Nestled away in the stunning Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia is the village of Chi Phat.
Run in association with the Wildlife Alliance, Chi Phat is at the center of a Community Based Eco Tourism project, or CBET, that aims to prevent poaching by providing an alternative income for locals through sustainable tourism.
All accommodation at Chi Phat is assigned on a fair share basis so each homestay and guest house receives an equal number of guests. The only exception are the bungalows on Butterfly Island which are priced slightly higher than the other accommodation in the village. The guesthouses and homestays here are all named after the wildlife species that inhabit the area.
Despite its remote location there is plenty to do in Chi Phat including night fishing, kayaking, mountain biking and jungle trekking all in some of the most beautiful scenery you will find in Cambodia.
There’s a big choice of treks to choose from with something to suit everybody from easy half day village tours to 7 day deep jungle treks.
We stayed in Chi Phat for 3 nights and had an amazing time. The locals are friendly and welcoming, the scenery is unspoilt and beautiful and you can quite literally go all day without seeing another tourist. We had a great time getting to know some of the villagers and sharing stories with other travellers at the projects centre or the ‘local pub’ in an evening.
If you want to get off the beaten track in Cambodia this is the place to do it. We kayaked for hours and only saw some fisherman checking their traps and a couple doing their washing the whole time we were on the water. Most of the river here is flanked with dense jungle and mangroves but occasionally you’ll find the odd stretch of sandy beach to moor up to. Beware of the banks with darker coloured sand – if you try to stand on it your foot will likely sink straight in… we learn’t this the hard way!
Most of the equipment at Chi Phat is in pretty good condition. Both the kayaks and the oars were great and were of a much higher standard than many others we’ve rented. All of the bikes available to rent are mountain bikes which you need as the surfaces around aren’t the smoothest.
The activities are good value too and there are a number of options for under $10 if you’re on a tight budget. Single seat kayak rental for half a day is just $7 with two seat kayaks $10.
Chi Phat is of huge ecological importance, being home to some of Cambodia’s most unique and endangered species. In our three days we were lucky enough to encounter snakes, tree frogs, scorpions, a variety of lizards and a horn bill. If you’re an animal lover this is a great place to see some spectacular species in the wild.
As well as the local pub which serves food (ask in advance, this is really a family home with a few extra tables) you can also get a great value dinner from the CBET centre whose cooks are all from the village and work on a rotating cycle. There are plenty of small sellers with drinks and snacks available dotted around the village.
How to get to Chi Phat:
Getting to Chi Phat is all part of the adventure! The village is about 40 minutes (17km of dirt road) or two hours by boat from the main highway at Andoung Teuk.
All boats and motorbike’s to Chi Phat leave from Andoung Teuk so this is where you need to get to first.
If you are going to Chi Phat from the east (Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kep & Kampot) you need to book a bus that is heading to Koh Kong but request that you will need to depart at Andoung Teuk – the most commonly used and reliable bus companies to use are either Sorya 168 or Virak Buntham. All of the buses using this route will turn off the National Route 4 onto NR 48. After 10 km you will cross a bridge at Sre Ambel and after a further 30 km you will reach a second bridge: Andoung Teuk. Depart the bus just before you cross the bridge.
If you are visiting Chi Phat from Koh Kong in the west, any bus heading to Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh will be able to drop you off at Andoung Teuk which is only 1 and a half to 2 hours from Koh Kong.
Once you arrive in Andoung Teuk you need to make your way to the Chi Phat meeting point: go to the restaurant with the blue pillars, 50m east of the bridge. If you have booked transportation to Chi Phat this is where you will meet your boat or moto driver. If you haven’t booked you can also arrange transport here but be aware you might be in for a wait.
It’s quicker and cheaper to get to Chi Phat if you go by motorbike taxi but you miss out on the great scenery you’ll enjoy if you take the boat.
Do I need to book?
You don’t have to book accommodation or transport to Chi Phat but booking transport especially can save you a lot of time and helps out the village with organisation. You can book online at the Chi Phat website. As mentioned before, homestays and guesthouses are allocated on a fair share basis but if there is a particular place you want to stay you can request this when you book. It is also advisable to book your accommodation in advance if you wish to stay in the bungalows on Butterfly Island.
The Chi Phat Community centre will organise your return transport to Andoung Teuk and you can also purchase your onward bus tickets to take you from Andoung Teuk to elsewhere in Cambodia. In short, head to the Community Centre and they will help you organise your transport from Chi Phat to your next destination.