I spent February 27 – March 9, 2013 in Cambodia. I had arrived on my own from Thailand. Initially, I planned to do a portion of Cambodia on my own and then a portion guided by the Sam Veasna Center (SVC) Sam Veasna Center. Ultimately, I ended up doing the entire Cambodia trip guided by the Sam Veasna Center. Fortunately, I had a second person with me for six of my 10 days as the costs of doing a guided trip on one’s own is quite high. However, the price quoted to me for a single person for 10 days (including food, lodging, guide and driver) was similar (slightly cheaper) than what is charged by the major bird tour companies. In addition, a birder by the name of Rob Martin was working at SVC and was very helpful in planning my trip.
Primary Locations (and targets for each location):
It is definitely worth reviewing the SVC website as they provide information on specific sites including PDFs with bird lists. see SVC birding sites In addition, it is worth viewing a recently established Cambodian Birding blog: . Cambodia Birding Blog Specific sites are described below. The specific locations of these sites can be found from my eBird reports. In a few instances below, I list google map coordinates for particular locations. You must plug these coordinates into google maps. Using a different program may give an incorrect location.
Prek Toal ( Prek Toal SVC information): This is a waterbird nesting location on the west side of Tonle Sap lake (northwest of Siem Reap). The drive is approximately 30+ minutes from Siem Reap to the boat docks. At the boat dock, you get on a large boat and travel across the lake (through a floating village) to the entrance to Prek Toal. At the reserve entrance, you must change from your large boat to a smaller boat (the large boat cannot go into the reserve). You then navigate your boat through small channels. Note that the water levels drop at Prek Toal as the dry season progresses, and it becomes difficult to access the nesting areas at certain times of the year due to the shallow water. Ideally, you will be able to reach a particular observation platform that allows good views of the nesting colony (which should provide the best views of Greater Adjutant and your best chance at Milky Stork). However, the platform with the best views of the nesting colony is not accessible when the water level is low. I went on February 28 and the water level was too low to access the specific platform (apparently, this is the usual case in late February/early March). At the location we were forced to stop (due to low water levels), we saw 3 Greater Adjutants in flight but no evidence of Milky Stork. Fortunately, my guide urged the boat driver to go down a different passage and we found a large group of feeding waterbirds including a Milky Stork and 17 Greater Adjutants. Note as the water level drops further, apparently you can be dropped at a location and walk to the best platform.
Prek Toal targets: nesting waterbirds (Greater Adjutant and Milky Stork) and Gray-headed Fish Eagle (common along the channels).
Bengal Florican Reserve ( Bengal Florican SVC information): This site is a 1.5 hour drive south of Siem Reap on the east side of Tonle Sap lake. You definitely need SVC help for this site as you would never find it on your own and you need local help to take you to the specific areas for the target birds. The local guides know the locations of Bengal Florican and we saw three (2 males and 1 female). In addition, a known wintering site for Manchurian Reed Warbler is at this site and Sarus Cranes are also found. Oriental Plovers pass through this area in the 2nd/3rd week of March.
Targets: Bengal Florican, Manchurian Reed Warbler (uncommon winter), and Sarus Cranes
Prey Vang ( Prey Vang SVC information): This is a small village northeast of Siem Reap. It is a 4+ hour drive from Siem Reap. It is a site for White-winged Duck, Giant Ibis and other dry forest specialties. Again, you will need local (SVC) help to go here. A 4WD is required and the dirt road in some areas is quite poor. No lodge exists at the site so you must camp. The campsite is on the lake levee. The village has tents for visitors (a picture of the tent is on the SVC website). They set up a tent with two cots (with mosquito nets), a portable shower, and a portable toilet. Villagers stay at the site and cook all the meals and a picnic table is present for eating/sitting. The site for the White-winged Duck is 9 kilometers (30 minute drive by poor dirt road) from the campsite. The lake next to campsite and trails around the lake offer good dry forest birding.
