When to Travel

Most trips occur in the cool dry season from December to March. This is the best time to visit Cambodia when the daytime temperatures are low thirties and the heat is dry. Night-time temperatures are typically in the low twenties though occasionally a cold snap will drop to 13 or 14. By the end of February / beginning of March the temperature has started to climb both day and night-time reaching a peak in April / May.


Key Info

For more information contact us on +44 (0) 7414 00 66 03paul@greigsmithtravels.com

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Cambodia’s Birdlife -Group Tour (max 12 participants)

Search for the rare Giant Ibis, Bengal Florican, Sarus Cranes and much more together with your fellow birdwatchers on this group tour. Visiting some of the best bird and nature reserves in Cambodia as well as visiting the great Tonle Sap lake, a source of life and sustenance for the people as well as the birdlife. In addition, you will have the opportunity to take in the magnificence of the temple of Angkor Wat, a legacy of the once mighty Khmer empire.

Highlights

  1. Search for Giant Ibis, Bengal Florican, Sarus Cranes & much more!

  2. Temples of Beang Melea

  3. Tonle Sap, Great Lake & Prek Toal Bird Reserve

  4. Wildlife spotting off the beaten track in Cambodia

Trip Details:


Day 1 Arrive at Siem Reap Airport (-)

Guests arrive in Siem Reap @ TBC

On arrival in Cambodia at Siem Reap International Airport, you will clear customs, immigration and visa control (You will need to ask for a ‘Tourist Visa at a cost of $20 - Be sure to bring two passport photos) Exiting to baggage claim, you will be met by our representative, holding a welcome sign with your name on it.

We transfer you to your Hotel and you have the remainder of your day to enjoy at your leisure.

Accommodation:

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa


Day 2 Sunset birding and temples in Angkor Great Park (B)

You have the morning to enjoy at your leisure.  After lunch you will be picked up for the start of your birding experience.  There is no better place to start than at Angkor Wat and the 200 plus temples in the Angkor Great Park which are truly a wonder of the world. Apsara the Cambodian ministry responsible for the management and conservation of the temples has preserved at least some of the mature dry forest and in places allowed undergrowth to grow, which offers habitat for common species and the odd rarity. 
The following species can be spotted: Oriental Darter in the moat, Hainan Blue, Taiga and Asian Brown Flycatchers, White‐throated Rock‐Thrush, Black Baza, Blue Rock Thrush, Forest Wagtails, Olive‐backed Pipit, Greater Racquet‐tailed Drongos, Asian Barred Owlets Coppersmith Barbet, Ashy Minivet, Yellow‐browed and Pale‐legged Leaf‐Warbler, raucous Red‐breasted and Alexandrine Parakeets and White‐crested Laughing thrushes.  Your guide will combine the trip to Angkor Wat with birding in the surrounding forest, which is a short distance from Siem Reap so sunset can be enjoyed amongst the temples before heading back to town.

Accommodation:

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa


Day 3Sarus Crane Reserve at Ang Trapaeng Thmor (B, L)

Originating as a reservoir on the Angkorian highway 66, ATT was rebuilt as a man made reservoir by slave labour during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1976.  The reservoir is now a Sarus Crane reserve administered by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with over 300 of these magnificent birds congregating to feed in the dry season along with another 198 recorded bird species, 18 of which are globally threatened. By February the dry season will be well underway and a few pairs of Black‐necked Storks frequent the site along with many of the large water birds seen at Prek Toal; Black‐headed Ibis, Milky and Painted Storks, Spot‐billed Pelicans, Oriental Darters, Asian Openbills and Greater and Lesser Adjutants.

A few pairs of Bengal Floricans breed here during the dry months though it is wary and a treat rather than a certainty to see. Other grassland specialists including Red Avadavat, Blue‐breasted Quail, and the 3 species of lark occurring in Cambodia. 6 species of duck (In February 2010 the Tufted Duck was spotted) four of which are resident including Comb Duck, can be seen along with birds of prey rare in the rest of the country such as Black Kite, Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers (A Short toed Snake Eagle was seen by the same group).  Numerous waders, rails and shore birds can be found in the marshy belts of aquatic habitat. 

