Trekking is big business in Banlung, and the reason most foreigners come here in the first place. There are at least a dozen agencies on the road leading down to the Tribal Hotel, although most of them give the impression of being little better than glorified bandwagon-jumpers. The treks themselves can last anything from a day to over a week – although obviously to get into the deeper part of the jungle you’ll need to go on a longer visit. As well as jungle trekking, walks may include homestays in chunchiet villages, visits to chunchiet cemeteries, and river rafting on specially designed bamboo rafts. All-Inclusive rates start from around $40/person/day in a group of two, becoming steadily cheaper the larger the group you travel in. The best operators use indigenous guides wherever possible, and return part of their profits to local communities through various forms of assistance.
There are also plenty of one-day tours on offer should you fancy something less strenuous. The most popular excursion is the trip (around 4–5hr) combining a visit to Yeak Laom lake combined with the Chha Ong, Ka Chhang and Katieng waterfalls. Other possibilities include day-trips to chunchiet villages and to Lumphat.
Trekking and tour operators
DutchCo EcotourismCambodia.info. Banlung-based Dutch expat Rik is on a one-man mission to help preserve the forests and indigenous culture of Rattanakiri through responsible tourism, using indigenous guides wherever possible and supporting local communities. Jungle treks last 1–5 days, including a 3–5-day programme, “Giants of Virachey”, trekking among giant trees in a stretch of million-year-old forest inside the national park. They also run rewarding day-trips to the chunchiet cemetery at Koah Piek and one-day treks through Kalai forest, an impressive area of primary semi-evergreen jungle.
Gibbon Spotting Cambodia gibbonspottingcambodia.com. Overnight treks offering a unique opportunity to see a habituated family of rare northern yellow-cheeked gibbons in the Veun Sai–Siem Pang Conservation Area adjoining the Virachey National Park. Treks start in Voen Sai, with a maximum of six people per trek. There’s a roughly eighty percent chance of spotting gibbons, and the conservation area is also rich in other wildlife.
Parrot Tours jungletrek.wix.com/parrot-tours and jungletrek.blogspot.com. One of the most switched-on operators in town, running a range of treks (one to seven nights) around Virachey National Park (including bamboo-rafting) and the chunchiet villages, and in the Lumphat Wildlife Protected Area south of Banlung. Also a good place to set up day-trips around town.
Virachey National Park Eco-tourism Office Apart from the one tour run by DutchCo, this government-run outfit is the only one that actually treks inside the Virachey National Park; other operators, regardless of what they may say, only trek around the park’s outskirts. Treks range from two to eight days, and rates include park entry fee, transport, food, indigenous guide and contributions to a community project.