Finally I Get to Be a Tourist and Experience the Ecotourism that CBET Offers: Biking, Hiking and Boating in the Cardamom Mountain Rain Forest.
June 1-2. Guides, trails, food and a cook are provided for your 2 to 4 day camping excursion. Visit http://www.chi-phat.org for more information. My first excursion is a 12.5 kilometer mountain bike ride to O'Malu Water Falls. My guide, bungalow builder and proprietor, friend and Green Ambassador: Vanak Tuy; bikes up one of the many hills (above).
Two bridges we crossed on our bikes.
View from camp.
Swimming at O'Malu Water Falls.
Vanak and myself at Chhay Kpos Water Falls.
My second excursion is a hike through the rain forest to Damnak Khos Bird Watching Camp.
Carnivorous Pitcher Plant on the left.
The reason for long pants, long sleeved shirts, and pants tucked into socks: Jumping Leaches.
Also watch out for spiders and vines.
Our lunch stop.
Our camp is on the Stung Prat river. Bird watching at sunrise was awesome.
We take a beautiful scenic boat ride back to Chi Phat.
A very special dinner with the Green Ambassadors. I feel very priviledged to get to know them over the two weeks I spent in Chi Phat, especially the girls. About the Cambodian people - very kind, gentle, never angry, and the most polite people I have ever met in my travels of 26 countries. Even when my tuk tuk driver hit a scooter, no harsh words or looks were exchanged.
Meeting with Kouprey Express Mobile Educational Unit at the Wildlife Alliance Offices in Phnom Penh
From their website: "Wildlife Alliance launched a national campaign to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and habitat preservation utilizing . . . a mobile environmental education project for Cambodia’s youth about wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Named for the Kouprey, a species of ox believed to be extinct in the wild, the Kouprey Express is a bus full of engaging and interactive educational materials that travels throughout the Southern Cardamoms visiting schools and rural villages teaching environmental protection and management. . . . Beginning in 2008, the Kouprey Express adopted a targeted strategy to maximize impact by distributing reusable environmental education curricula and materials, and by training teachers in Koh Kong province how to use these curricula."
June 20. The Green Ambassadors decide on their own to clean up the litter at the Chhay Kpos Water Fall.
June 26. The Green Ambassadors plan a tree planting on the road to the Secondary School. Nine Ambassadors plus 12 volunteers participate. These trees are part of the Green initiative of Chi Phat and to provide shade to students walking to school
A sign posting illegal logging of trees.
CBET restaurant and meeting place for tourists.
The two hour boat ride to Chi Phat from Orndong Toeuk bridge, where the bus drops from Phnom Penh.
My favorite breakfast: Cambodian banana rolled in rice and coated with honey, then wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted on the fire.
My Bungalo for two weeks while in Chi Phat, built by Mr. Vanak Tuy.
An outdoor kitchen and dining room, also built by Vanak.
A gift for the Chi Phat Commune Chief Mr. Meong Sophea.
This special rock is used as an altar to the river spirit. It is said that this rock never floods, and so is called Thmor Orn Det (Floating Rock). In Cambodian culture people believe that the river must own its spirit. Legend has it that this altar was once the house of a local bride that got swept away in a heavy rain storm.
Kouprey Express Will Travel to the Southern Islands of Koh Rong to Spread Conservation Awareness to the Villages There.
June 11. My love of visiting marine life through SCUBA took me to the southern island of Koh Rong Samloem.
My dive instructor is Antonella Lavorato from Italy, seen here giving the universal dive signal, "Are you OK?" Antonella was very patient with me during my dive refresher course and made sure that I mastered buoyancy with my breath. She also does corral restoration on the island with Save Cambodian Marine Life.
I explained to her the Zero Waste and Recycling program that I implemented with Sophany and Wildlife Alliance in the eco-tourism village of Chi Phat, and Kouprey Express. She was very interested in the program and in Kouprey Express educating the children in the local village, and asked for me to introduce her to Amy Van Nice, Mobile Environmental Education Project Manager of Wildlife Alliance.
The small village of May Pay Bay on the island. Four hundred Khmer villagers live on the Island, of which 100 are children.
Many of the children are not in school, especially as they get older, as they help their families with fishing, restaurants, guest houses and other jobs.
Via email, Amy was also introduced to Theresa Kienitz, Project Manager for Save Cambodian Marine Life and also living in May Pay Bay. She requested a Kouprey Express program focusing on waste disposal and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; as that is the main problem on the island. Amy said that Kouprey Express will visit the island for community awareness sometime in September. Villagers from surrounding islands will also be boated in for the program. I feel very proud to know that I initiated this meeting!
My last day on the island was very sad. Myself, Jenny and Antonella.
Sophany and I are invited to a Behind the Scenes tour of Wildlife Alliance's Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre
May 27. After loading the van, we stop at a market to buy fruit to feed Lucky the 16 year old female elephant. She is very gentle and kind. She was raised at the center from a very young age and so enjoys being around humans.
Our guide Torey. Lucky enjoys people blowing into her trunk as a sign of play and comfort.
Lucky gives us a very special gift of her original art. Only positive reinforcement is used to train her.
Chhouk was a baby when he was found in the wild with a missing foot, most likely caught in a poacher's snare. His stump was severely infected, and so he was brought to the center. He was fitted with a prosthetic foot, and is now on his fourth as he grows. He gets around quite well. See video on phnomtamaozoo.com.
As recently as 50 years ago Cambodia supported an abundance of wild mammals. Today there are fewer than 30 tigers in its forests. Animals rescued and brought to the center are released back into the wild after rehabilitation if possible. These tigers would be poached if set free, and so remain at the center. They have access to their interior and exterior enclosure 24/7.
Cambodia is home to 14 endangered species, one of them is the beautiful Sun Bear. Despite recent efforts, illegal poaching of sun bears continues. Find out more at FreeTheBears.org.
The Gibbon is a small ape with amazing acrobatic skills, their arms are longer than their legs. The female has a hilarious yell.
Devin gives a high five to a 2 week old monkey. The young know the young.
Our final treat, we were allowed inside the enclosure of 4 juvenile monkeys ranging in age from one to four years old. All jewelry was removed. We were told not to show our teeth directly at their face, as that is a sign of aggression. They jumped onto us from all sides to get at the fruit we were holding, not very gently I might add. The entire tour was a very memorable experience!
Della Barbato has been an informal environmental educator since 2006.