Accommodation:

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa


Day 4Bird Reserve of Prek Toal on the Tonle Sap Great Lake (B, L)

The Tonle Sap is the largest natural lake in South East Asia, fed by the phenomenal annual backflow of water from the Mekong River.  Situated in the North West corner of the lake, Prek Toal core bird reserve is home to the largest breeding colonies of water birds in South East Asia.  The reserve covers 22,000 hectares of seasonally flooded forest where only the tallest trees stand proud of the lake during the annual flood, providing a habitat for cormorants, pelicans, storks, and many other birds to roost and nest.

The village of Prek Toal, adjacent to the reserve floats at the river mouth of the Sangke River where it flows into the lake.  Every house is built on a platform of bamboo and moves according to the water level throughout the year.  Schools, local restaurants, a church, even vegetable patches, pig‐pens and crocodile farms all float.

In Cambodia and throughout South East Asia, Prek Toal is unmatched for the number and population of endangered water birds it supports during the dry season.  Large numbers of cormorants, storks and pelicans are virtually guaranteed from January to May along with herons, egrets and terns.

The sanctuary harbours seven species of global conservation significance: Spotbilled Pelican, Milky and Painted Storks, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black‐headed Ibis and Oriental Darter and has a globally significant population of Grey‐headed Fish Eagle.  Since the Core Reserve was declared in 2002 and came under the protection of Ministry of Environment as advised by WCS, the numbers of all the above species have increased. 

We leave early for Chong Khneas, about 10km by road and transfer to a boat for the journey to Prek Toal. Depending on the lake water levels the boat journey cuts through the flooded scrub surrounding Chong Khneas and a small band of primary forest lining the lake where the boat moors for breakfast.   We head for the core reserve for a WCS observation platform next to a bird colony. A pack lunch can be organised allowing the group to maximise the time spent bird watching or they can return to Prek Toal for a Khmer lunch in a floating house.  A village tour by paddle‐boat can be organised before returning to Siem Reap.

Accommodation:

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa


Day 5 - 7Tmatboey via the Florican Grasslands for Bengal Florican (B, L, D)
The critically endangered Bengal Florican and many other water‐birds are found in the grasslands around the Tonle Sap Lake. The ‘Wildlife Conservation Society’ has worked with local communities to set up Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas (IFBAs) to conserve prime florican habitats. These bird watching trips give an income to the villagers who assist the Guide in locating the birds.  Finding the florican is usually easy, as they have been monitored since the start of the WCS conservation project in 2002. The peak display time is between dawn and 9am and then again between 4.30pm and dusk.  The Manchurian Reed Warbler is a winter visitor, found in the tall grass and scrub away from water. Greater‐spotted and Imperial Eagles winter in the area feeding on the abundant rodents. There are large numbers of Eastern Marsh Harriers and smaller number of Pied Harriers wintering in the area, along with a few Black Kites, Peregrines and numerous resident Brahminy Kites. Oriental Plover pass through in March.

After visiting the Florican grasslands the group will back track slightly to the small town of Dam Daek and the turn for the temples of Beng Melea (approx. 70km from Dam Daek) and Koh Ker a further 40km. We will stop at 1 or both of these temples if time permits. Tmatboey, dependent on the road conditions is about 3 hours driving time from Siem Reap.  The Tmatboey Ibis Site is a conservation project set up by WCS together with the Cambodian Government and Tmatboey village.  Once it was realised that the site had potential for bird watching tourism a local committee was elected which built the guest accommodation and with training, provides the services for the bird watching groups that visit. In return for the income that this brings the villagers have signed no hunting and land conversion agreements. The Lodge is comprised of a central recreational thatched building and 4 surrounding bungalows each with 2 double en‐suite rooms with solar powered electricity.

