The Oryas Waterfall of Ratanakkiri province is one of the few places in the Kingdom that has remained untouched and unexplored. Once tapped though, it has the potential of boosting the eco-tourism for two of Ratanakkiri’s ethnic minorities.
Located in the Lam Av village of Koh Pang commune in Veun Sai district, the beautifully isolated falls cascade down 40m into the Sesan river. Aside from visiting the falls, tourists can enjoy the multi-day journey involving a boat ride, a trek, and sight-seeing in a village.
Specialising in jungle treks and half-day excursions around Ratanakkiri, Green Jungle Trekking Tours-Cambodia co-founder Om Rithy has created many custom tours for guests who are up for the adventure.
“Normally, we have three or four guides for tourists – one speaks English, two are minority peoples, and one acts as an assistant in charge of transportation and other assigned jobs.
“Tourists can spend one or two days for trekking to the [Oryas] Waterfall in Koh Pang,” says 32-year-old Rithy.
Chab Vael, 27, a Kachak minority, is one of the local guides in the village. Vael takes tourists by boat to venture along the Sesan river, docking at the Koh Peak commune.
They then embark on a three-hour hike through the forest of the nearby Koh Pang commune before catching a glimpse of the Oryas Waterfall.
“Tourists spend an hour driving from Banlung district to reach the dock. I then take them for a boat ride along the Sesan river for about an hour to the far edge of Koh Peak commune. Then we walk for three hours,” says Vael.
Ashore, the tourists are greeted by the indigenous peoples and the rice fields of Koh Peak’s Tumpoun village.
Vael, who married at 17, tells The Post: “Most Kachak people are farmers and some of them earn from transporting tourists to destinations and selling food.”
On the way to the forest, the tourists spend an hour walking in the village of Tumpoun. Passing through, Vael does not forget to let them soak up the landscape and observe the peoples’ way of life.
After two hours of trekking through the forest, the burble of the waterfall starts to reach the ears of the tired tourists. A huge wooden hut also comes into view, where visitors could relax and have a meal before heading to the falls of Koh Pang’s Lam Av village.
At about three in the afternoon, a German couple arrived with a local guide at the hut to take a rest after a long hike.
A German tourist who wanted to be known only as Florian tells The Post that he and his wife had never visited the country before but the couple was now on a four-week tour in Cambodia.
“[We] travelled from Ho Chi Minh city [Vietnam] to Phnom Penh, [and the provinces of] Kampot, Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and [our last stop] Ratanakkiri. Then [we] continue to Laos.
“We also love trekking. We’ll spend one night in this jungle. We’re not that tired since we’ve had some trekking experience in Germany,” says Florian.
At the village of Lam Av, 37-year-old village guard Sak Kar waits to welcome tourists. “We started collecting money from tourists two years ago. Initially, we collected 20,000 [$5] for every person who wished to visit the area but changed it to 10,000 riel [$2.50] upon the suggestion of our tour agent.”
“They need to register in our book to make sure that the money will go to the commune for the benefit of all residents. For the past two years, we have worked together to build a trail to the river and a bridge across a channel,” says Kar.
Along with 270 villagers, he spares some time to clean the area and guard it for tourist safety.
“Sometimes there are no guests at all and some days we only make between 20,000 and 30,000 riel. On the good days and during the peak season, we receive around 20 to 30 people,” says Kar, who mostly spends his time at the waterfall.
After enjoying swimming in the river and taking photos at the Oryas Waterfall, Vael and the tourists take another three-hour trek on the way back to the Tumpuon village where they have the option to visit the village’s traditional grave.
“The grave visit costs 5,000 riel [about $1.25] per person. For my guiding service, I charge $15; they pay me $25 for the boat rental,” says Vael.
Though the indigenous people of Koh Pang and Koh Peak communes could benefit from the influx of tourists, eco-tourism has been down in previous years.
“The number of both local and international tourists has decreased compared to the same period last year, especially during the peak season from January to February. Foreign tourists frequent the area more than the locals,” says Rithy.
For more details, visit Green Jungle Trekking Tours-Cambodia’s Facebook page or reach them at 088 454 6466. The company charges $45 per guest for a one day and one night of adventure.