12-Day Cambodia Birding Tour (with optional 5 Day extension)
This fantastic trip offers 12 Days of birding in the country’s hotspots. With a bird list of over 510 avian species, containing many of Asia’s most desirable species as well as 2 endemic and 32 globally threatened species, you can look forward to an unforgettable birding adventure.
This tour can be booked as a private guided birding tour
Next group tour departure date: March 2023
Full Itinerary: Cambodia Birding
Arrival in Siem Reap
Welcome to enchanting Cambodia! Your fantastic birding tour in this incredible country will start at the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport about 7 kilometres (4 miles) out of the city of Siem Reap, where you will be picked up by a company representative and transferred to our comfortable hotel, where we will stay for the first 4 nights of the tour.
On the way there it might be a good idea to learn a bit more about where you are. The Kingdom of Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Ruled since 802 AD by the Khmer Empire for 600 years and then by the Ayutthaya Kingdom before French colonialism, Cambodia is now independent and luckily rid itself of the turbulent history of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge dictatorship and genocide of the 1970s. Thankfully these days Cambodia is a welcoming place with incredibly friendly people and has even become known as the “Land of Smiles”.
In geographical terms, Cambodia’s landscape is characterised by a low-lying central plain that is surrounded by uplands and low mountains and includes the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the upper reaches of the mighty Mekong river’s delta. Extending outward from this central region are transitional plains, thinly forested and rising to elevations of about 650 feet (200 metres) above sea level. Cambodia’s biodiversity is largely founded on its seasonal tropical forests (that cover about 50% of the land area) and riparian ecosystems. The country boasts almost 200 mammal species, over 510 bird species, 240 reptile species, 900 freshwater fish species, 435 marine fish species and over 3,000 plant species. Many species in Cambodia, including several endemic ones, are recognized by the IUCN or World Conservation Union as threatened, endangered, or critically endangered.
Siem Reap, in the northwest of Cambodia, is a culturally significant city with a history dating back over 1,200 years, and was even recently crowned the ASEAN City of Culture for the period 2021-2022. Cambodia’s 2nd largest city, Siem Reap is actually quite modern, with a cosmopolitan drinking and dining scene and many upmarket hotel and resorts. In recent years, the city has regularly ranked in the top ten for “Best Destination” lists produced by entities such as TripAdvisor, Wanderlust Magazine, and Travel+Leisure.
Of course, being so close to the world famous Angkor Wat temples is what makes most people come to the city, and we will visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site tomorrow. But if you arrive in Siem Reap with enough time today, there are many other attractions to visit and enjoy, including many other fantastic Buddhist temples, Cambodia’s war museum, excellent markets, traditional Apsara dance performances, cosmopolitan cafes, silk farms, world class spas, great shopping and much, much more. The city really is a wonderful amalgamation of old and new!
We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time.
We will get our first taste of the food of Cambodia. Signature dishes of the country include Beef Lok Lak (cubed beef sauteed with cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, pepper and soy sauce), Fish Amok (steamed fish curry with a mousse-like consistency; the national dish), Kuy Teav (a pork broth rice noodle soup with onions, garlic and different toppings), Bok Svay (fried fish with a green mango salad), various curry dishes and loads of seafood. Some people say the food is similar to Thai cuisine, but Cambodian food is actually less spicy and more refined, containing less coconut and sugar, but more lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime and other interesting flavours. French influence on Cambodian cuisine includes red curry with toasted baguette bread; strange but delicious. Why not pair your dinner with the local rice wine, called Sombai, served in its characteristic hand-painted bottles. It has become Cambodia’s national drink and symbolic of Siem Reap. Enjoy!
After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Angkor Wat and birding in surrounding areas
We will be up very early this morning because we have a great day planned!
Even before sunrise we will search for Brown Hawk-Owl and head to the nearby complex of Angkor Wat, literally translated from Khmer into “temple city” or “city of temples”. We will arrive in time for sunrise and enjoy a packed breakfast while we marvel at the temples in the golden light. After breakfast we will do some birding around the complex, hoping to pick up Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Cotton Pygmy Goose, White-throated Rock Thrush, Forest Wagtail and more. Please note our birding session here is quite flexible, depending on the location of bird species and the number of tourists on the day.