The accommodation is basic but comfortable. Tmatboey is a remote Khmer village of 220 families situated in the centre of the Northern Plains of Cambodia, within the Khulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, the country’s largest protected area. Tmatboey is 1 of only 2 known nesting sites in Asia for the Giant Ibis that use large trees in the forest away from the village.  White‐shouldered Ibis are found closer to the village where they are reliant on the grassland clearings amongst the dipteropcarp forest. Woolly‐necked Stork are relatively common and can be seen in flocks of over 40.  Greater‐spotted Eagle regularly over‐winter and Grey‐headed Fish Eagle and White‐rumped Falcon occur at low densities. The Pale‐capped Pigeon is another highlight along with an amazing diversity of woodpeckers and Brown Fish Owl, Spotted Wood Owl and Brown Wood Owl. In February 2010 night walks spotted Collared and Oriental Scops Owl, a mystery Aquila Eagle was seen on the same trip. After settling in to their accommodation the group can take a short walk through the open forest to where the Whiteshouldered Ibis come to roost at sunset. The next day will start early around 4 or 4.30am with a quick cup of tea or coffee, then a drive and a walk to less disturbed areas of forest where Giant Ibis have been located. Returning around 9am for breakfast at the Lodge.

The group can discuss with the Guide how they wish to spend the day outside the sunrise and sunset birding. Packed lunches can be arranged if they want to spend more time in the forest and night drives / walks can spot the owls and Savannah Night Jar. The village of Tmatboey is remote and self‐sufficient. We can organise an optional village tour, which takes in local trades as well as the school, a market garden, a still for sugar palm wine and points out the projects that the visitor’s conservation contributions have assisted.

Accommodation:

Tmatboey Lodge


Day 8Birding in Tmatboey & the Vulture restaurant at Veal Krous (B, L, D)

After a last morning’s birding and breakfast the group will make their way to Tbeng Meancheay the Provincial Capital of Preah Vihear Province and on to the village of Dongphlet in the Chhep Protected Forest where as part of WCS conservation program a vulture restaurant is set up to feed the 3 critically endangered species of vulture; Red‐headed, White‐rumped and Slender‐billed.  Journey times to Dongphlet village from Tbeng Meancheay are shrinking as the road is improved and will probably be less than 3 hours in 2011, so the group will get the chance for sunset birding perhaps catching a sight of Crested Treeswift, Black Baza, or Collared Falconet (if not already seen at Tmatboey).

A tour lead in February 2010 caught site of a White‐winged Duck circling the pool.  For some the highlight of the whole itinerary is the Vulture Restaurant at Veal Krous near Dongphlet, where tents will be set up for the night. Before dawn the group will make their way to a hide positioned not far from where a cow has been killed. Up to 70 vultures maybe present often competing for the carcass with Golden Jackal. In addition to the 3 critically endangered vultures, Cinereous and Himalayan Griffin have been seen.

Accommodation:

Safari Style tented Accommodation




Day 9Okoki for White Winged Duck (B, L, D)

After breakfast the group will move on approx 30 km through increasingly remote dry deciduous dipteropcarp forest (DDF) to the camp site at Okoki where pools in a line of mixed evergreen forest following a water course provide habitat for White winged Duck. This is one of the most pristine parts of Cambodia with a low population density so there is a possibility of seeing mammals.  Pileated Gibbon are regularly heard and occasionally seen and there are signs of Banteng, Sambar, Wild pig, Muntjac, Long‐tailed macaque, Fishing Cat and Leopard.

Safari style tents are set up at the Okoki campsite where a well has been dug along with drop toilets crowned with porcelain lavatories. As for Veal Krous a cook will travel with the group and necessary supplies of beer can be organized.

