THE Chambok community-based ecotourism site, which lies at the border of Kirirom National Park in Kompong Speu province, serves as a model for best practice in community-based ecotourism in Cambodia.
The Chambok site, which features some of Cambodia’s unique natural biodiversity, is an initiative developed in 2001 by a local environment organisation called Mlup Baitong, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. The aim was to address the issues of deforestation and community livelihoods for villagers in the area, who depend on the forests to produce charcoal to make a living. Through community education programmes, they were shown the benefits of protecting the forests for future generations.
Since then, the Chambok ecotourism project has been developed to provide an alternative income to the villagers. Managed by the villagers of Chambok commune, all revenue from tourism stays in the community and helps them to protect the forest and manage it in a sustainable way.
Trained local guides are available to share their knowledge of nature, history and cultural aspects of the area and the site also has a visitor centre and a restaurant where local youth stage dance performances and Khmer food is served.
Chambok Eco-tourism Resort, about 70km from Phnom Penh in Kampong Spue province, is just a few kilometres away from Kirirom Hillside resort. But while Kirirom is an upscale luxury retreat, Chambok is a successful and sustainable community project.
“Unlike many similar schemes, Chambok is run with definite and realistic aims in mind. Conservation that benefits local communities through tourism. Ecotourism is very important for community development,” explained Chan Sokha, KCD’s director.
“Chambok is managed by the community, which benefits from it. The project supports families and the community.”
Situated next to Kirirom National Park, Chambok has many attractions and activities to offer both local and international tourists who are strongly interested in nature. It is well known for its three streams, including the biggest with more than 40 metres of beautiful waterfall.
Tourists can take guided tours to one of those streams and enjoy the views while hiking through the forest. The English-speaking guides will tell you a lot about both animals living in the forests and plants growing there and there is a unique opportunity to experience a bat cave and its hundreds of inhabitants.
Next to the Chambok ecotourism site the Kirirom National Park has a basic guesthouse and restaurant while the Kirirom Hillside resort is a hotel containing several bungalows, a restaurant, theme park and swimming pool at the border of Kirirom National Park.
The small town of Treng Trayeung with its market and restaurants is close by.