After our first session we will visit the main temple complex, undoubtedly Cambodia’s greatest tourist attraction and its national symbol; it even appears on the nation’s flag! It is the largest religious monument in the world and a truly impressive historical masterpiece. The structure dates back to the 12th century when it was built as the state temple of the Khmer empire. It was designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. It is one of the most impressive archaeological treasures in the world, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992. Many historians believe it should have been included in the New7Wonders of the World along with other icons like Machu Picchu and Petra. We will enjoy the incredible architecture, delicate carved decorations, unique construction techniques and more as we take in this awe-inspiring site.
The ruins, with its famous 5 rising towers, are in a huge 400km2 park that also contains other temple complexes like Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, that appeared in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film in 2001. We will do a late morning birding session around the richly-decorated Bayon Temple of the Angkor Thom ruins and could pick up Oriental Pied Hornbill, Greater Coucal, Black-naped Oriole, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Hair-crested Drongo, White-crested Laughingthrush, Common Hill Myna, Coppersmith and Lineated Barbet, Black-crested and Streak-eared Bulbul, Ashy Minivet, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Olive-backed Sunbird and more. We will then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in the complex.
After lunch we will bird at Ta Prohm and the surrounding dipterocarp forest areas, looking for species such as Black Baza, Asian Barred Owlet, Red-breasted, Blossom-headed and Alexandrine Parakeet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Asian Koel, Green-billed Malkoha, Black and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Brown Shrike, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Crested Treeswift, Taiga Flycatcher and many others. We will also have our first chance to see Red Junglefowl, a “chicken” you can actually tick!
Mammals we could see today include Crab-eating Macaque, Variable and Cambodian Striped Squirrel, and Black-bearded Tomb Bat.
We will return to our hotel in the city and get together for dinner and to tick our first full day’s species on our trip lists. The we are off to bed after an exciting first day.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
This morning we will be up early and jump into the vehicle.
We will travel to Chong Khneas ferry point or Mechrey floating village where we will board a boat to cross the northern portion of Tonlé Sap. Khmer for “large river” or “great lake”, Tonlé Sap is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia. As one of the world’s most varied and productive ecosystems the region has always been of central importance for Cambodia’s food supply, directly affecting the livelihood of large numbers of the rural population. It is in the heart of the country and is home to many floating villages which are big tourist attractions. The area around the Tonlé Sap including the province of Siem Reap is part of the greater Tonle Sap UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Our destination is Prek Toal, a bird sanctuary and Ramsar site located within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve, at the northwest corner of the Tonlé Sap. On the way to the sanctuary we will enjoy breakfast and our local expert guide will tell us more about the lake, the mighty Mekong river and the floating villages.
At Prek Toal we will pick up a ranger and swap to a community motorboat for the boat trip into the core bird reserve’s flooded forest. During the dry seasons, the 42,000 hectare site is dry and covered mostly by freshwater swamp forests, but it floods annually, with the water depth reaching up to eight metres. Prek Toal includes a range of habitats for a great diversity of globally threatened species such as the critically endangered River Terrapin, Siamese Crocodile and Giant Barb.
We will view a wide range (and high numbers) of species today and also bird from a custom built treetop observation deck. Species we could see today include Grey-headed Fish Eagle, near threatened Spot-billed Pelican, endangered Greater Adjutant, vulnerable Lesser Adjutant, near threatened Painted Stork, endangered Milky Stork, near threatened Black-headed Ibis, Asian Openbill, Great, Indian and Little Cormorant, Great, Intermediate and Little Egret, near threatened Oriental Darter, Grey and Purple Heron, Chinese and Javan Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Grebe, Lesser Whistling and Knob-billed Duck, Garganey, Eurasian Whimbrel, Whiskered Tern, Grey-headed and Red-wattled Lapwing, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacana, Grey-headed Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Common and White-throated Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Crimson Sunbird, Baya Weaver, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Asian Palm Swift and many, many others.
Mammals we could see at the sanctuary include Silvered Leaf-monkey, Crab-eating Macaque, and Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otter.
We will return to one of the floating villages for an authentic lunch and then do a relaxing paddle-boat tour of the floating villages to see some amazing local community projects.