The group will stay here for 2 nights rising early to walk through the forest to arrive predawn at hides constructed next to the pools favoured by the duck. 2 trapaeng have been located approx. 8km from the campsite where the ducks have also been spotted. Bird watching throughout the day should find a plethora of DDF specialists including Green Peafowl and Pygmy‐falcon, which are resident and night walks could highlight Bay Owl and Blythe’s Frogmouth. In 2010 the group succeeded in calling in Bar‐bellied Pitta (also seen in 2009) and noted that bird watching at Okoki was hard work though rewarding.

Accommodation:

Safari Style tented Accommodation


Day 10Kampong Thom (B, L, D)

With the improved road the journey time has been shortened (approx. 7 hours from Okoki to Kamong Thom), which should allow for some bird watching enroute including the Tonle Sap Grasslands, this time further South around Kampong Thom. The road runs close to a significant pre Angkorian temple called Samboh Pre Kuk 30km from Kampong Thom, which offers an interesting nonbirding diversion. The hotel is clean with en‐suite hot showers, aircon and good Khmer food.

Accommodation:

Safari Style tented Accommodation


Day 11 - 13Birding in grasslands around Kampong Thom & the Seima Protected Forest (SPF) as well as the Southern Annamitic Forest (B, L, D)

After an early rise and a last look for grassland specialists on the flood plains near Kampong Thom the group will transfer to Keo Seima in Mondulkiri crossing the Mekong River at Kampong Cham which offers a good lunch stop. From Kampong Cham the journey takes approximately 4 hours, which means a presunset arrival at the WCS Station just outside the small town of Keo Seima for walk through the adjacent forest.

The Orange necked Partridge has been seen and more often heard calling but does not seem to be following any calendar, which would help us to improve the chance of seeing this enigmatic bird. This is more than made up for the diversity of other species reflecting the mixed habitat types; Bamboo, evergreen and DDF.

In 2010 a new trail behind the WCS Station offered sightings of White‐browed Scimitar Babbler and Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Red‐vented Barbet, Scalybreasted and Orange‐breasted partridge. Orange‐necked partridge has been heard on this new trail.  Cambodia maybe the best place in the world for woodpeckers. Great Slaty can be spotted at forested sites throughout the trip and at SPF noteworthy sightings include; White‐bellied, Paleheaded, Heart‐spotted and Black‐and‐buff Woodpeckers.

The presence of a fruiting tree draws in myna’s, barbets, pigeons and hornbills and the pigeon shown above.  The SPF is home to the largest population of Black‐shanked Douc in the world, along with Northern Pigtailed and Long‐tailed Macaque and Yellow‐cheeked Crested Gibbon, which are regularly seen.  In late February 2010 a group spotted Gaur around 9am close to the WCS Station.

A feature of the itinerary at SPF is a night drive and the possibility of mammals including Common‐palm and Small‐toothed Civets and Giant Flying Squirrel as well as Lesser Mouse‐Deer or Lesser Oriental Chevrotain and Pygmy Loris.

Accommodation:

Arunras Hotel & Wildlife Conservation Centre – HQ


Day 14Birding in the SPF & transfer to Kratie (B, L, D)

After birding along the trails around Keo Seima in the morning the group will make what is now an easy 2 ½ hour transfer to Kratie. 15 km North of Kratie are the Kampi Pools where the Irrawaddy Dolphin can be seen from a boat as well as the Mekong Wagtail (Moctacilla samveasnae, named after Sam Veasna). The river habitat is under threat from Chinese dams already constructed and proposed dams in Laos and Cambodia which if constructed will mean the dolphin along with other riverine bird species will become extirpated from Cambodia.

Accommodation:
Kratie Guesthouse

Day 15Birding Kratie & return to Siem Reap (B, L)

Early morning birding should allow Asian Golden and Streaked Weaver to be spotted (the Baya Weaver is a sighting at ATT) then after breakfast the group will set off for the long drive back to Siem Reap which takes about 6-8 hours.

Accommodation:

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa


Day 16Transfer to the Airport (B)

You have the day to enjoy as you wish before we take you to the airport for your departing flight.  Please remember that you will have to pay $25 per person departure tax.



