Kampi Village: Home to the Endangered Freshwater Dolphins

A Tourist renting a boat to see the fresh water dolphins in Kampi village. Photo: Chhum Chantha

The Mekong Dolphin Pleasance of Kampi village is a nature tourism destination located along the Mekong River in Kratie province. Tourists have the opportunity to witness breath-taking scenes as rare freshwater dolphins dance and swim in pairs—mother and child, sister and brother—along the surface of the river.

Freshwater dolphins appearing on the water surface.

To reach the village, visitors must first get to Kratie city, the province’s capital, and then travel about 15 kilometers on Provincial Road 377 to reach Kampi village located in Sambok commune in Chit Borei district. Visitors will see a large gate with the words "Mekong Dolphin Pleasance" written in Khmer, and then walk along rows of small shops selling drinks and wooden crafts made in the area to reach the ticket booth for the boat trip.

Once they have left the pier, it may take as little as 10 minutes for people to see the dolphins as they come to the surface to breathe. However, they don’t stay long above the waterline. Generally, they leap out from the water for only a few seconds, their bodies only partially visible above the surface. At times, they will jump out of the water, their slender and shiny figures fully visible in the air, but this is a rare occurrence.

Whether it is the dry season or the rainy season, tourists can still visit these families of dolphins living in the Mekong off the shore of Kampi village, explained Man Chhun, a dolphin tourist guide who also pilots the boat.

Local guide and boat owner, Man Chhun. Photo: Chhum Chantha

“In the dry season, we can spot them more easily,” he said. “With shallow waters, dolphins tend to concentrate in one location. Then, during the rainy season, they scatter and travel in different directions for food.”

Kampi village is an ideal place to take pictures of dolphins, Chhun said. “Pods of dolphins are swimming and playing together,” he said, close to the village’s shore.

The dolphins attract to Kampi village both international tourists and people from other parts of Cambodia. A foreigner from the Netherlands by the name of Mona was recently in Kampi, thrilled to have come to the village and seen these famous dolphins in the Mekong.

“In my country, there are no dolphins” she said. “While I was in the boat, I was shocked because I heard their sound…I did not know where they were until the boat owner pointed them out to me.

“[T]hose dolphins were prettier and more delicate than those shown on television,” Mona said. “This was a great experience. It is very important for the public to care for these rare nature creatures. Tourists as well as people living here must think about pollution, such as not throwing garbage in the river or overfishing…to assure that these animals can have long and peaceful lives for generations to come in the Mekong River.”

The Mekong River dolphins are on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to the 2020 Mekong Dolphin Census of the Fisheries Administration and World Wildlife Fund, only 89 dolphins still live in Cambodia’s Mekong River. This should motivate everyone in Cambodia to protect this rare and endangered species.

The port where tourists can board rented boats. Photo: Chhum Chantha

For those who wish to see the dolphins in the Mekong river off the shore of Kampi village, the price for the boat for up to six Cambodians is 50,000 riels or around $12.50. For foreigners, the price is $10 per person for one or two adults, $8 per person for three or more adults, and $5 for each child under 12 years old. The boat tour is 60 minutes from November through May, and 90 minutes from June through October.

Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey25, this story was translated by Cheng Ousa for Cambodianess.

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