PHNOM PENH—CARDAMOM Tented Camp in Cambodia has witnessed the return of a small herd of elephants to its conservation area, after an absence of five years. A large group of Smooth Coated Otters are back too.
Forest rangers discovered and photographed elephant footprints and droppings inside the 18,000-hectare forest concession, which the camp protects, with help from Wildlife Alliance and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).
“From the size of the dung and the number of footprints, it seems that this is a herd of nine elephants comprising four adult females, their calves and one juvenile,” said John Roberts of GTAEF, which has been fully funding the ranger effort since COVID shut down tourism across the globe. “They have also been camera trapped and seen in the area south of our concession.”
A Hotel on the Way
In neighboring areas outside the camp’s protected zone there are rubber plantations and the construction of a deep-sea water port, hotel, and airport.
“There is human traffic and a non-ideal environment all around us,” said Roberts. “But whether the elephants are on a long migration or looking for a new home we are pleased to welcome them to our forests and grasslands. It’s an environment they prefer. It comes with zero harassment.”
Lodge manager Allan Michaud, who is a wildlife photographer and conservationist, reports the return of a group of otters to the Preak Tachan river beside the camp. “There are around 15 to 18 of them, ranging over 20 kilometers of river, with the camp being pretty much at the center of their territory,” said Michaud.
Guests often see otters, macaque monkeys, kingfishers, and hornbills from their boat when they travel to the camp, which is only accessible by river.
Wildlife is often seen by guests on hiking and kayaking trips. The camp has created a new 4 km trail, a continuation of an existing one. It means adventurous guests can now take an 8 km guided walk through the forest and return via kayak, with rest options at the main ranger station in each direction.
Camp Lauded for Green Efforts
In October, Cardamom Tented Camp was included in the Green Destinations’ Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories in the world. In 2019 the camp won the PATA Gold Award for Ecotourism and was a top three finalist in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. In the same year, it was listed in National Geographic UK’s invitation-only listing of top 36 eco-hotels around the world which are leading by example.
Cardamom Tented Camp is once again open and operating with a unique business model. Part of the income from the lodge’s operation goes towards the funding of 12 forest rangers who protect the area from loggers, poachers, and river sandbank dredgers.
The camp therefore has the slogan, “Your Stay Keeps the Forest Standing.”
Michaud said the December to April period in southwest Cambodia near the Thai border is mostly blue skies with many days with no rain. “It is a perfect time for hiking, kayaking, bird spotting or relaxing on our river pontoon with a good book.”
Further information on Cardamom Tented Camp, including its back story, guest experiences, wildlife gallery, and booking is available here.