Lesser Adjutants may be easier to see in Cambodia than anywhere else. Photo: Susan Myers
The expansive forests and untouched wetlands of this small country harbor some of the rarest birds and mammals in the region, making Cambodia one of the most interesting birding destinations in Asia. In recent years a number of hugely exciting discoveries have been made, including a population of the near-mythical Giant Ibis; a new species, the Mekong Wagtail; and a breeding population of the rapidly declining eastern race of Sarus Crane. In the wetlands around the vast Tonle Sap Lake, the largest breeding colonies of waterbirds in Southeast Asia represent one of the finest birding spectacles in Asia, including small numbers of Greater Adjutant and the critically endangered Milky Stork. And the most extensive grasslands remaining in Southeast Asia are home to the splendid Bengal Florican as well as the scarce Manchurian Reed-Warbler.
We’ll also have the opportunity to visit some of the greatest surviving architectural monuments in Asia—the temples of the ancient city of Angkor. They represent the heart and soul of Cambodia, harking back to an era of unrivaled influence when the Khmer Empire ruled over south China, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, and Malaysia. Built at the height of the Khmer civilization, from the eighth to the twelfth centuries, the Angkor complex is known for its extraordinary artistry, and we will allow ample time to explore and reflect on these architectural masterpieces, many of which have excellent birding on site. This tour offers an opportunity to see some of the world’s rarest birds and mammals amid some if its most celebrated cultural artifacts.
This tour can be taken in conjunction with our tour, Vietnam.
Day 1: Our tour begins this evening in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Night at Siem Reap.
Day 2: We’ll begin with a visit to Tonle Sap Lake, one of the great geographic features of Asia. It is a huge lake fed by the mighty Mekong River, and on its northern shores the flooded forests of Prek Toal host the largest breeding colonies of big waterbirds in Southeast Asia. Surrounded by small fishing boats, we’ll cross the gigantic lake as the sun rises. At the floating village we may transfer to a smaller boat, depending on the water level and the size of our group, before entering the narrow watercourses and making our way to the colonies of Lesser Adjutants, Painted Storks, and Spot-billed Pelicans. As we view this amazing scene, we’ll search for the rarer Greater Adjutant and the very rare Milky Stork. Night at Siem Reap.
Cambodia was excellent and Susan a first-rate leader with a wealth of information on nature in general. Sign us up for another of her trips.
Janet Volker, March 2013
Day 3: We’ll leave early for our journey to Tmatboey, arguably the most exciting part of the tour. We’ll arrive at the remote outlying temple of Beng Maelea in time to enjoy an early breakfast followed by exceptional birding in the forest surrounding this spectacular temple. We may be fortunate enough to see Great Slaty and White-bellied Woodpeckers here plus Blue-bearded Bee-eater and the scarce White-throated Rock-Thrush. As we continue north, we’ll enter areas of extensive dry dipterocarp forest, a bird-rich habitat that supports a very healthy population and diversity of woodpeckers, including the scarce Black-headed. These forests are home as well to some of the most vigorous populations in Asia of birds such as Rufous-winged Buzzard and Blossom-headed Parakeet. We’ll continue northward to the remote village of Tmatboey, where we’ll spend the next two days searching for the critically endangered Giant Ibis and where there is a very good chance of finding White-shouldered Ibis or Pale-capped Pigeon. The villagers here work in conjunction with conservation organizations to protect these fabulous birds, and our presence is not only very welcome but very beneficial to the community, as our visit will contribute directly to the construction of clean water wells in the village. Night at Tmatboey.
Day 4: In the cool of the early morning we’ll venture out of the village into the neighboring forest. Our plan is to walk to nearby trapeangs, or permanent waterholes, where the ibises tend to gather during the dry season. As we walk, we’ll keep an eye out for Yellow-legged and Orange-breasted Green-pigeons, Shikra, Woolly-necked Stork, Burmese Shrike, Black-hooded Oriole, Small Minivet, and White-shouldered Starling, among others. Chinese Francolins are moderately common and often flush up noisily. At the permanent watercourses there is often feverish activity, and we may find the impressive Brown Fish-Owl, Oriental Cuckoo, Radde’s Warbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, and Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher. If we are lucky, we may spot Small Buttonquail as we walk through the low grass.
