The Cambodian town of Kratie, which is located in the province of the same name, is predominantly known as the home of the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin, and many visitors flock here to float on the calm river waters hoping to spot one. But its position at the midway point between Phnom Penh and the hardcore hinterlands of the northwest jungles of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provides more to do in and around this tiny town than keeping an eye out for aquatic life.
Make no mistake, while there is other stuff to do in Kratie, spotting this dolphin species is a definite highlight. The Mekong Irawaddy is a breed of dolphin found specifically in Asian coastal regions, so it’s really special to see this unique animal in its natural habitat, which local initiatives work hard to protect. There’s said to be fewer than 100 Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Kratie stretch of the Mekong, which you can slowly traverse via a wooden boat from the banks of Kampi village, around 1km (0.6 mi) north of town. Take note, though, that they are hard to spot since they mostly stay submerged in the water, coming to the surface to breathe for only a matter of seconds. If you’re not lucky enough to see one, there’s also an array of concrete animal sculptures in town to spot, signifying the abundance of wildlife that once roamed these parts.
Close to where you see the dolphins is a picnic area called Kampi Rapids, which has exactly what the name suggests: a series of fast-running currents. Its banks are a mostly local hangout in dry season, where you can chill in a hammock under a bamboo hut or enjoy a swim.
Located at the 480-year-old historical treasure that is the 100 Pillar Pagoda in the northern town of Sambar, the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre is a conservation project in the heart of Kratie that’s dedicated to saving the endangered freshwater Cantor’s giant softshell turtle. With more than 40 indoor tanks, the facility, which is run by a monk, helps to breed and nurture the rarest and largest freshwater turtle species over 10 months, before releasing them into the Mekong.
Cambodians appreciate their food and love nothing more than introducing you to their local specialities. When asking a Cambodian friend about his experiences in Kratie, grilled lake snails, on skewers or in a spicy soup, followed by a sweet treat of steamed, sticky rice with fresh mango were firmly on his menu of choice. When it comes to the mango sticky rice, Kratie is said to be home to some of Cambodia’s tastiest, so look out for those street vendors.
During dry season, a visit to the Koh Trong Island, which is located opposite the waterfront of Kratie, is great for those in search of a little adventure. You can take the small ferry journey across the water for a quick swim, or to climb Koh Trong’s small inclines for views that span Kratie. But the most popular thing to do here is to hire a bike on the island and explore the beaches and fishing villages.
However you choose to explore Kratie, know that you can do so in a way that benefits the local community and conservation initiatives. The Mekong Discovery Trail is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, SNV Netherlands Development Organization, and the UNWTO, and is comprised of sustainable tourism projects. In Kratie this includes village visits and homestays, horse-cart operators who can take you on town tours, stops at local food vendors, hikes, and biking trials, participating in any of which puts money into the hands of local people.
Article originally published June 16, 2017. Updated on May 14, 2021.
Thinking of a trip to Kratie? G Adventures can get you there. We offer a number of trips to Cambodia to suit any travel style. Check out our small group tours of Cambodia here.
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