February 15, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Many local tourists have diverted some of their holiday time from trekking across Cambodia’s tallest mountains such as Phnom Oral, Phnom Samkos and Phnom Tum – popular activities during the Covid-19 pandemic – to visiting the beaches and the coastal areas of the Kingdom, especially Koh Kong Krao.
According to tour guides and adventure enthusiasts, the trend of hiking through the mountains and jungle seems to have diminished somewhat and travel to visit the coastal areas has increased significantly.
Choun Phirom, an adventure tour guide who often takes visitors to wander in the deep forest and climb mountains and has recently guided visitors at Khnong Tapoang in Pursat province, the Phnom Preah ecotourism area and Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, said mountaineering by the average local tourist seems to be declining, especially in the tourist area of Khnong Phsar, which was flooded with local outdoorsmen in 2021.
“For a while now, I have seen a decrease in the number of visitors to Khnong Phsar Mountain. I don’t think the number of foreign visitors is increasing at the moment. I usually take tourists on new paths that we explore,” he told The Post.
Yoeun Yeut, a tour guide in the Khnong Phsar community and the Khnong Preah area, said that he did not receive as many visitors as during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, he and his team got a lot of bookings and had guided over 10 groups per week.
“Since there are not many Covid-19 infection cases, there are not many guests, with only one or two groups a week. The lower number of visitors is also due to the fact that the visitors themselves now know a lot of guides too,” he said.
Veasna, who runs the Kindness Back Facebook account, is known for capturing beautiful natural scenery in the ecotourism areas and the Ministry of Environment shares his pictures and video clips.
He said that during the rainy season, tourists did not go to the coastal areas because the rain made the seawater dirty and they preferred to go for a walk in the forest with fog and colder weather.
“In the dry season, tourists visit the sea from October to the rainy months after the traditional Khmer New Year because the seawater is clear and the visitors can also travel by boat to the islands easily,” Veasna told The Post.
Pha Lina, a taxi driver who brings tourists to wilderness destinations and helps them to load and unload their tents and other bulky camping gear from his vehicle, takes tourists to many different places with a variety of activities.
On the way to Koh Kong Krao, which is currently one of the most popular beaches after those in Sihanoukville, Lina said that now there are many visitors traveling to the coast.
He said that after departing Chroy Pros commune of Koh Kong district and traveling by boat for more than an hour the guests will arrive at a village on Alatang Island, which has mountainous terrain and mangrove trees.
“I guide guests all across the country and Alatang is the most beautiful village. Heading out from the village, travelers can reach six beaches, but the fifth and sixth they should not visit because they are military areas,” said Lina, a former photojournalist.
Lina, who also helps guests go camping and fishing for seafood using fishing rods and nets, said that the first two of the beaches are small and not very popular, but the third and fourth are more than a kilometer long.
The most popular is the third beach. On New Year’s Day, visitors found it difficult to find a space to camp there. There are waterfalls flowing from the sea, the sand is beautiful and even the trees are attractive.
The fourth beach has the same pool where people and tourists can catch shrimp and there are coconuts from the forest for only 3,000 riel.
The fifth and sixth beaches are the military areas previously mentioned and Lina doesn’t bring his guests there or recommend anyone try camping there.
“From the Alatang village to the fourth and third beaches you have to travel by boat about an hour and a half. It takes a total of two and a half to three hours from Chroy Pros commune for boat rental from the community and the boat owner charges $250 for two days and three nights,” Lina told The Post.
Sok Chankrisna, director of the Koh Kong provincial Department of Tourism, said that the number of tourists visiting Koh Kong has increased.
“In relation to the recreation area in Koh Kong Krao, recently, I saw that on Facebook people were spreading news about the potential of Koh Kong Krao and we saw many more visitors to Koh Kong Krao than before,” he told The Post.
According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, from January 23-29, the number of tourists visiting the coastal provinces was higher than the mountainous inland provinces. Koh Kong province had nearly 9,000 Cambodian visitors and just 260 foreigners.
During that period, Sihanoukville had more than 180,000 tourists and 170,000 of them were Cambodians with 9,000 foreigners. Kampot province had a total of around 65,000 visitors and 64,000 of them were Cambodians with about 1,000 international guests.
Kep saw 32,000 tourists, mostly locals except for 900 international guests. The latest data on the number of tourists released by the ministry showed that the seaside area of Sihanoukville ranked first in popularity with a total of 3,928 tourists between January 30 and February 5.