The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with total investment of more than $70 million is set to open on November 1, which tourism players hope will bring in more visitors to the historically-rich northwestern Cambodian region, for longer stays.
The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas commune, Sotr Nikum district, Siem Reap province about 7km northwest of Damdek village, where the road intersects National Road 64. Breaking ground on April 29, 2019, construction on the first of three phases was completed just this month.
Angkor Wildlife & Aquarium Co Ltd said in a statement that the attraction features aquariums with volumes of more than 10,000 cubic metres housing domestic and imported freshwater and saltwater fish species, as well as a variety of wildlife enclosures for South African tigers, bears, otters, royal turtles and crocodiles.
The company’s director Meng Hieng previously mentioned that the park would have fish from the Amazon River, Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sondaica), sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus), Javan mongooses (Urva javanica), Malayan porcupines (Hystrix brachyura), reticulated pythons (Malayopython reticulatus) and Oriental whip snakes (Ahaetulla prasina).
And following a visit in mid-September, Tieng Eng, the wife of Siem Reap provincial governor Tea Seiha, wrote on social media that the establishment has Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) weighing more than 100kg and other “large, uniquely shaped” freshwater fish found in Southeast Asia’s longest river.
The statement said the establishment will also comprise a floating market, food and beverage venues, and shops selling souvenirs and other goods.
The complex will be an exciting, unique day-trip option for national and international travellers to Angkor Archaeological Park “that we've all dreamed of seeing”, offering entertainment with a side of education, it added.
Recent media reports indicate that admission to Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium for international visitors will be set at $18 per person or $10 per child ages 2-11, while Cambodians and foreign residents will be offered lower rates at $10 per person or $5 per child, with free entry for children under 2 years old.
Speaking to The Post on October 27, Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan commented that advertising the same tourism products and services time and again can only go so far in bringing in domestic and international visitors.
Holidaymakers require more and better options, he said, emphasising that attractions such as Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium are essential for a genuine post-Covid-19 tourism revival.
“New products can make all the difference, as powerful [touristic] draws. This marks a turning point that’ll help Siem Reap province revitalise its tourism sector, especially in terms of domestic travellers,” Sinan said, adding that similar establishments in the Kingdom’s other 23 provinces could meaningfully boost tourist flows into the country.
A strong mix of well-promoted, intriguing new tourist attractions could become the driving impetus for a strategy that was recently unveiled by the Ministry of Tourism to raise the full-year numbers of international visitors to Cambodia and domestic trips nationwide to at least 7.5 million and 16 million by 2028, respectively, targets that may be somewhat on the modest side.
Angkor Tour Guide Association president Khieu Thy argued that although there may be similar attractions in many other countries, Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium’s uniqueness in Cambodia will translate into a significant uptick in domestic tourists in Siem Reap and a growing average length of stay.
“We in the tourism sector absolutely want to see more attractions for visitors – they’ll make marketing easier and provide more options for guests,” he said.
Sotr Nikum district governor Mak Bros told The Post last month that the Japanese- and US-invested Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium was created as a “world-class entertainment venue” for “visitors from everywhere” that creates jobs for locals and contributes to economic growth in the district and nationwide.
Slated to be developed in three phases, the park will feature “rare” fish and other animals, and strengthen Siem Reap province’s prestige as home to an abundant and diverse range of travel hotspots, he said.
“By virtue of this project, I expect more national and international tourists to visit Sotr Nikum district – a place to see a rich assemblage of fauna,” Bros added.
Bros affirmed that he had met with the director, who he mentioned was also a co-owner of the project, and that Hieng revealed that at least one residential area, man-made creeks and other nature-related attractions are in the pipeline for Phase II, with a “luxury hotel” planned for Phase III.
According to the Ministry of Commerce’s business registry, Angkor Wildlife & Aquarium Co Ltd was incorporated on November 6, 2018.
The registry lists Hieng as the company’s “chairman” – a designation it typically reserves for a business’ highest-ranking officer – with a Phnom Penh postal registered office address, as well as “Nathan Roger Reynolds”, “Roger Rensch Reynolds III”, “Lau Sok Huy” and “Takuya Higuchi” with the lower-tier “director” tag, with addresses in Hong Kong, the US, Phnom Penh, and Tokyo, respectively.