Targets: White-winged Duck, White-rumped Falcon, Giant Ibis, and Woodpeckers (Rufous-bellied Woodpecker is one of the specialties here)
Tmatboey ( Tmatboey SVC information): This is the traditional site for Giant and White-shouldered Ibis. An eco-lodge is available. We were told that you have to book through SVC to visit and stay at the eco-lodge (i.e. you cannot just show up). The drive is on paved roads. It was about 3 hours from Prey Vang (but much of that is due to the poor dirt road out of Prey Vang). Again, having knowledge of a local guide was critical. The local guide took us to specific locations for the targets.
Targets: White-shouldered and Giant Ibis, White-rumped Falcon, Pale-capped Pigeon, Owls (Oriental Scops, Brown Fish-Owl, Spotted Wood-Owl, Brown Wood-Owl), and Woodpeckers
Veal Krous ( Vulture Restaurant SVC information): This is the location to see the 3 species of endangered vultures. Populations are closely monitored and each month a cow is killed and a vulture count is done at this site. If you visit this site, you must buy a cow (US $300). Similar to Prey Vang there is no lodge so you must camp. The camping is set up the same as Prey Vang (tent with two cots/mosquito nets, portable shower/toilet and a picnic table for eating).
Targets: Red-headed, White-rumped and Slender-billed Vulture. This is also a good site for Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.
Kratie ( Kratie SVC information): This is the site for Mekong Wagtail, Small Pratincole, and Asian Golden Weaver. This site would be easy to do on your own. Simply travel to Kratie and then go to north to the location for Irrawaddy Dolphins. At this site (Google map coordinates: 12.610448,106.021736 ), you can pay for a boat ride to see the dolphins up close. The deep pools where the dolphins live are very close to shore. Make sure that the boat driver knows that you want to go beyond the dolphin pools and to the small islands in the middle of the river. Driving around these small islands in the boats will produce Mekong Wagtail and Small Pratincole. You could potentially see these species with a good scope from the overlook (above the boat dock) but that would require some luck. Google map coordinates for where I saw the Small Pratincoles and Mekong Wagtail are: 12.610061,106.019987.
Kratie Targets: Mekong Wagtail, Small Pratincole, Asian Golden Weaver
Siema Protected Forest ( Siema SVC information); This is a site in southern Cambodia along the Vietnam border. It is currently the best (only) known site for Orange-necked Partridge. Additional species of interest occur along the trails in this area and there is a known site for Green Peafowl. You could get here on your own and do it by yourself but again local help is necessary to see the specialties. Without my SVC guide, I would never have found the trails for the Orange-necked Partridge or the Pale-capped Woodpecker. Apparently, you can stay at the headquarters but some of the buildings were under construction while I was there, so I stayed in Sen Monorom (Google Map coordinates: 12.454136,107.187563). This town is about 60 KM east of the Siema headquarters (1 hour drive). The trails for the Partridge and Woodpecker are on the south side of the highway (opposite the headquarters) but you need local help (SVC) to find the actual trails.
Target species Orange-necked Partridge, German’s Peacock-Pheasant, Green Peafowl, Pale-capped Woodpecker, Pittas
Locations that I did not go that are often included in trips to Cambodia:
Bokor National Park: This park is in the southwest corner of Cambodia near Kampot. It is a known site for Chestnut-headed Partridge. I believe you have to stay in Kampot as there are no lodges up the mountain. The partridge is supposedly “easy” if you can find trails to access good forest. There are salt ponds good for shorebirds in Kampot.
Bokor Targets species: Chestnut-headed Partridge
Ang Trapaeng Thmor (ATT) Sarus Crane Reserve ( ATT SVC information) This site is approximately 2 hours north of Siem Reap. It is a good site for Sarus Crane and in March is the best chance for Milky Stork. I did not go as I was relying on seeing Sarus Crane at the Bengal Florican Reserve and Milky Stork at Prek Toal.
