The Mekong River running through the Indochina Peninsula is the representative mega-river in Southeast Asia. The basin originate in Tibetan mountains of China, and includes other five countries, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Ecology in the basin is extremely rich including many endangered species. The biodiversity in the Mekong River basin is the second richest in the world following The Amazon. The natural resources are also rich, especially freshwater all through the basin.

Visitors may like to experience the intriguing life at the Mekong River in Cambodia. A journey along the Mekong River brings a chance to discover in extraordinary comfort and see many of the country’s cultural highlights that make Cambodia holiday destinations.

1. Mekong flooded forest of Ramsar wetland

From Stung Treng town to the Mekong flooded forest of Ramsar wetland is an unforgettable travel experience. Situated between the towns of Kratie and Stung Treng, in northeast Cambodia, the area is comprised of a mix of diverse habitats, including tall riverine forest, waterways and islands.

The Mekong flooded forest is an important conservation area, internationally renowned for its biodiversity and natural beauty. It is a wide expanse of the river, in which large trees have rooted and now grow straight up directly out from the water. This unusual ecosystem is home to a wide range of birds, fish and mammals including many endangered and critically endangered species.

Kayaking through the flooded forest gives you the flexibility to weave amongst the trees, seeing the cormorants, darters and kingfishers at close quarters, as well as the expansive tree roots that follow the flow of the river, and are a particular feature of the area. When the water level is lower, these islands in here are numerous in number and support much of the wildlife such as otters, turtles and lizards that are common to this particular region, not forgetting of course the numerous species of birds that count the rare white-shouldered ibis, fish-eagles and river terns amongst their number. More islands and river channels are exposed and the region takes on a different perspective.

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2. The Irrawaddy Dolphin in Kratie

Kratie located 200km west of Mondulkiri which is on the banks of the Mekong River. The area is best known for its name “Home of the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin” in Cambodia. The Irrawaddy river dolphin is one of the most endangered species in the region, and is found now only in very small populations in a couple of locations on the Mekong.

Kapi is the best place in Kratie to see the rare irrawaddy dolphin. The best time to see them is in the early morning hours, late afternoon or early evening hours. There are just about 15-20 individuals left living on the Mekong river. The Irrawaddy dolphin is one of only 3 whale and dolphin species that occupy both fresh and marine waters. They are a shy, small dolphins which are dark grey in colour with a paler underside, a small rounded dorsal fin and a bluntly rounded head.

The Irrawaddy dolphin symbolizes the magnificence of the Mekong River and its continued high biodiversity. WWF ( World Wildlife Fund ) has identified the irrawaddy dolphin as a flagship species for the conservation of the Mekong River. Because these dolphins have certain minimum habitat requirements that reflect the health of the river ecosystem for other species, including humans. They require sufficient, undisrupted water, abundant prey, waters unobstructed by human activity and construction, and a clean river system.

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3. Mekong floating villages

3.1 Chong Kneas

Chong Kneas is a floating village at the edge of the Tonle Sap lake which closest to Siem Riep. Visiting a floating village during your Cambodia tour package brings you an interesting experience.

Chong Kneas is home to around 6,000 Khmer, Cham and Vietnamese, who live in either houseboats or wood and bamboo stilted houses. Its water level varies considerably so the life of villages at Chong Kneas in houseboats that need to be moved with the changing levels. As rains cause the lake to swell, the entire village moves to the edges of the lake, close to a nearby mountain. In the rainy season, the village sits along the lake's flooded forest, where trees and bushes rise from the waters. As the water level reduces during the dry season, the village move toward the middle of the lake, where there is ready access to fishing grounds and some protection from storms and waves.

People in these floating village communities make a living off of what the lakes provide: fishing, boat making, shrimp farming, crocodile farm etc, travellers can have chance to explore the distinctive features in their household. It is fully-functioning community with watery streets, boats in the place of cars, floating schools, markets, hospital clinics, a generator for electricity.

The Mekong river trip to visit Chong Kneas usually includes two stops: one at a floating “fish and bird exhibition” with a souvenir and snack shop. The other at Gecko Environment Centre, an informative exhibition that is located in the floating village and helps to unlock the secrets of the Tonle Sap. It has displays on flora and fauna of the area, as well as information on communities living around the lake. The Gecko Environment Centre and crocodile farm in this village enable travelers to learn and get the information about ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.

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3.2 Kampong Phluk

A trip to Kampong Phluk floating village can easily be one of the most interesting experiences in Cambodia. Kampong Phluk is a set of villages that are located on the floodplain of the Tonle Sap Lake, about 10 miles (16 km) from Siem Reap. The best time to visit floating village is the wet season from May to October, when most of the buildings stand high above the water-line.

The community, which consists of about 3,000 villagers, mostly live in stilted homes and depend on the ebb and flow of Tonle Sap lake. This is the place of nature all houses are stilted out of the water and your boat goes down the canal with the stilt houses on both sides up on the river bank. The houses of Kampong Phluk are about two floors up on their stilts, some houses are made with wooden walls others are just thatched leaf walls. These houses were stilts between six and eight meters high and tower over the boats moored along the river. Kampong Phluk is an interesting village to see the houses up so high.

The incredible Mekong river trip to Kampong Phluk hanging around the village will provide a good insight into the Cambodian natural ways of life on water. During the dry season when the lake is low, the buildings in the villages seem to soar atop their 6-meter stilts exposed by the lack of water. At this time of year many of the villagers move out onto the lake and build temporary houses. In the wet season when water level rises, the villagers move back to their permanent houses on the floodplain, the stilts now hidden under the water. During the wet season, the boats come out and everyone gets around by paddling from house to house, to market, or even to restaurants, churches, and wedding platforms.

Vast mangrove forests surround the entire village, offering incredibly scenic locations for boat excursions along the flooded tree line. Flooded mangrove forest surrounds the area and is home to a variety of wildlife including crab-eating macaques. Also, the flooded forest is a place provide vital shelter for fish to breed and will add to biodiversity in the Tonle Sap and other areas, increasing fish yield.

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3.3 Kampong Chhnang

A visit to Kampong Chhnang on the Cambodia package trip afford you to see the Cambodian rural lifestyles. The word "kampong" means that it is a port. Kampong Chhnang has many floating houses along its river, and the word "Chhnang" is the Khmer word for pottery. Being situated on a river near the Tonle Sap lake, these different villages in this area made of wooden houses on stilts and floating villages. Besides that, various different ethnic groups live happily side by side, a must see if you are looking for an authentic cultural experience in your travels.

The floating villages include the Chong Kos, which is home to the ethnic Cambodians, Kampuchea Krom, and Vietnamese people. Fishing is the main economic activity of the area so you can interact with local fishing families to explore their way of life. The floating villages can include almost everything you would expect in a normal village, including a petrol station, a mosque, vegetable stalls, machine shops and houses. In order to reach the villages you can visit the river port and hire a small motorless boat.

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