khmer family home. Houses are wooden style, elevated on stilts and accessible via stairs. Homestay hosts speak a little English. All homestays are either walkable from the boat ramp or a short distance via motorbike.
Currently there are no bicycles available for rent. The best way to explore is via foot or via boat. Roads are unpaved.
There a few Khmer-style stores on the Koh Snaeng island that sell basic goods (cold drinks, snacks and basic household items). There are also Khmer style restaurants to buy homemade noodle soup (Ka Tiew) or rice soup (Bobor).
There are minimal fluent English speakers at Koh Han Island. Yet, community members have enough to help you arrange transport or if you have any concerns.
The village nearby Koh Han Island is a working community. Experiences can be had just by wandering. Yet there are many tailored activities to uncover the best of the area.
Stay overnight with a local family and sleep in Khmer style house on the island of Koh Snaeng. Go with the flow and experience local life through the eyes of a hospitable and welcoming family at Koh Han.
Spend a half day exploring the best of what Koh Han Island and its surrounding waterways have to offer. Boat trips take visitors along the Mekong river to stunning forests, sandy beaches and Ramsar listed wetland areas. Boats can also take you back to Stung Treng too ($20 2-5 people, $30 6-10, 1 hour and half).
Explore the village by foot
During early mornings and late afternoons wander the village to soak up island vibes. The small size of the village makes it perfect for exploring by foot. Visit the local pagoda, watch as locals go to and fro by bicycle or glimpse the sun setting or rising over the Mekong.
The islands here have a stunning natural forest area, something that the community are immensely proud of. Walk from the village at Koh Snaeng (30mins-1hour) or arrange this as a part of a boat tour. The forest is home to birds, butterflies and truly beautiful trees that tower into the sky.
Koh Han Island is located North of Stung Treng town on the Mekong River about 50km’s south of the Laos border. Access is via National Road 7 and small boat. The homestay accommodation is on an adjacent island, Koh Snaeng Island.
Getting to Stung Treng
Stung Treng is one of Cambodia’s northern provinces that borders Laos. By bus, Stung Treng is 4-5 hours from Siem Reap and 8 hours from Phnom Penh. Always prepare for a bus journey slightly longer than advertised times online. No hassle bookings can be made at bookmebus.com.
From Stung to Koh Han Ferry
At the riverside of Stung Treng next to the fish statue round-about buses leave to all directions. From 7:30am – 1pm hop on a local bus or share taxi for $2.50 that will take you to the Koh Han boat (45mins – 1 hour). Some buses are on their way to the Laos border and can make a detour to drop you at the Ferry. In the afternoon, these buses become less frequent. Alternatively, a tuk-tuk costs $10-$15 and can be arranged from the same location.
Koh Han Ferry
After you turn off National Road 7, the dirt road takes you through farm land until you reach a dead end backing onto the Mekong River (13.679983, 106.048609). Here are boats to Koh Han and Koh Snaeng. If booking in advance, a private boat is arranged to pick you up ($7.50, 2-5 people each way or $10, 6-10 people each way). The journey is around 10 minutes to Koh Snaeng island from here.
Stung Treng is an easy stop if you are on your way south from Laos. Buses follow National Road 7 south to Stung Treng, however stop earlier than this for easy access to Koh Han Island. If you are coming via mini bus ask your driver to stop before Stung Treng. Take a right hand turn onto a dirt road (13.6919165,106.0770082) towards the Mekong river. From here boats go to the island.
The community can help arrange your onward journey. Your cheapest options is a 7am minivan. This local bus leaves from the mainland and heads back to Stung Treng town.
Pricey but rewarding is a boat journey back along the Mekong to Stung Treng. For $20 (2-5 people) or $30 (6-10) take an hour and half journey passing islands and waterways all the way back to town along beautiful stretches of the Mekong. Boats can be arranged with the community.
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