We will return to our hotel in Siem Reap via the boat ride and vehicle transfer, and arrive in time to freshen up. We will get together for dinner and to update our trip lists. Afterwards we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
OAng Trapaeng Thmor/span>
After an early wake-up call this morning, we will jump into our vehicle and head northwest.
We will have breakfast in a nice spot along the way during our 90 minute drive to Ang Trapaeng Thmor, or just “ATT” for short. It is a 129 km2 (50 sq mi) protected forest that was set aside in 1999 to protect the rare and vulnerable sharpii subspecies of the elegant Sarus Crane. Prior to the discovery of the crane at ATT there were thought to be fewer than 1,000 of these beautiful birds left alive in the world.
We will arrive at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) station at ATT at about 07:30 and receive an information briefing from the local guide. The habitat for this morning consists of a large reservoir surrounded by rice paddies, with a range of grassland and sedge habitats on the northern edge, and a small area of degraded deciduous forest. Species we hope to tick this morning include the aforementioned Sarus Crane, Black-necked and Painted Stork, Greater Adjutant, Great White and Spot-billed Pelican, Black-headed Ibis, vulnerable Greater Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Black Kite, Pied Harrier, Spotted Wood Owl, Eastern Barn Owl, Asian Barred and Spotted Owlet, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Coot, Cinnamon and Yellow Bittern, Common Snipe, Greater Painted-snipe, Oriental Pratincole, Eurasian Curlew, Pacific Golden, Kentish and Grey Plover, Wood, Terek and Marsh Sandpiper, Spotted and Common Redshank, Temminck’s and Long-toed Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Greater and Lesser Coucal, Black-capped and Pied Kingfisher, Eurasian Wryneck, White-shouldered Starling, Red-throated Pipit, White Wagtail, Streaked Weaver, Yellow-vented and Stripe-throated Bulbul, Indochinese Bush Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Scaly-breasted Munia, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Siberian Stonechat and many others.
ATT is also an important conservation area for a number of other globally threatened species. With luck we could see the rare and endangered Eld’s Deer, vulnerable Amboina Box and Malayan Snail-eating Turtle, and the critically endangered Elongated Tortoise.
Just before lunchtime we will visit Phnom Srok village to see unique silk items being created, or if you prefer we can continue birding around the reservoir. We will enjoy a home-cooked lunch at the WCS station and then explore further bird sites on the far side of the reservoir, looking for species we may have missed in the morning.
At about 15:00 we will leave the ATT site and make our way back to our hotel in Siem Reap.
We will have some time to freshen up and relax. We will update our growing trip lists and then have dinner together, followed by a good night’s rest after another productive day.
Tmat Boey via Bengal Florican Conservation Site
We will check out of our hotel early this morning and head off on the next part of our exciting birding adventure in Cambodia.
It is a 2 hour drive to the southeast to the Stoung Bengal Florican Conservation Area. A prepared breakfast will be provided when we arrive at the site. The Cambodian government has established 6 protected areas (designated as “Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas”) in the Tonlé Sap grasslands to safeguard the Bengal Florican, totalling more than 310 km2 (120 sq mi). A public education program to inform schoolchildren about this special bird has also been undertaken. These critically endangered bustard-like birds number fewer than 300 in its Southeast Asian range (along with about 1,000 birds on the Indian subcontinent), so everything needs to be done to safeguard their continued existence.
We will bird the site with its seasonally inundated outer-floodplain grassland with some small areas of scrub. Our local expert guides have a very good track record of finding the special Bengal Florican, so they should be seen within the first few hours of the trip. Whilst we are enjoying the floricans, other birds we typically see here include Sarus Crane, Pied and Eastern Marsh Harrier, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Spotted and Zebra Dove, Common Buttonquail, Pin-tailed Snipe, Large-billed Crow, Plaintive Cuckoo, Javan Myna, Ashy Drongo, Indian Roller, Green Bee-eater, Black-capped and Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Horsfield’s Bush Lark, Oriental Skylark, Paddyfield Pipit, Striated Grassbird, Plain-backed Sparrow, Sand Martin, Germain’s Swiftlet, Brown-backed Needletail, Manchurian and Oriental Reed Warbler, Bluethroat, Red Avadavat, Pied Bush Chat, Chestnut Munia, Zitting Cisticola, Plain Prinia, Chestnut-eared Bunting and many others.
