Discover the hidden waterways and islands of the Mekong.
Take a boat trip around the islands of Koh Samseb and see how this part of the Mekong is made up of thousands of small islands, secret riverways, and riverbanks with pristine white sand. Stop for a swim, have a picnic and watch fishermen at work. In the late afternoon, return to dry land for overnight with a local family in a local homestay, or, for adventure seekers, pitch a tent and set up camp overnight on a sandy riverbank and enjoy dinner cooked on a campfire.
Koh Samseb community ecotourism project was set up with help of the wildlife NGO Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Programme ( NTFP-EP CAMBODIA). It is a very new community tourism enterprise that is aimed at supporting the incomes of local families and also empower them to protect the local forest. The local forest is home to numerous species of rare birds and needs to be protected from illegal logging. In particular, the White Shouldered Ibis which live in the surrounding forests and wetlands. There are believed to be less than 1000 of these birds left, but this project hopes to be able to support their repopulation by protecting their habitats.
The project is run by 16 members who decide what should be offered at the site and also how profits from tourism should be used.
Khot Samoll, a community guide at Koh Samseb ‘what is great about developing our ecotourism at the site is that we can make sure we can make money from our local surrounding whilst also protecting them. We need to protect the habitats of the birds that live here, because some of them are very rare. My favourite thing about being a tour guide and showing tourists around is seeing how much they enjoy being around nature, and how much I can tell them about what they are seeing. In the future I am keen to expand this project and have more international and domestic tourists so there are enough jobs in tourism here for everyone who wants them. That way we can focus on reducing illegal logging and fishing and protecting the wildlife instead.’
Koh Samseb is a collection of numerous small and larger islands of the banks of the village of Koh Khnae. There are three homestays in the village at the moment, but they are keen to expand. The majority of people who live in the village are farmers and fishermen.
The aim of this project it to create jobs and livelihoods in tourism. By doing this, the aim of this project is to reduce the amount of illegal fishing and logging and therefore showing people that there is a sustainable future to be had in protecting the wildlife and beauty of the area, not by depleting it. After local providers have been paid for their work, the profits generated by tourism.
All the homestays at Koh Samseb are traditional Khmer style homes. They are built on stilts with one room upstairs. You will sleep upstairs and the family will sleep downstairs. Each person will have a mattress, pillow, a mosquito net, and fan, as well as clean drinking water. Bathrooms are Khmer style: they are separate from the house and have a squat toilet. All will have a supply of clean water for a shower, but this is not necessarily running water, as many family homestays have bucket showers.
Tents and pillows will be provided. You will also be cooked an evening meal over a campfire, so you guide will make sure all the equipment necessary for that is provided also. Although a lot of fun, camping here is not luxury camping. There are no bathrooms on the island – or any infrastructure if any kind, so make sure you bring essential equipment such as a torch, mosquito repellent and sensible clothing for night and day. Make sure you also pack swimming gear, as the water around this island is very inviting.
The local bus
The local bus service means that getting to Koh Samseb can be easier and cheaper than many other remote CBET sites. The bus leaves Kratie between 12-1 depending on when it is full. It costs $2.50 and takes roughly an hour. The bus leaves Koh Khnae to return to Kratie at 8am sharp the next morning. If you wish to stay later than this, there are local drivers who can drop you off on the main road. From here it is easy to flag down a but going to Kratie or Stung Treng. Busses that run from Ratinikiri and Stung Treng Heading from Phnom Penh also run along this road, so if you’re heading further a field, it is possible to get a direct bus from the crossroads and not have to change busses.
The turning of the main road to Koh Khnae and the Koh Samseb tourism office is signposted (from the direction of Kratie) so it is also possible to make your own way here if you have your own transport. Please note that the last bit of road is not paved so only experience drivers should attempt this on a motorbike.
Exploring the village
Koh Khnae is a pretty village on the banks of the Mekong. Be shure to spend a little time exploring the village. There a a couple of small local shops as well as a small café. The village is located next to a forest that you can also visit.
Taking a boat trip
This boat tour is the most highly recommended activity at this site. Come and explore the maze of offshore islands and waterways to see local people fishing and transporting goods, as well as a host of diverse wildlife.
Camping is an experience you won’t forget! Although not for the feint hearted, there is something magical about going to sleep to nothing but the sound of water around you.
This is a fantastic place for bird spotting. There are numerous species all year round but perhaps the most rare is the White-Shouldered Ibis, who make this part of the Mekong home from December to February. These birds are critically endangered which makes it even more imperative that that there are initiatives to protect their ever declining habitats.
Getting to Koh Samseb Community from Phnom Penh
From Phnom Penh you need to take VIP bus service to Kratie about 5 hours and get off when you reach to Kratie bus station.
You can book a bus to Kratie easily with bookmebus.
Once you arrive in Kratie the bus will stop at the local bus station (coordinates 12.2909, 106.0103), you can call the local bus driver (the project manager can provide you with his number when you book.) The bus costs $2.50 per person and takes roughly an hour from Kratie to Koh Samseb, heading north on National road 7. For the last 7 miles, you will head down a small road (coordinates 13.09’51, 106.08’29 but it’s also signposted), to reach the village of Koh Khnae, where the Koh Samseb tourism project is based.
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