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Birdwatching in Cambodia

The deciduous dipterocarp forests that once spread across much of Indochina and Thailand were formerly home to the greatest aggregation of large mammals and water birds that have existed beyond the savannas of Africa. These forests have largely disappeared from Thailand and Vietnam; currently, the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia form the largest remaining contiguous block of this unique and critically important habitat.

"Deciduous Dipterocarp Forests "

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has a number of protected areas in northern Cambodia and has given Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation (SVC) the responsibility of managing demand as well as organizing tours to the protected sites, where the local communities are actively involved in the projects. Tourism visits are linked to community conservation agreements, whereby ecotourism income supports local development and engagement in conservation activities.

Electronic map of Cambodia

Tour I

16 day birdwatching tour in Cambodia

Expect more than 250 species of birds
Day 1 - Arrive Siem Reap, check in hotel. Dinner with all the participants.
Siem Reap is unrivalled for its choice of hotels and guesthouses, which serve the tourists flocking to see the temples of Angkor. SVC has contracts with a number of Boutique level hotels, individual in style and offering excellent value for money. We can always add a pre or post trip extension to the Super Tour allowing you more time to explore Angkor and enjoy the hotel.
Day 2 - Birding and temples in Angkor Great Park.
Angkor Wat and the 200 plus temples in the Angkor Great Park are truly a wonder of the world. Apsara the Cambodian ministry responsible for the management and conservation of the temples has preserved at least some of the mature dry forest and in places allowed undergrowth to grow, which offers habitat for common species and the odd rarity. Oriental Darter in the moat, Hainan Blue, Taiga and Asian Brown Flycatchers, White-throated Rock-Thrush, Black Baza, Blue Rock Thrush, Forest Wagtails, Olive-backed Pipit, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos, Asian Barred Owlets Coppersmith Barbet, Ashy Minivet, Yellow-browed and Pale-legged Leaf-Warbler, raucous Red-breasted and Alexandrine Parakeets and White-crested Laughing thrushes. The SVC Guide who is also a licensed temple guide will combine the trip to Angkor Wat with birding in the surrounding forest, which is a short distance from Siem Reap so sunset can be enjoyed amongst the temples and dinner in town.
Day 3 - Phnom Kulen National Park, The Angkor Center for Conservation and Biodiversity.
Bird Watching in the Phnom Kulen National Park, The Angkor Center for Conservation and Biodiversity, the Lingas at Kbaal Spean and Banteay Srei Temple Phnom (mountain in Khmer) Kulen is a range of hills rising to 400 meters 50 kilometers North of Siem Reap. Although heavily degraded there are pockets of original dry dipteropcarp forest (DDF) left, which give a good introduction to this unique habitat, a feature of SVC bird watching itineraries in Cambodia.
Highlights which have been seen on SVC training trips include 7 species of woodpecker; Common and Greater Flameback, Greater Yellownape, Heart-spotted, Black-headed and Great Slaty Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker. Rufous-winged Buzzard, Rufous-bellied, Crested-serpent and Changeable-hawk Eagle, Black Baza, Asian-barred and Spotted Owlet plus many orioles, bulbuls, warblers, babblers, sunbirds, etc. Carved into the bed of the Tonle Sap River, which originates in the Phnom Kulen hills above Kbaal Spean are 11th century Lingas or phallic symbols. The Lingas so the legend goes gave fertility to the Tonle Sap Lake ensuring a bountiful fish harvest and a potent king. A pleasant forest path follows the stream and carved pools as it tumbles down the hillside. Located next to the river is Angkor Center for Conservation and Biodiversity (ACCB), which rescues and provides shelter for wildlife that has been illegally hunted with the aiming of returning it to the wild. ACCB has succeeded at reintroducing birds into safe habitats, in particular Red-headed Vultures and Lesser Adjutants, unfortunately mammals are more difficult either due to habitat loss, hunting or acclimatization in captivity. ACCB will organize a tour of their Center for SVC where you will get the chance to see some of Cambodia’s indigenous fauna. A small donation is made on behalf of each customer by SVC to support ACCB activity. Local restaurants at Kbaal Spean serve simple but well cooked Khmer food for lunch. Near Kbaal Spean is the temple of Banteay Srei, which arguably has some of the finest preserved and most intricate carvings of all the Angkorian Temples. Banteay Srei is an easy stop on route back to Siem Reap after lunch.
Day 4 - Core Bird Reserve of Prek Toal.
Visit the Core Bird Reserve of Prek Toal on the Tonle Sap Great Lake close to Prek Toal floating village, for Greater Adjutant and large water bird colonies. The Tonle Sap is the largest natural lake in South East Asia, fed by the phenomenal annual backflow of water from the Mekong River. Situated in the North West corner of the lake, Prek Toal core bird reserve is home to the largest breeding colonies of water birds in South East Asia. The reserve covers 22,000 hectares of seasonally flooded forest where only the tallest trees stand proud of the lake during the annual flood, providing a habitat for cormorants, pelicans, storks, and many other birds to roost and nest. The village of Prek Toal, adjacent to the reserve floats at the river mouth of the Sangke River where it flows into the lake. Every house is built on a platform of bamboo and moves according to the changing water levels. Schools, local restaurants, a church, even vegetable patches, pig-pens and crocodile farms all float. In Cambodia and throughout South East Asia, Prek Toal is unmatched for the number and population of endangered water birds it supports during the dry season. Large numbers of cormorants, storks and pelicans are virtually guaranteed from January to May along with herons, egrets and terns. The sanctuary harbours seven species of global conservation significance: Spot-billed Pelican, Milky and Painted Storks, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black-headed Ibis and Oriental Darter and has a globally significant population of Grey-headed Fish Eagle. Since the Core Reserve was declared in 2002 and came under the protection of Ministry of Environment as advised by WCS, the numbers of all the above species have increased. Day trips to Prek Toal generally leave Siem Reap at 5am for Chong Khneas, about 10km by road, the Siem Reap port on the Tonle Sap Lake. The Group transfers to a boat for the journey to Prek Toal. Depending on the lake water levels the boat journey cuts through the flooded scrub surrounding Chong Khneas and a small band of primary forest lining edge of the lake where the boat moors for breakfast. At Prek Toal the group transfers to a local boat, which is part of an initiative to help spread income from eco-tourism to the local village economy, and heads off into the core reserve for a WCS observation platform next to a bird colony. A pack lunch can be organised allowing the group to maximise the time spent in the core reserve or they can return to Prek Toal for a Khmer lunch in a floating house. After lunch a tour of the village by paddle-boat gives a close up on a very different culture. The group then returns to Siem Reap.

