A shining example of the success of Cambodia’s community-based ecotourism projects, CHI PHAT is a remote riverside settlement nestled in the southern valleys of the Cardamom Mountains, accessible by moto or by long-tail boat from Andoung Tuek some 20km away, up the Preak Piphot River. Thanks to its isolation, Chi Phat is a good hike off the tourist trail and provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the forest surroundings while supporting the local community. Established by the Wildlife Alliance in 2008 in an effort to protect the forests from illegal logging and poaching, the Chi Phat Community-based Ecotourism project (CBET), set in a four-village commune home to around 550 families, was designed to empower villagers to pursue sustainable forms of income. Its members – many, former poachers – are trained in nature awareness, earning their keep by guiding and opening up their homes to visitors.
There are scores of guided activities on offer; trips cost around $35/day, including guide (some with decent English), packed lunch and water. An overnight stay is enough to get a flavour of Chi Phat, although a few days or even a week is better if you want to explore the huge network of jungle trails, either on foot or mountain bike, visiting waterfalls in secluded clearings, bat caves and ancient jar burial sites. There are also sunrise birdwatching excursions (the silver oriole, the yellow-bellied warbler and great hornbill are highlights) and peaceful river cruises in traditional rowing boats.