February 27: Arrived in Siem Reap
February 28: Morning trip to Prek Toal, afternoon free
March 1: Bengal Florican Reserve in morning then drive to Prey Vang (arrived late afternoon)
March 2: Prey Vang for White-winged Duck in morning and afternoon around campsite
March 3: Prey Vang in morning then depart for Tmatboey. Afternoon around Tmatboey
March 4: Tmatboey area
March 5: Tmatboey area in morning then depart for Veal Krous. Afternoon at vulture hide
March 6: Veal Krous vulture hide in morning and then depart for Kratie
March 7: Boat trip for Mekong Wagtail in morning. Marsh/rice fields in later morning. Lunch in Kratie and then depart for Seima Protected Forest. After arrival at Seima, birded short distances on two trails (orange-necked partridge trail) and along main road.
March 8: Seima Protected Forest: birded two trails including orange-necked partridge trail and OMAP trail.
March 9: Seima Protected Forest in morning and then drive to Phonm Phen airport
In recent years, Cambodia has opened up for birding. The combination of improving logistics, the SVC and the chance at some very rare species has resulted in many birders travelling to this country.
Any plans for a trip to Cambodia should start with an email to the SVC. Their office is in Siem Reap (google map coordinates: 13.353421,103.860412). I highly recommend using SVC. They were very helpful. They are focused on conservation and a portion of your trip goes to conservation and supports the local communities (so that they protect the birds). My guide’s name was Chea. He knew the locations and species and he had tapes for particular species when needed. Make sure that your guide knows exactly what you would like to do (your specific targets) as they will focus on that.
Driving: If you were to try and do parts of Cambodia on your own, I believe you can rent a car on your own, but I am not sure. I know that you can rent a car and driver. Outside of Phnom Phen there was minimal traffic. Buses travel between big cities and would be a reasonable method to get to Kratie or Kampot. Taxi (mototaxi) could then be hired to take you to the dolphin area/marshes in Kratie or up the hill at Bokor.
Hotels: Hotels were plentiful in Siem Reap, Kratie, and Sen Monorom. I stayed at the Soria Moria (google map coordinates: 13.355112,103.859202) in Siem Reap. It is a short walking distance from the SVC and was recommended by them. In Sen Monorom, I stayed at Mondulkiri Hotel (google map coordinates: 12.452365,107.183497). The hotel I stayed in Kratie is at google map coordinates: 12.486699,106.016071. There is an eco-lodge at Tmatboey (that is your only lodging choice). Prey Vang and Veal Krous require camping. The camping quality was good, almost “luxurious” camping. All the equipment was in good shape and good quality. A portable shower was available and worked well. It was easy camping.
Directions: The specific locations are available on eBird (view the maps). I must say, however, that most sites are not accessible without local (SVC) help.
Weather & Clothing: It was hot and dry. We had a brief shower one night (at Prey Vang). Otherwise, there was no rain. Rainy season is May through October and apparently it gets very wet with flooding.
Biting animals: I did not have any problems with biting insects/animals. Malaria is present in Cambodia but rare in the dry season. I only saw mosquitos one evening at Prey Vang. I did not take anti-malarials (but these are recommended). I would have likely taken anti-malarials if I had traveled during the rainy season.
Trip List by eBird reports:
Click on the links below to see my eBird list for the specific day/location. A list of all the species seen on the Cambodia portion of my trip is at the bottom.
Prek Toal: Prek Toal day list
Bengal Florican Reserve: Bengal Florican Reserve morning list
Prey Vang day 1
Prey Vang day 2
Prey Vang day 3
Tmatboey day 1
Tmatboey day 2
Tmatboey day 3
veal krous day 1
veal krous day 2
Kratie dolphin river area
Kratie marsh area
Siema Protected Forest:
Seima 1st afternoon
Seima full day
Total species seen in Cambodia during this trip:
Indian Spot-billed Duck
Greater Spotted Eagle
Little Ringed Plover
Asian Barred Owlet
Great Slaty Woodpecker
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Siberian Blue Robin
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Common Hill Myna
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Asian Golden Weaver
Feel free to contact me with any questions.