After hopefully seeing all these wonderful birds we will leave the conservation area and continue with our journey. We will bird in dry forest along the way. During one of our birding stops we will have lunch and hope to see the near-threatened and very cute White-rumped Falcon.
At about 15:30 we will arrive at our destination for the next 3 nights, the Tmatboey Eco-lodge in the Northern Plains of Cambodia. Almost immediately we will head out again to explore the White-shouldered Ibis or Giant Ibis site. We will search for these two critically endangered ibises until it is dark (17:30/18:00). We will take another 30 minutes to search for Oriental Scops Owl at a secret site before returning to the lodge.
We will get together to update our lists around the dinner table and then get a good night’s rest after a good meal.
Day 6 & 7:
We have two full days of birding at wonderful Tmatboey.
We will be up early each day and bird the entire day, looking for the special species of the area. We will be walking between 5 and 10 kilometres (3 to 6 miles) each day. Today and tomorrow we need to be very flexible as we rely on trained local guides to give us up-to-date information on key species in the area. Prepared breakfast and lunch will be provided at the birding sites and we will enjoy a hot dinner at the (beautiful and decidedly “green”) lodge in the evenings as we update our trip lists.
The habitat for the two days consists of lowland deciduous dipterocarp forest, often mistakenly referred to as dry forest. Trapeangs (forest pools or lakes) dot the landscape and there are fairly extensive areas of bamboo in riverine areas. Tmatboey is actually located inside the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the largest protected areas in Cambodia at 4,068 km2 (1,570 sq mi). It was created by royal decree in 1993 to protect the possibly extinct Kouprey, a forest-dwelling bovine species.
The local people are paid to protect the nests of the two critically endangered ibises present (Giant and White-shouldered Ibis); they are undoubtedly the stars of the show here at Tmatboey. We will try to get good views and photographs of both species during the time we spend here. In 2003 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) staff discovered a small breeding population of the White-shouldered Ibis, consisting of a single breeding pair, at Tmatboey. At the time it was the only known breeding site for this species in mainland Asia. Since 2003, however, the population of this species in the area has grown from this single nest and one breeding pair to 6 nests and 35 individuals in 2017. WCS’s monitoring has also shown that breeding populations of the Giant Ibis (Cambodia’s national bird) are widespread in the area, with 25 pairs monitored in 2017. A true success story!
Tmatboey is not only about the ibises though! The general birding is excellent and, with the help of the local guides, we will also make a special effort to locate the day roosts of nocturnal species such as Spotted and Brown Wood Owl, Brown Fish Owl and Savanna Nightjar.
Tmatboey also supports an incredible 16 species of woodpecker including the fantastic Black-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, monotypic Streak-throated Woodpecker, the huge Great Slaty Woodpecker and the scarce Rufous-bellied Woodpecker. Our guides know where to find these and all of the dry forest specialties such as vulnerable Indian Spotted Eagle, White-rumped Falcon, Collared Falconet, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Indochinese Bush Lark, Deignan’s Prinia, Burmese Nuthatch and White-browed Fantail at this or nearby sites.
Other species we hope to see over the two days include Crested Serpent and Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Jerdon’s and Black Baza, Shikra, Collared Scops Owl, Woolly-necked Stork, Chinese Francolin, vulnerable Pale-capped Pigeon, Yellow-footed and Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Red Collared Dove, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous Treepie, Greater and Lesser Yellownape, Common and Greater Flameback, Violet and Banded Bay Cuckoo, Blue-bearded, Blue-tailed and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Dusky and Banded Broadbill, Eurasian Hoopoe, Large and Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Bronzed Drongo, Black-collared and Vinous-breasted Starling, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Chestnut-capped and Buff-breasted Babbler, Common Woodshrike, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey-eyed and Sooty-headed Bulbul, Striated Swallow, Common and Great Iora, Ashy, Scarlet, Rosy and Small Minivet, Golden-fronted and Blue-winged Leafbird, Purple and Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Black-naped Monarch, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Rufescent Prinia and many others.
Mammals we could see during our two days here include Indochinese Ground and Cambodian Striped Squirrel, Northern Treeshrew and Northern Red Muntjac.
