The vast majority of Cambodia’s landscape is characterised by endless rice fields, sugar palms and jungle. Head far enough east though, and eventually you’ll run into the rolling hills of Mondulkiri. Mondulkiri is Cambodia’s wild east, and despite being the largest region by land area, Mondulkiri is the country’s least populated region with just four inhabitants per square-kilometre. Home to the hardy Bunong people, Mondulkiri is famous not just for its human residents, but its wildlife as well. The Bunong have a close connection and partnership with elephants, while majestic waterfalls and lush jungles in the area play host to birdlife and the black-shanked duoc – a unique and rare primate.
They don’t call Mondulkiri the Wild East for nothing. Sen Monorom is the area’s closest approximation to a town, where you’ll find roughly 20 guest houses, a few restaurants, and a pub. It serves as the main launching point for adventures throughout the province.
Within Seima Protected Forest, you’ll find some of Cambodia’s most pristine forest reserves. Because the area is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a collection of tour operators can help you sustainably contribute to conservation while getting up-close and personal with some of the park’s exotic wildlife.
For a more intimate encounter with the elephants that make Mondulkiri famous, consider a visit to the Elephant Valley Project. The organisation endeavours to provide sanctuary and rehabilitation to injured and retired working elephants. A visit does have a steeper price tag than other elephant camps, but the sanctuary’s high welfare standards makes it a worthy destination for anyone who loves and appreciates these gentle giants.
Contributing to the wild allure of Mondulkiri is the proliferation of gorging waterfalls in the area. The newly-accessible Kbal Phei Waterfall requires a challenging 20-kilometer journey, but its well worth it for the pristine natural scenery. Other must-see waterfalls include Bou Sra Waterfall, Dak Dam Waterfall, Monorom Waterfall and Romanear Waterfalls 1 and 2.
For a chance to meet face-to-face with some of the charming hill tribe communities living in Mondulkiri, visit Pou Lung Village, Koh Nhek Village or the market in Sen Monorom where, in the early hours of the morning, locals from surrounding villages come to sell their wares.
How to get there:
By Bus: Most arrivals to Mondulkiri travel from Phnom Penh, arriving in Sen Monorom after a journey of between seven and eight hours. It’s also possible to get to Mondulkiri from Ban Lung, the capital of Ratanakiri Province via private shuttle-bus.