The Cambodian Northern Plains covers an expanse landscape of grasslands, seasonal wetlands, and the largest remaining deciduous dipterocarp forests in Southeast Asia. Located in Preah Vihear Province, this vast area offers a range of wildlife and cultural destinations for those searching for the ultimate off-the-beaten-track experience.
Here is our list of highlights of the Cambodian Northern Plains!
Giant Ibis – © Phann Sithan
1. See the Giant Ibis and White-Shouldered Ibis in Tmat Boey
No northern plains trip is complete without seeing the magnificent Giant Ibis, Cambodia’s national bird. Once widespread across Southeast Asia, the Giant Ibis went unrecorded for 50 years before its rediscovery in 1993 by the Wildlife Conservation Society. This discovery launched an ongoing conservation effort to reduce and mitigate direct threats of vast deforestation, poaching, and human disturbance. For the past 18 years, we have worked closely with remote communities in and around Giant Ibis habitats through community based-ecotourism, nest protection, community wildlife habitat patrols, wildlife awareness initiatives.
Located 5km from Preah Vihear City, Tmat Boey is a remote village within the dry forest of Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary. As our flagship site, this is the best place in the world to see both the Giant Ibis and the White-shouldered Ibis (another critically endangered species), with a high viewing rate of 90%. We offer a range of Giant Ibis & White-shouldered Ibis experience tours throughout the year with overnight stays at Tmat Boey’s community-run ecolodge.
Red-headed Vulture – © Mardy Sean
2. Witness a Feeding at the Boeng Toal Vulture Restaurant
Amongst the rare birds to see in the Northern Plains are three critically endangered vulture species – Red-headed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture. Factors such as habitat loss, loss of wildlife species and poisoning have driven their rapid population decline in the region. With crucial support from SVC, the Wildlife Conservation Society maintains feeding stations or vulture restaurants in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest as a means of supporting the vulture population and conducting research.
Our local guides prepare an overnight stay at the vulture restaurant campsite for visitors to observe this fascinating feeding spectacle at sunrise from a hide built near to the prepared carcass. Due to the remoteness of the location, we combine this visit in our multi-day Northern Plain tour packages.
Preah Vihear Temple
3. Explore the Ancient Ruins of Preah Vihear Temple
At the edge of a 525 plateau on the Dangrek Mountains of the Northern Plains lies Preah Vihear temple, one of Cambodia’s most magnificent and lesser-visited ancient sites. With its history dating back to the 11th century, this impressive Hindu temple was dedicated to Shiva and has served as an important place for pilgrimage and worship. Located close to the Cambodia-Thailand border, the temple has long been a source of tension between the two countries, with clashes as recent as 2011. Today, this UNESCO world heritage site is safe for tourists to visit and see its well-preserved structure and spectacular views of its surrounding forests.
We offer a visit to Preah Vihear temple all year in our 3 Day Northern Plains Tour, which includes an overnight stay at the Tmat Boey ecolodge, the Giant Ibis experience with a full day of birding.
Prey Veng Temple
4. Discover the hidden treasures of Prey Veng Village
A remote village located deep in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, Prey Veng is one of our flagship sites offering excellent bird watching year-round. Birders have the opportunity to see key species of the Northern Plains, including the critically endangered Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork, Black-headed Woodpecker, White-rumped Pygmy Falcon, Collared Falconet, Brown Prinia, Neglected Nuthatch and Collared Owlet.
Prey Veng also offers the opportunity to learn about Cambodia’s ancient and rural culture with a one-of-kind experience. Our flagship community lodge is located on the banks of an Angkorian reservoir with a magnificent and untouched Pre-Angkorian temple just 400 meters away. Visitors also can learn the local way of life of this remote community and meet the wildlife-friendly farmers of IBIS Rice, our partnered conservation enterprise.
White-winged Duck – © Phann Sithan
5. Find the White-Winged Duck in Okoki
For avid birders, a trip to the Northern Plains offers the opportunity to visit Okoki, one of the most remote ecotourism sites in Cambodia and one of the few remaining habitats of the globally endangered White-winged Duck. Located deep in the Chep Wildlife Sanctuary near the Laos border, the Okoki site was discovered in 2007 when an exploration expedition by the Wildlife Conservation Society found the duck in two watering holes near the Okoki River. The campsite is run by members and guides of the nearby Dongphlat village and receive direct economic benefit from ecotourism that protects this precious habitat.
Due to its remote location (about 5 hours from Siem Reap city), we recommend tourists spend 2-3 days to fully enjoy the Okoki experience. This includes an early morning trek to the hide near the watering hole for the White-wing duck and the opportunity to see or hear Pileated Gibbons around the campsite, as well as a nighttime owling excursion. We offer this experience in our five-day Endangered Primates and Forest Trekking Tour. This tour includes birding and temple tours in Siem Reap, seeing the Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie, and staying at the Jahoo Gibbon Camp in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri.