Two Cambodian brothers broke new ground and found a creative way to earn a living after teaching themselves to build an airboat, now using the vehicle to provide tours of Tonle Sap lake.
In 2012, Som Samnorp and his younger brother Som Samnang – both engineers from Arey Ksat Village near Phnom Penh – came up with the idea of modifying an airboat to use on Tonle Sap lake. Their vision was to provide a safe and effective way for tourists to explore the area.
Following three years of rigorous self-taught study in 2015, the brothers became the first people in Cambodia to build an airboat.
Soon after, they launched Komnob Airboat Tours. Today, the tours are proving a hit with visitors, both Cambodian and foreign alike.
“My goal is to use this airboat to serve the tourism industry in our country, providing tours around amazing ancient temples, the Tonle Sap lake, and other potential tourism destinations,” Samnorp tells The Post.
The brothers also have charitable aspirations, as they use a percentage of their profits to help children living in Tonle Sap’s floating villages receive a better education by donating books and study materials.
Airboats are a giant fan propelled means of transporta used in shallow waters where submerged propellers are impractical.
They became popularised by their use in the southern US’ alligator infested wetlands, swamps and marshes.
The brothers now own three airboats, the largest carrying 25 passengers and travelling up to 100km/h. The frame is made of fibreglass for flexibility and durability, while the aerodynamic body of the boat is made from carbon fibre.
“This airboat is actually a hybrid one. I created it using parts of a car engine, but I had to order the giant fan from abroad."
“We needed at least a 150cc capacity for our smallest airboat. We spent a lot of money because most of the equipment and spare parts are not available in our country, such as the fan and the fibreglass,” Samnorp says, adding that building an airboat costs at least $10,000.
Komnob Airboat Tours co-founder Samnang has 15 years’ experiences working with similar engines and is now well versed in running and maintaining airboats. He regards it as a wonderful eco-tourism option for the area.
“The airboat is a very useful transport tool that can carry people across various terrains, especially in low-level water and grassy areas. Where there is no road, the airboat finds its own path."
“We have three airboats that take tourists around the lake up to Prek Torl in Battambang province. The small boat is good for a group of six tourists,” Samnang said.
Tours take three to four hours and cost between $50 to $70 per person depending on whether it is low or high season. Prices include pick-up and drop-off from a hotel in Siem Reap.
For more information or to book a tour, visit Komnob Airboat Tours’ website or their Facebook page: @komnobairboat.