Dolphin coming up for air. Patrik M. Loeff / Creative Commons
In one of Asia’s great rivers that spans several countries including Cambodia, the Mekong is home to the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. Reaching the length of 275 cm with a distinct small dorsal fin, a bulbous forehead and a short beak, the Mekong River Dolphins are found in a 190 km part of the river between the Cambodian province of Kratie and the Lao border.
Kratie is mostly a sleepy and remote province that gets its fair share of travellers who seek to experience rural Cambodian life amidst picturesque French architecture in its charming capital of the same name and to behold the endangered gentle creatures residing near its riverside town of Kampi.
To get to Kampi from the capital, just rent a motorbike, tuk-tuk, or car. The best viewing times are in the morning and late afternoon, though to avoid the crowds head there before 8 am. Once there, it costs around $9 per person ($7 per person for more than 2 people) to rent a boat.
Another thing you can do is to kayak your own way to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Kayaking in Kratie means you’ll paddle across the river on your own, through a picturesque part of the Mekong, through the flooded forest, and cross back to (if you’re lucky) see the cetaceans swim and arch their slate grey bodies out of the water.
Dancing Mekong dolphin. Jim Davidson / Creative Commons.
Moored boats on Kratie, Cambodia. Pierre le Bigot / Creative Commons.
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For other unique animal experiences in Southeast Asia, go to the Philippines to see whale sharks in the wild, or watch birds in their natural habitat at Tonle Sap. A little further afield, you'll find the great Komodo Dragons of Indonesia around the Flores islands.
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