Located in the Koh Kong province, southwest of Cambodia, Botum Sakor National Park is Cambodia’s largest biodiverse national park.
It features a 35 km wide peninsula that projects out from the Cardamom Mountains. The park’s terrain gently slopes down from the mountains to the coastal wetlands. You’ll find a diverse range of ecosystems within the park, including evergreen woods, rainforests, mangroves, swamp forests, melaleuca forests, and beaches.
The park is home to various endangered wildlife, including Asian elephants, pangolins, sun bears, and Malayan tapirs. Botum Sakor National Park has a high level of biodiversity, making it one of the world’s 32 biodiversity hotspots.
For nature lovers, it is a must-see destination.
Wildlife at Botum Sakor National Park
Located in a moist climate and pristine conditions, Botum Sakor National Park boasts a wealth of unique wildlife. Few studies have been conducted on its wildlife because of the park’s remote location and rugged terrain. This lack of knowledge means that the park’s conservation efforts are often inadequate.
One of the park’s most notable features is home to the southern section of the South West Elephant Corridor. This corridor is one of the last remaining elephant corridors in Asia and is of utmost importance to the conservation of Asian elephants.
More than 44 mammal species have been documented here. Among these are species of high conservation importance, such as the clouded leopard, Sunda pangolin, Bengal slow loris, Indochinese lutung, pileated gibbon, and fishing cat.
Despite the abundance of potential habitats for amphibians, only a limited amount of research has been done on the park’s amphibian population. Consequently, we know only a few species, such as Mortensen’s frog and the cardamom spiny frog.
The most common reptile species found in the park are snakes, such as the Malay pit viper and the king cobra. In addition to snakes, a sizable Siamese crocodile population can be found in some of the park’s creeks.
Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are also thought to exist in Koh Kong Province, but there is no further confirmation.
Botum Sakor National Park is a birder’s paradise, with hundreds of species within its boundaries. Among the most notable is the white-winged duck, endangered and rare in Asia.
Other species of birds spotted here are:
- The green peafowl
- Lesser adjutant
- Oriental darter
- Great hornbill
- Grey-headed fish eagle
Lepidopterans are a diverse group of insects that includes butterflies and moths. They can be found in nearly every corner of the world, and Botum Sakor National Park is home to a staggering 147 different species. The park’s dense forests are teeming with lepidopterans, particularly those in the family Nymphalidae.
Most of these butterflies are in the dense forest habitats, but you can find a few Satyrinae subfamily members fluttering about in the meadows and near river edges.
Threats to the National Park
If you’re looking for an untouched piece of paradise, you won’t find it at Botum Sakor National Park. Once home to some of the densest evergreen forests in Southeast Asia, the park has been ravaged by illegal logging and new development projects.
A total of 229 km2 of forest were lost in just five years, between 1997 and 2002. And today, 75% of the park has been sold off for commercial development.
The largest project is the US$3.5 billion Dara Sakor tourist development, which takes up roughly one-third of the park. There are also several rubber plantations on an enormous central swathe of the park.
Fortunately, there are some mitigation plans in place. Wildlife Alliance, which manages 10% of the park, built Cambodia’s most successful eco-tourism and conservation venture, the Cardamom Tented Camp. The camp offers visitors a chance to see some of the park’s remaining wildlife and learn about the importance of conservation.
Things To Do
At Botum Sakor National Park, there’s no shortage of things to do. A two-day excursion by boat and foot will give you a different experience.
Even if you opt for a self-guided visit, it’s worth taking a local guide to show you around the park.
Trail bikers can ride the rugged road around the park’s east coast via the scenic fishing village Thmor Sor. The village is built on stilts over an alluvial bay and stretches almost 1km out to sea. Thmor Sor is a great place to take a break and enjoy the views. There are also plenty of opportunities for birdwatching along the coast.
Explore the park’s dense jungle on foot if you’re looking for something more challenging. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of streams, waterfalls, and the dense forest.
The east side of the park is home to four mangrove-lined streams – Ta Op, Ta Nun, Ta Nhi, and Preak Khsach – which are rich in wildlife. Visitors can hire a local boat driver at Andoung Tuek to take them on a boat ride through the streams, where they might spot pileated gibbons, long-tailed macaques, and black-shanked douc langurs.
There is also the option of staying at the Cardamom Tented Camp, run by the Wildlife Alliance, and sleeping in safari-style tents surrounded by jungle sounds. Just nine kilometers from the nearest town, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all and immerse yourself in nature.
Guests can also participate in their projects, including checking wildlife camera traps with the park rangers, kayaking, and hiking in the forest to spot porcupines, peafowl, and giant squirrels.
There are not many places to stay on site, but camping is an option for those who don’t mind roughing it.
Just two hours away, Koh Kong has plenty of hotels for those who prefer a little more comfort. Koh Kong is a pretty little seaside resort that makes a perfect basecamp for exploring the park.
Peam Krasop nature reserve, located in the north of the park, is also an excellent option for those wanting to explore the mangrove swamps by boat or follow the many water trails.
Getting into the park is free, but once you are inside, you will need to pay a ranger about US$5 per day.
How to Get To The Park
Taking the bus is one of the most popular options. The bus ride from Sihanoukville to Andoung Tuek only takes 2 hours and 35 minutes, and it’s a great way to see the beautiful scenery of the area. The distance is 40 miles, and there are two buses per day.
You can take a boat to explore the park. This is a great way to access the flood plains, thick mangroves, and deserted beaches of the park. A boat can be hired at Andong Tuek, Sihanoukville, Koh Sdach, or Koh Kong.
Best Time to Visit
If you’re looking to explore all that Botum Sakor National Park offers, it’s best to arrive early in the morning. The journey from Koh Kong takes two hours, and once you’re there, you’ll want to spend some time (an entire day) getting acquainted with the park.