Tmatboey to Okoki
Today we have an early start again to do some last birding at Tmatboey, making sure to get all the target species here and maybe better photographs of ones that we may have seen before.
At about 11:00 we will have an early lunch back at the eco-lodge and then check out. We then head to our next destination, remote and pristine Okoki. We will stop at T’beng town for supplies on the way there and arrive at Okoki at about 15:30. It is a bit of a drive, but the roadside landscapes will make up for it!
Okoki is located in the 1,900 km2 (733 sq mi) Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary near the border with Laos. The habitat here consists of large tracts of deciduous dipterocarp and evergreen forests, as well as seasonally inundated grasslands (arguably one of the richest remaining grasslands in the whole of Asia), watercourses and small wetlands. Large areas of seasonally dry forest have disappeared across Southeast Asia and less than 10% of the remaining deciduous dipterocarp forest is in protected areas, highlighting the importance of sanctuaries like Chhep.
Upon our arrival, the guides and local community members of Dangphlet will have already set up large safari-style tents for us to sleep in for the next 2 nights. We will do some late afternoon birding before a hot dinner at about 19:00.
We have the option to do some owling before bed with the hope to see Oriental Scops Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar. This will take about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then we will rest up before an early start tomorrow.
We will be up early and a prepared breakfast will be provided.
We will walk through the forest to arrive predawn at hides especially constructed next to the pools favoured by our big target bird here, the secretive, unmistakable, endangered and monotypic White-winged Duck. We will spend some time waiting and hoping to catch a glimpse of this wonderful species.
We will then continue birdwatching throughout the day, hoping to see a plethora of dry forest specialists including endangered Green Peafowl and near threatened White-rumped Falcon. In the gallery forest we can find a different suite of birds including the stunning trio of Bar-bellied Pitta, Banded Broadbill and Banded Kingfisher.
On our night walk we are likely to encounter Oriental Bay Owl, Blyth’s Frogmouth, and Great Eared and Large-tailed Nightjar.
Other species we could see today include Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Sarus Crane, Greater and Lesser Adjutant, Giant Ibis, Black-necked and Woolly-necked Stork, White-breasted Waterhen, Siamese Fireback, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Alexandrine and Blossom-headed Parakeet, Green Imperial Pigeon, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Common Emerald Dove, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Orange-breasted Trogon, Oriental Dollarbird, Racket-tailed Treepie, Great Slaty, Streak-throated, Rufous, Laced, Black-and-buff, Heart-spotted and White-bellied Woodpecker, Stork-billed and Blue-eared Kingfisher, Green-eared and Blue-eared Barbet, Swinhoe’s Minivet, White-bellied Erpornis, Burmese Shrike, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Tickell’s Blue, Verditer and Asian Brown Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Puff-throated and Ochraceous Bulbul, Two-barred and Radde’s Warbler, Grey-breasted Prinia and many others.
We have a good chance of seeing some mammals here, as it is one of the most pristine parts of Cambodia with limited human population. Mammals that occur at Okoki (and in the larger Chhep sanctuary) include Eld’s Deer, vulnerable Gaur, endangered Banteng, Wild Boar, Pileated Gibbon, Indochinese Luting, Jungle Cat, endangered Large-spotted Civet, Golden Jackal, Common Palm Civet, Crab-eating Mongoose, Black Giant Squirrel, Malayan Porcupine and many others. In the past there have been reports (and camera trap evidence) of Asian Elephant and Leopard here, but we would have to be extremely lucky to see either!
We will update our lists and have dinner in the evening in camp, enjoying the hospitality of the local community members and marvelling at our wonderful location in the remote wilderness of Cambodia.
Okoki to Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant
The morning will start very early with some more birding after a quick breakfast, concentrating on any species that we have not already seen before.
At about midday we will leave for the Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant, about 3 hours away, stopping again in T’beng town for supplies. We will arrive at Boeng Toal in the late afternoon. Our local guides will have already set up large safari-style tents for us to sleep in.
The vultures, our main targets here, will not be fed until tomorrow, so there will be time for some birding in the dry forest in the late afternoon and certain species may be easier to see here than at Tmatboey. The habitat here consists of a large natural grassland surrounded by a matrix of deciduous dipterocarp and semi-evergreen forest.