"Giant Ibis"

Day 5 - Sarus Crane Reserve at Ang Trapaeng Thmor.
Originating as a reservoir on the Angkorian highway 66, ATT was rebuilt as a man made reservoir by slave labour during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1976. The reservoir is now a Sarus Crane reserve administered by the Forestry Administration (FA) with advice from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with over 300 of these magnificent birds congregating to feed in the dry season along with another 198 recorded bird species, 18 of which are globally threatened. By February the dry season will be well underway and a few pairs of Black-necked Storks frequent the site along with many of the large water birds seen at Prek Toal; Black-headed Ibis, Milky and Painted Storks, Spot-billed Pelicans, Oriental Darters, Asian Openbills and Greater and Lesser Adjutants. A few pairs of Bengal Floricans breed here during the dry months though they are wary and a treat rather than a certainty to see. Other grassland specialists including Red Avadavat, Blue-breasted Quail, and 3 species of lark occurring in Cambodia. 6 species of duck four of which are resident including Comb Duck, can be seen along with birds of prey rare in the rest of the country such as Black Kite, Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers. Numerous waders, rails and shore birds can be found in the marshy belts of aquatic habitat. The critically endangered Eld’s Deer can be seen in large numbers of 20+ from February to the start of the rains in May on most SVC visits to the site. ATT is about 2 hours from Siem Reap depending on the route taken, which varies according to feedback from previous trips and the local guides in order to see species of interest along the way. Silk is traditionally manufactured in the adjacent village of Phnom Srok and there is a small Angkorian temple 10km from the WCS Station. An option requiring an additional night is to visit Banteay Chma one of the most significant Angkorian temples in Cambodia and a few hours from ATT. Accommodation is available next to the temple in a comfortable home-stay. In 2011 SVC worked with WCS to further involve the local community in eco-tourism, training local guides who will be responsible for locating in advance the Sarus Crane and other target species. The conservation contribution or entrance fee that each visitor pays is used for local development and conservation projects such as nest protection and a ‘rice bank’ which provides an insurance of this staple food
Day 6 - Florican Grassland and Prey Veng.
The critically endangered Bengal Florican and many other water-birds are found in the grasslands around the Tonle Sap lake. WCS has worked with local communities to set up Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas (IFBAs) to conserve prime florican habitats. SVC bird watching trips give an income to the villagers who assist the SVC Guide in locating the birds. Finding the florican is usually easy, as they have been monitored since the start of the WCS conservation project in 2002. The peak times for display are between dawn and 9am and then again between 4.30pm and dusk. The Manchurian Reed Warbler is a winter visitor, found in the tall grass and scrub away from water. Greater-spotted and Imperial Eagles winter in the area feeding on the abundant rodents. There are large numbers of Eastern Marsh Harriers and smaller number of wintering Pied Harriers, along with a few Black Kites, Peregrines and numerous resident Brahminy Kites. Oriental Plover pass through in March. The IFBA’s are reached from NR6 (the main road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh). After visiting the Florican grasslands the group will head towards Prey Veng passing both the temples of Beng Melea and Koh Ker. Either 1 or both of these temples are well worth a visit if the group has time.
Day 7 - Prey Veng.
