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Youths fuel ecotourism surge

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Young women go hiking in an ecotourism area in Kampong Speu province. SUPPLIED

Youths fuel ecotourism surge

Ecotourism destinations have become a significant attraction for domestic tourists. This trend took off in popularity during the global Covid-19 outbreak, which prevented Cambodians from travelling abroad and encouraged them to stay away from crowded urban centres. Now, even though flights have resumed and overseas trips are possible, hiking and camping are maintaining their popularity with Cambodians.

San Sreynich, a student at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC) who enjoys hiking, said that her interest in the activity was linked to her childhood because she grew up in a remote area surrounded by nature. While it is necessary for her to live and study in Phnom Penh where development is thriving, she considers trips to ecotourism destinations as a way to recall her childhood memories.

Sreynich said that as a young woman she used to hike in the forests for many kilometres carrying her own pack admits that “fatigue is always a factor, but once you reach the beautiful tourist destinations where there are forests, wildlife and green landscapes that cannot be found in the city, the weariness suddenly disappears.”

“Camping and sleeping in hammocks or reading books while disconnected from mobile phone service and the world make hiking to ecotourism destinations an exciting adventure. Even though it’s a bit exhausting it helps to refresh our minds,” she said.

Rachana, another young woman who also likes hiking, has been visiting ecotourism destinations since 2015. Back then visiting the great outdoors wasn’t yet a popular trend. She said she started out in the Areng area of Koh Kong province and that she loves adventure travel and spending a lot of time in nature.

In the remote forests far away from the vibrant city, Rachana’s favorite activities are sleeping on hammocks under the trees, reading books, listening to the sounds of wildlife, watching the sun rise, exploring the forests, fishing with the community and then cooking what they catch on a campfire and looking at the stars at night.

In the past, Rachana mostly visited the Areng area of Koh Kong province and the Thmor Loy area of Kirirom mountain as well as the Khnong Phsar area. For her next destination, Rachana wants to visit some other ecotourism sites like Oral Mountain or Veal Thom.

She said that for her the experience of hiking and camping is a trip that not only provides an adventure travel experience for city-dwellers, but also helps people stay close to nature and learn to love nature and protect it, while also helping provide livelihoods for the rural and remote local communities.

Another young woman, Meng, started hiking when she joined a trip to Prey Lang forest organised by an NGO in 2015. Then in 2019 after she decided to quit her full-time job, Meng had more time to travel and most of the time she prefers visiting remote ecotourism destinations to explore nature in places where few people have been.

Meng considers hiking, which sometimes requires walking anywhere from 10 km to 50 km, as a test of her physical and mental endurance that requires patience and perseverance. Having visited many ecotourism destinations, Meng suggests that tourists should be well-prepared and know what items to bring along, but especially they need to have good hiking shoes.

Due to environmental concerns, Meng also suggests that all tourists should bring reusable items with them and avoid the use of plastic items that can be left behind as garbage that pollutes the environment and destroys the beauty of the ecotourism destinations.

“We should preserve the pristine and untouched natural environments wherever we visit. Ideally, the only new things we should take with us from there are our memories and we should leave nothing but footprints behind us,” Meng advised.


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