Other species we could see here, apart from the wonderful vultures of course, include Rufous-winged Buzzard, White-rumped Falcon, Black-headed and Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Common Kingfisher, Black-naped and Black-hooded Oriole, White-throated Rock Thrush, Burmese Shrike, Brown Prinia, White-browed Fantail, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Sultan Tit, Black Bulbul, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Brown Prinia and many others.
We will join up for dinner at about 19:00 and update our lists and socialise. We have the option to do some owling before bed with the hope to see Western Barn and Oriental Scops Owl, and Large-tailed and Indian Nightjar.
Then we need to head to bed for some rest, as tomorrow is going to be a very exciting day!
Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant to Kratié
We will be up very early this morning, but it will be worth it!
As vulture populations have crashed across Asia, Cambodia has held onto populations of three species currently considered critically endangered. However, owing to a decline in wild cattle populations, Cambodia’s vultures are now reliant on supplementary feeding. Joining this tour offsets the cost of running the ‘vulture restaurant’ and includes the local community in the efforts to save these impressive, macabre birds. A cow will be provided to the vultures and from dawn we will be able to watch the spectacle of up to fifty White-rumped, Slender-billed and Red-headed Vultures feeding on the carcass. A packed breakfast will be provided at the Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant site for us to enjoy.
After our wonderful experience at the “restaurant”, we will enjoy lunch back at the camp, and then head off to our final stop of the birding trip, the town of Kratié. It is a 3 hour journey to the southeast.
Kratié is a small town in the east of the country on the banks of the Mekong river. The town is dominated by a central marketplace surrounded by old, French colonial buildings. Red flowered trees grow in rows along the riverbank. The town includes big islands with white sand beaches within the Mekong. The main attraction here is the stretch of river north of town where a group of endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins have made their home; but we’ll get to those tomorrow!
Upon our arrival in Kratié we will check into our comfortable hotel and go to a local birding site until about 18:00. At this site we will search for Yellow-breasted and Black-headed Bunting, Asian Golden and Streaked Weaver, and others.
We will get together for our official Nature Travel Birding end-of-tour dinner (for those not going on the 5 day extension) back at the hotel and update our trip lists before settling in for the evening, having made nature-loving friends for life.
Kratié to Cambodian Tailorbird Site and Departure from Phnom Penh OR continue on 5 day extension
We will start our final day of this incredible birding trip with breakfast at the hotel.
Let’s hope the chef can make us some Num banh chok, a popular Cambodian breakfast noodle soup that consists of rice vermicelli topped with a cool fish gravy and raw vegetables, such as cucumbers, as well as banana blossoms, water lily stems, and fresh herbs, such as basil and mint. Yummy!
Directly after breakfast we will leave the hotel. It will take about half an hour to reach the pier at the mighty Mekong river to embark on an exciting boat cruise. Our destination is the area of the Kampi Pools about 15 kilometres (9 miles) north of town, where the Mekong has scoured out deep pools. Here we will be looking for the near threatened Mekong Wagtail; this can take 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on our luck! This recently described (2001), monotypic species occurs only in the lower Mekong river and its tributaries in extreme southern Laos, northeast Cambodia and Vietnam.
After we find the Mekong Wagtail, we will go to view the Irrawaddy Dolphins. These endangered dolphins are part of the snubfin dolphin genus and was only described as a separate species in 2005. Although sometimes called the “Irrawaddy river dolphin”, it is not a true river dolphin, but actually an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish water near coasts, river mouths and estuaries.
On our cruise we could also see near threatened River Lapwing, Great Stone-curlew, Small Pratincole, Watercock, Ruddy-breasted and White-browed Crake, and Golden-headed Cisticola. Afterwards we will return to our hotel and check out. Then we tackle the long drive to the city of Phnom Penh, enjoying lunch on the way.
We will make a stop along the way to locate the newly discovered species (formally described and accepted in 2013) of Cambodian Tailorbird. This species is part of the cisticola family and its specific name (Orthotomus chaktomuk) comes from a Khmer word which means four-faces, which describes where the bird is found: in the floodplain where the Bassac river, Mekong river and Tonlé Sap meet. This site is also excellent for open-country species such as Plain-backed Sparrow and large waterbirds such as Oriental Darter and Painted Stork. In the scrub in which the Cambodian Tailorbird is found, we could also see other species such as Black-browed Reed Warbler, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Brown Shrike and Siberian Rubythroat.
