A new project along the Mekong River route through Stung Treng and Kratie is being developed to ease the region’s poverty, promote conservation and put Cambodia on the world map as an ecotourism destination.
"The goal is to get a small percentage of travelers off the highway and onto the river,” says Marcus Sandford, chief technical advisor for the Mekong River Discovery Trial project.
He says this particular stretch of river is not only breathtaking but is also a biodiversity hotspot housing 36 globally threatened species.
With the opening of Stung Treng-Laos border crossing just months away, a coalition has come together to plan for a tourist influx into Stung Treng province and neighboring Kratie.
Anticipating a traveler route from the new border to Kratie town, the Ministry of Tourism, the UN World Tourism Organization and the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) have prepared a strategy to develop ecotourism along this stretch of the Mekong.
In addition to improvements to the bike trail that is already in place, the project will offer canoeing and houseboat stays on the river. On land, there will be tours by horse-cart, home stays, and new eco-lodges.
Along the trail there are many interesting pagodas to visit including the 100-column temple.
The Mekong is also dotted with islands. One of the largest Mekong islands in the area, Koh Trong, can be reached in a 10-minute boat ride from Kratie and is a great place to meet locals and bicycle around the 14km island loop.
Dolphin watching is also on the agenda. The rare Irrawaddy dolphin, with numbers estimated to be as low as 80, can often be spotted in the deep pools of the Mekong from Kratie to the Laos border.
One scenic viewing area is on the Laos border where mountains frame the dolphin pool. A nearby walking trail leads to views of the famous 4,000-island region across the Laos border.