After resting during the heat of midday, we’ll bird in nearby forest and rice fields in hopes of finding another great rarity, the White-shouldered Ibis. As we rest at a trapeang, Green Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoes, Green-billed Malkohas, and Rufous Treepies will delight us as they come in for their evening drink. Night at Tmatboey.
Day 5: After another morning birding in these wonderful forests, we’ll drive slowly back to Siem Reap, this time with a stop for birding and a break at Koh Ker, another temple where nature has run riot. Night at Siem Reap.
Day 6: We’ll drive westward toward the Thai border to visit Ang Trapeang Thmor Wildlife Reserve. This old reservoir and the surrounding forest harbor a very rare population of the Southeast Asian race of Sarus Crane. At times this magnificent crane can be seen in large flocks of up to 100 birds! In addition we should encounter multitudes of Comb Duck, Lesser Whistling-Duck, Painted Stork, and Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas. In the dry forests bordering this lush reservoir we may find one of Asia’s rarest mammals, the gorgeous Eld’s deer. Night at Siem Reap.
Day 7: Today we’ll visit the magnificent complex of Angkor Wat, as well as Angkor Thom and other nearby temples. One of them, Ta Prohm, has been left to the elements, and strangler fig roots snake around its crumbling walls and ancient statues. The birding in the beautiful forests of Angkor is a great adjunct to this experience, and we can expect large congregations of Oriental Pied-Hornbills and Red-breasted and Alexandrine Parakeets, fine views of Black Baza, numerous Asian Barred Owlets, and Hill Mynas. In the drier forests we may find Greater Flameback, Black-hooded Oriole, and Hainan Blue-Flycatcher. Lesser Adjutant can occasionally be seen flying overhead. Night at Siem Reap.
Day 8: We’ll take leave of the delightful town of Siem Reap and turn southward to Kompong Cham. En route we’ll visit grassland areas near the town of Kompong Thom, where the rare Bengal Florican can often be seen. This charismatic species is declining rapidly due to continuing loss of its grassland habitat and is otherwise found only in India. Our presence here, as with the Giant Ibis in Tmatboey, will greatly assist in the florican’s conservation. Night at Kompong Thom.
Day 9: We’ll drive north along the Mekong, the longest river in Southeast Asia, to the riverside town of Kratie. In the afternoon we’ll travel by boat on the river , where our main target will be the recently discovered Cambodian endemic Mekong Wagtail. This highly localized and attractive species, first described in 2001, can be seen alongside the very rare Irrawaddy Dolphin. As we travel upriver we may encounter Small Pratincole, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Pale Martin, and White Wagtail. Exploring the wetlands near Kratie may reveal the rare Golden Weaver and shy Chestnut-capped Babbler. Night at Kratie.
Day 10: After a morning’s birding in the rich wetlands we’ll drive to Mondulkiri, birding en route. Night at Sen Monorom.
Day 11: We’ll have a full day’s birding in the fantastic Seima Protection Forest. There is not only a fabulous wealth of birdlife in this mixed forest area but an amazing collection of mammals, including elephant, gaur, banteng, and the world’s largest populations of Black-shanked Douc Langurs and Yellow-cheeked Gibbons. The birdlife includes Green Peafowl, the incredible Siamese Fireback, Great Hornbill, sixteen species of woodpecker—one of the largest concentrations on earth!—and perhaps most important, the elusive Orange-necked Partridge. Seima is the first protected area in Cambodia created specifically to safeguard carbon and protect biodiversity. Well over 300 bird species have been recorded here, so we’ll be kept busy. If we have missed any important species, such as the scarce White-rumped Falcon, at Tmatboey, we’ll have another chance here. Night at Sen Monorom.
Day 12: After another morning in Seima Protection Forest we’ll visit the nearby Dakdam highland, close to the border with Vietnam, where we’ll encounter a different set of birdlife. With luck we may find Spot-throated Babbler, White-cheeked and Black-throated Laughingthrushes, Red-vented Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, or Maroon Oriole among many others. Night at Sen Monorom.
Day 13: After a final morning birding in Seima we’ll pack our bags and head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s charming capital, often described as the most beautiful city in Asia. Night in Phnom Penh.
Day 14: Our tour concludes this morning in Phnom Penh.
Updated: 25 April 2013
- 2014 Tour Price Not Yet Available
- (2013 Tour Price $4400)
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
Maximum group size eight with one leader and local assistants