After hopefully ticking one of only two Cambodian endemics, we will continue onto the capital city of Cambodia, the exciting and eclectic Phnom Penh, arriving at about 17:00.
Phnom Penh, also called the “Charming City” or the “Pearl of Asia”, is Cambodia’s economic, industrial and cultural centre. It has been the nation’s capital since the French colonial era in 1865. Beautifully located on the banks of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, Phnom Penh is quickly establishing itself as an exciting leisure destination in Southeast Asia. It boasts many riverside cafés, cool bars, excellent restaurants and hip nightclubs.
Some of the city’s other top attractions include the National Museum, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, many colourful festivals, the stunning Royal Palace, cosmopolitan malls, colonial-style Hotel Le Royal, markets that attack all your senses, the Silver Pagoda Buddhist temple and much more.
If your Nature Travel Birding Tour ends in Phnom Penh tonight, we will say our goodbyes after a fantastic birding tour and transfer you to the Phnom Penh International Airport for your onward or homeward flight. Alternatively we can take you to a hotel (at your own cost) for your overnight stay if your flight is tomorrow.
If you are staying on in Cambodia for the 5 day extension, we will check into our comfortable city hotel. We will update our lists, have dinner and socialise before settling in for the night.
5 Day Extension to the Aural Mountain and Pursat grasslands
After the main 12 day trip is finished, this highly-recommended 5 day extension offers more fantastic birding in beautiful locations in wonderful Cambodia.
One the first day we will make our way from Phnom Penh to the Aural mountain (Phnom Aural) in the eastern part of the Cardamon mountains. It is Cambodia’s highest peak and stands at 1,813 metres (5,948 ft) above sea level.
Here we will trek up to our camp (not for the faint of heart!) that will be our home for 3 nights. Local villagers will carry our bags, prepare our food and set up camp. We will do some altitudinal birding in the country’s best montane forest habitat, hoping to pick up wonderful species like Cambodian Laughingthrush (Cambodia’s other endemic species), Black Eagle, Oriental Hobby, Mountain Scops and Oriental Bay Owl, Silver Pheasant, near threatened and near endemic Chestnut-headed Partridge, Great and Wreathed Hornbill (both vulnerable), Barred Cuckoo-Dove, vulnerable Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, stunning Green Cochoa, Bamboo Woodpecker, Moustached Barbet, Banded Kingfisher, Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Mountain Bulbul, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbill (both gorgeous), Blue, Blue-rumped and Rusty-naped Pitta, White-tailed Robin (possible future split), Large Niltava, Blue-winged Minla, Little Spiderhunter, Slaty-backed, Mugimaki, Little Pied and Snowy-browed Flycatcher, and many other higher-elevation species.
On the fourth morning we will make our way down to the village at the bottom of Phnom Aural and depart for Pursat, arriving between 3 and 4 pm. After a relaxing evening at a comfortable hotel in the town of Pursat we will leave early with a packed breakfast and drive around 90 minutes to the grasslands near Tonlé Sap Lake.
The floodplain grasslands of Pursat support a number of bird species that are absent from the Florican Grasslands closer to Siem Reap. The star of the show is the rare and vulnerable Chinese Grassbird, only discovered here in 2013 at this, one of only two sites in Southeast Asia where they’ve been seen in the last 80 years! With a bit of patience and an early start from the hotel the grassbird is relatively easy to see. Other birds that we will look for here include Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Brahminy Kite, Common and Yellow-legged Buttonquail, King Quail, Black Bittern, Baillon’s Crake, Richard’s Pipit, Asian Golden, Streaked and Baya Weaver, Chestnut Munia, Red Avadavat, Horsfield’s Bush Lark, Manchurian Reed, Blunt-winged, Thick-billed and Lanceolated Warbler, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Yellow-breasted Bunting and many others.
After our grassland excursion we will drive back to the hotel and collect our luggage and transfer to Phnom Penh. If you are flying out of Cambodia on this day, please book an evening flight.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at