Full day birding around Prey Veng a remote forest village in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary is at the center of a conservation project administered by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) advised by WCS. The campsite lies on the banks of an ancient Angkorian Baray or reservoir and is now an important feeding site for many rare birds and mammals. Prey Veng is a seductive attraction for SVC trips regularly yielding 150 species including 3 key birds; Giant Ibis, Greater Adjutant and White-winged Duck. The baray about 2km long by 1km wide is surrounded by thick forest giving cover for the birds during the day and providing a feeding site at dawn and dusk when the White-winged Duck roosts on trees within the baray. A riparian corridor of mixed deciduous forest lines the Steung Sen River that flows a few kilometers away from the site, which together with the DDF, forest paddys and the baray marshland gives a range of habitat types to support a diversity of bird and animal life. An exciting diversion from birding is an Angkorian Temple a few hundred metres from the campsite on a scale and significance with Beng Melea, unknown to tourists due to the remote location of Prey Veng. The village is reached via a 20km forest track usually on motorbikes in case of the river crossing being flooded or in the drier months January to April by 4WD. Safari style tents are set up by the village eco-tourist committee prior to a groups arrival on the shores of the baray shaded by clumps of bamboo. Cooks have been trained by SVC to provide simple Khmer meals on a table set up on the banks of the ancient reservoir and there is a shower and toilet tent.
Day 8 and 9 - Prey Veng and birding to Tmatboey.
AM birding around Prey Veng; PM birding to Tmatboey Overnight Tmatboey Lodge winner of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award. The Tmatboey Ibis Site is a conservation project set up by WCS together with the Cambodian Government and Tmatboey village. Once it was realised that the site had potential for bird watching tourism a local committee was elected to build guest accommodation and with training from SVC provide services for the bird watching groups that visit. In return for the income that this brings the villagers have signed no hunting and land conversion agreements. The Lodge is comprised of a central recreational thatched building and 4 surrounding bungalows each with 2 double en-suite rooms with solar powered electricity. The accommodation is basic but comfortable. Tmatboey is a remote Khmer village of 220 families situated in the centre of the Northern Plains of Cambodia, within the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, the country’s largest protected area. Tmatboey is 1 of only 2 known nesting sites in Asia for the Giant Ibis that use large trees in the forest away from the village. White-shouldered Ibis are found closer to the village where they are reliant on the grassland clearings amongst the dipteropcarp forest. Woolly-necked Stork are relatively common and can be seen in flocks of over 40. Greater-spotted Eagle regularly over-winter and Grey-headed Fish Eagle and White-rumped Falcon occur at low densities. The Pale-capped Pigeon is another highlight along with an amazing diversity of woodpeckers and Brown Fish Owl, Spotted Wood Owl and Brown Wood Owl. Night walks regularly spot Collared and Oriental Scops Owl. After settling in to their accommodation the group can take a short walk through the open forest to where the White-shouldered Ibis come to roost at sunset. The next day will start early around 4 or 4.30am with a quick cup of tea or coffee, then a drive and a walk to less disturbed areas of forest where Giant Ibis have been located. Returning around 9am for breakfast at the Lodge. The group can discuss with the SVC Guide how they wish to spend the day out side the sunrise and sunset birding. Packed lunches can be arranged if they want to spend more time in the forest and night drives/walks can spot the owls and Savannah Night Jar. The village of Tmatboey is remote and self-sufficient. SVC organises an optional village tour, which takes in local trades as well as the school, a market garden, a still for sugar palm wine and points out the projects that the visitor’s conservation contributions have assisted.

