Cambodians traditionally believe that the Irrawaddy dolphins (psout) that live around the Mekong rapids at Kampie are part human and part fish, and consequently they do their best to look after them. However, the dolphins’ numbers have declined sharply due to the use of explosives and electric rods for fishing, and in 2004 the Irrawaddy dolphin was added to the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species. They can be spotted throughout the year, but you’ll get the clearest view in the dry season (Nov–May), when you can take advantage of the low water level to see their backs breaking the surface of the river. They are most active early morning and late afternoon, as this is when they tend to feed, although you’ll still need to scan the water carefully to see their snouts or backs emerging a few inches above the murky waters of the Mekong, and photographing them is almost impossible. The site at Kampie is run as an ecotourism venture with fixed prices of $7–9 per person depending on the group size for an hour on the river, with some of the money going to the community. Once boats are out on the water the motor is cut and the boatman rows the craft to prevent disturbing these rare creatures. It’s not, however, necessary to go out on a boat to see the dolphins. Just continue about a kilometre upstream, where from dry land, with a little patience, you will almost certainly see them playing near the river bank.
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