Still mostly inaccessible and unexplored, the Cardamom Mountain range is an area of outstanding natural beauty, its primary jungle rich in flora and fauna. A biodiversity study in 2000 established the presence of nearly 400 different species of animal, including tiger, Asian elephant, gaur and a population of critically endangered Siamese crocodiles, previously considered extinct in the wild. It’s setting itself up to be an eco tourist destination but for now things are still a bit disorganized.
A trip into the hills is best done with a local guide – ask at the tourist office in Pursat – as the roads are not well signposted and there can be problems with collapsed bridges. It’s a pretty journey as the road climbs steeply through the forest, crossing tiny gorges and streams. Ou Dah, 56km from Pursat, is an attractive spot with rapids and a small waterfall in the jungle-clad hills. Alternatively, at Chrok La Eing, 73km southeast of Pursat, there’s a cascade and river for a swim. Bear in mind though there’s also a high risk of malaria in the mountains, so take precautions against mosquito bites.