"Red-headed Vultures"

Day 10 - Tmatboey.
AM birding Tmatboey. Transfer to vulture restaurant at Veal Krous. Overnight tented accommodation Veal Krous.
After a last morning’s birding and breakfast the group will make their way to Tbeng Meancheay the Provincial Capitol of Preah Vihear Province and on to the village of Dongphlet in the Chhep Protected Forest where as part of WCS conservation program a vulture restaurant is set up to feed the 3 critically endangered species of vulture; Red-headed, White-rumped and Slender-billed. Journey times to Dongphlet village from Tbeng Meancheay are shrinking as the road is improved and are now less than 3 hours, so the group will get the chance for sunset birding perhaps catching a sight of Crested Treeswift, Black Baza, or Collared Falconet (if not already seen at Tmatboey). White-winged Duck have been spotted near an ancient baray circling the pool on route. For some the highlight of the whole itinerary is the Vulture Restaurant, where tents will be set up for the night. Before dawn the group will make their way to a hide positioned not far from where a cow has been killed. Up to 70 vultures maybe present often competing for the carcass with Golden Jackal. In addition to the 3 critically endangered vultures, Cinereous and Himalayan Griffin have been seen.
Day 11 - Vulture Restaurant and Kratie.
The journey from Veal Krous to Kratie is about 8 hours arriving late afternoon, which should allow Asian Golden and Streaked Weaver to be spotted (the Baya Weaver is a sighting at ATT) The hotel is clean with en-suite hot showers, aircon and good Khmer food.
Day 12 to 14 - Kratie, Mondulkiri and Seima Protected Forest.
AM birding around Kratie, PM transfer to Mondulkiri and Seima Protected Forest (SPF). Stay Sen Monorom hotel 15 km North of Kratie are the Kampi Pools where the Irrawaddy Dolphin can be seen from a boat as well as the Mekong Wagtail (Moctacilla samveasnae, named after Sam Veasna). The river habitat is under threat from Chinese dams already constructed and proposed dams in Laos and Cambodia, which will mean the dolphin along with other riverine bird species will become extirpated from Cambodia. The Orange necked Partridge has been seen and more often heard calling in the thick bamboo forest around the Forestry Administration and WCS HQ at Seima, however it was seen by groups early this year (2012). There are many other species reflecting the mixed habitat types; Bamboo, evergreen and DDF. A reliable sighting and second on our birders list is the Green Peafowl. White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Red-vented Barbet, Scaly-breasted, Orange-breasted partridge and Pale-capped Woodpecker have also been seen on trails close to the HQ. Cambodia maybe the best place in the world for woodpeckers. Great Slaty can be spotted at forested sites throughout the trip and at SPF noteworthy sightings include; White-bellied, Pale-headed, Heart-spotted and Black-and-buff Woodpeckers. The presence of a fruiting tree draws in myna’s, barbets, pigeons and hornbills and the pigeon shown above. The SPF is home to the largest population of Black-shanked Douc in the world, along with Northern Pig-tailed and Long-tailed Macaque and Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon, which are regularly seen. Groups have spotted Gaur close to the WCS Station. A feature of the itinerary at SPF is a night drive and the possibility of mammals including Common-palm and Small-toothed Civets and Giant Flying Squirrel as well as Lesser Mouse-Deer or Lesser Oriental Chevrotain and Pygmy Loris.
Day 15 - Seima Protected Forest.
AM birding SPF, PM transfer back to Siem Reap Note; transport can be arranged to Phnom Penh id this facilitates your international travel plans. After birding along the trails around Keo Seima in the morning we will set off for the long drive back to Siem Reap which takes about 8 hours.
Day 16.
Transfer to airport for departure

16 Days is: 2 pax US$3270 per person. 4 pax US$3410 per person.
A single supplement is US$270.
Note: Single supplement is not valid for Prey Veng, Tmatboey, and Veal Krous, however if there’s room available at these places then we could arrange it with no charge.

Due to currency fluctuations and fuel cost we reserve the right to adjust any pricing prior to departure.

50% non-refundable deposit is required to confirm booking.

Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.

All guides fees, airport transfers, and all transfers to sites, all accommodation, all meals, drinking water, soft drink, all park entrance fees and all Conservation Contributions.
Drinks, tips, personal expense, trip insurance, international flights, visa, airport tax, laundry. Transport from hotel to town for free-time is the responsibility of the guest.

The Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation arranged a hassle-free birding trip to search for the endangered Giant and White-shouldered Ibises. Reliable and comfortable vehicles took us to the village of Tmatboey, where we have basic lodging with electricity from Solar Deck, hot-cold shower, and nice Cambodian cuisine, all arranged by the community. The knowledgeable and friendly local guides took us out early in the morning and easily found our target species. A host of other interesting birds, including Pale-capped Pigeons and Great Slaty Woodpeckers, was also seen. The trip was very well run and we were glad to see this small, rural community profit from our visit. A wonderful, memorable time was had by all.
The above birding itineraries are based on what are essentially popular routes for birders. It can be shortened or extended.
All the date of itineraries include arrival and departure dates.
Trips are best booked during the dry season in Cambodia from November through to April some sites including most of our day trip destinations are available year round, but prices may be adjusted around special holidays.
For booking allow minimum six(6) weeks prior to departure.
To check availability for tours on short notice, fill out “Request for Quote” form with desirable dates.
The tour does not require a high level of fitness but participants should be in good general health. Should you have any physical limitations please contact us.