Tour Includes:

Airport pick up and drop off

Overnights as mentioned

Excursions as mentioned and entrance fees to all sites

Drinking Water

Transportation in private A/C vehicle

English speaking guide and local guides / rangers

Conservation contribution to protected sites

Cow for Vulture Restaurant

Meals as mentioned (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner - excludes drinks)

Public liability insurance & All taxes


Tour Excludes:

All International flights & Visa fees, currently $20 per person

International airport tax (Included in Air ticket)

Meals, unless mentioned differently

Beverages and personal expenses

Other excursions and entrance fees

Travel insurance (cover against all cancellation costs, medical expenses, including repatriation, in the event of accident of illness)


*If you would like to stay an extra day to go back and explore the temples once returning from the bird tour this can also be arranged as an extension.


Note:

The single supplement is only available at Kompong Thom & Kratie at £25 extra per night

Other places are not available for single supplement

In Tmatboey the rooms are twin shared (We will give a single room for free if they are available)




Sarus Cranes courtesy of SVC

spotbilled pelicans courtesy of SVC

Bengal Florican courtesy of SVC

white shouldered Ibis courtesy of SVC

common palm civet courtesy of SVC

thickbilled green pigeon courtesy of SVC

Sambor Prek Kuk courtesy of SVC

Sarus Cranes courtesy of SVC

Sarus Cranes courtesy of SVC

vultures courtesy of SVC

white winged duck  courtesy of SVC


Additional Notes:

Most trips occur in the cool dry season from December to March. This is the best time to visit Cambodia when the daytime temperatures are low thirties and the heat is dry. Night-time temperatures are typically in the low twenties though occasionally a cold snap will drop to 13 or 14. By the end of February / beginning of March the temperature has started to climb both day and night-time reaching a peak in April / May.

Accommodation:
During the tour most of the areas we will be visiting are quite remote.  However even thought the level of accommodation in some areas will be basic all rooms are clean and tidy.  Single rooms are limited, so please be aware that guests may be asked to share a twin room in some circumstances.


Bird Watching

During the course of the itinerary Groups will encounter a range of different habitat; ATT – marsh, dry paddy, grassland and lake. Prek Toal – Semi submerged forest, flooded scrub and open lake. Florican Grasslands – Natural grassland and paddy on floodplain. Tmatboey – Deciduous dry dipteropcarp forest (DDF). Okoki and Vulture Restaurant – DDF with pockets of mixed evergreen and forest trapaeng (pools). Seima Protected Forest – Southern Annamitic forest of mixed evergreen, DDF and bamboo. Kratie – Riverine habitat. Bird watching is from the car, by boat and on foot. Hiking boots, which give ankle protection against the small risk of snakebites are recommended for the forest walks. We have a couple of scopes, which it will try to allocate if the group has not brought one however in peak season they may have already been taken.


Health & Insurance

Necessary immunizations should be discussed with your own Doctor but from an expatriates point of view malaria is present in the forests where we visit and dengue fever occurs in the city’s though is much less prevalent during the dry season.  Food is cooked to order so food poisoning especially in the cooler less humid dry season is unlikely. The provision of emergency health cover while improving is still limited and in case of serious accidents, illness or snakebites it maybe necessary for you to be airlifted out of the country, you must have health insurance to cover this eventuality.

Cambodia is a developing country with a limited though rapidly changing infrastructure, which together with the incredible seasonal changes as exemplified most graphically by the Tonle Sap Lake means that schedules have to have a degree of flexibility.

This itinerary takes in the WCS Conservation sites across Cambodia where we have exclusive access to environmentally sensitive areas of special biodiversity. These sites by their very nature are often in remote areas where local communities have limited exposure to other Cambodians let alone foreigners. This cultural gap is bridged by our multi lingual Guide but sometimes what seem like the simplest tasks can become very complicated so please have patience.