Should you only need a guide for a day please send a message to Sopheap.   

Birding guide Sanh Sophoan, your local Birdingpal guide
Sophoan, or So, is a Senior Bird Guide and has worked for SVC since 2006. She has led tours for companies including Albatros, Zoothera and Bird Tour Asia as well as for many individual birders from all over the world. A dedicated birder Sophoan is always keen to get out and see more birds and has visited Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia in pursuit of new species. She is also a qualified temple tour guide for the many cultural wonders of the Angkor area. She lives with her family in Siem Reap.

Birding guide Nara Duong, your local Birdingpal guide
Nara is a Senior Bird Guide. He joined SVC in 2007 and has led many birding groups, including tours for BirdQuest, Vent and Avifauna along with many individual birders. He is also a driver. He loves exploring new things, meeting people and taking them to see his nature and culture. He will do his best to find specific birds that his clients want to see. Nara is also excellent at picking up birds on call. Nara was born to a farmer family with 6 children to the east of Siem Reap and left in 1998 to find work and study English. Soon he managed to get a job as a driver taking tourists around the Angkor area before joining SVC. Nara lives with his wife and their young sons in Siem Reap.


The Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation arranged a hassle-free birding trip to search for the endangered Giant and White-shouldered Ibises. Reliable and comfortable vehicles took us to the village of Tmatboey, where we had basic lodging (no electricity or plumbing)** and good meals, all arranged by the community. The knowledgeable and friendly local guides took us out early in the morning and easily found our target species. A host of other interesting birds, including Pale-capped Pigeons and Great Slaty Woodpeckers, was also seen. The trip was very well run and we were glad to see this small, rural community profit from our visit. A wonderful, memorable time was had by all.
** WCS has built a new eco-lodge for tourist in Tmatboey, there are 3 bungalows (the 4th is coming), 2 rooms for each bungalows, and 2 single beds in each room with bathroom attached and solar power.
I spent almost two weeks in Cambodia, birding with Sophal, in February 2007 and his punctuality, good humour, enthusiasm for birds, and ability to cope with all organizational eventualities were remarkable. As a guide, I would recommend him.
We really enjoyed our guide Sopheap who was so enthusiastic about the birds and wanted to show us every species of note in Cambodia. … The local guide at Tmatboey worked very hard as well; after we had been out all day, he went out in the evening trying to find the white shouldered ibis for the next day's birding.
Talking of working hard, the two women who prepared our meals seemed to work around the clock. Their day started at 3:30AM and lasted till well after dark. Their effort to provide vegetarian fare was much appreciated …
We were quite impressed with how the birding has helped the village of Tmatboey with the rebuilding of the main street and the employment opportunity for the young women who had cold drinks for sale after we had been out birding in the heat. The drinks made the heat bearable.
Cambodia, which we decided on as an afterthought, was a very enjoyable part of our trip and I would recommend it as an integral part of any South East Asia tour, birding or otherwise. Now, if they would only finish the road from Thailand to Siem Reap. Thanks again for all your efforts and our best wishes to Sopheap.

Some facts about Cambodia.

Cambodia covers 181,040 square kilometers in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula. Much of the country (75%) consists of the Tonle Sap Basin and the Mekong Lowlands, mostly rolling plains. Much of the Northern Plains is still covered in intact habitat – extensive areas of deciduous dipterocarp forest, with scattered seasonal wetlands (called trapeangs in Khmer) and large grasslands (veals), which flood during part of the wet season (June-October). Driving from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap during the wet season is a stark contrast to the same trip in the dry season (November through May): the plains fill with the dun-colored water from sediment and turn into rice paddies, chartreuse with young rice. Dense evergreen forest is found along water-courses and in the more fertile soils of the upland regions.
There are mountain ranges in the southwest: the Cardamom Mountains and Elephant Range, and to the north: the Dangrek Mountains. Cambodia’s tropical climate has a wet and a dry season of equal length; temperature and humidity are normally high throughout the year. The coolest time of the year is birding season, late December through March.

More facts about Cambodia.

Guide books and CD’s recommended:

A Guide to the Birds of South-east Asia: Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia by Craig Robson.
A Guide to the Birds of Thailand by B. Lekagul and P. D. Round.

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Birds of Tropical Asia.

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Last update 20/02/2014