Stung Treng Eyes Establishing Dolphin-Watching Resort 

The boats await tourist at Kampi resort in Kratie. Photo: Torn Chanritheara

PHNOM PENH – Stung Treng province is looking to establish a new tourism destination in the Mekong River’s Irrawaddy dolphin sanctuary, provincial authorities said Mar. 18. The tourism site would be inspired by the Kampi pool in neighboring Kratie province, where tourists can approach the endangered species on boats or kayaks.

The northeast province has three dolphin sanctuaries. The potential site for dolphin watching would be located in Tbong Kla, in Siem Bouk district, which is home to the province’s largest dolphin population.

Stung Treng Provincial Director of the Tourism Department Un Po Soeun said the rich natural resources of the province, including Irrawaddy dolphins, can be attractive to tourists. It has set a five-year plan to develop dolphin watching in the sanctuary.

Po Soeun said that the department and provincial authorities are currently looking for partnerships from the private sector to support the project. Developing the area will provide income and jobs for the local population who will be selling food, souvenirs and boat services as part of dolphin watching.

The income from tourism will also help strengthen conservation works, he said. There are between 28 and 30 Irrawaddy dolphins in Stung Treng province. 

“If this project is successful, it is really important. First, it will help raise awareness about conservation work, especially endangered species. Second, it will provide jobs for people through sales of goods or services for visitors to see the dolphins,” Po Soeun said. 

Srey Sam Vicheth, the director of the Stung Treng Provincial Fisheries Administration, cautiously supported the initiative since it will provide benefits for people. He, however, said attracting visitors will not go without challenges.

Unlike the dolphins of the Kampi sanctuary in Kratie province, which stay within a fairly limited radius, the animals of Stung Treng province tend to swim and move over a greater distance, which could make it difficult for tourists to spot them.

“Dolphins in Stung Treng can swim up to 20 to 30 kilometers. So it is hard to spot them without knowing where they are,” Vicheth said. “So when tourists come, they might not see dolphins.”

It is estimated that around 90 Irrawaddy dolphins are living in a stretch of 180 kilometers in Stung Treng and Kratie. During the dry season, from January to May, when the water level drops, dolphins congregate in eight deep pools.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is one of only six species of freshwater dolphins in the world and has been listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2004.


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this article was translated by Torn Chanritheara for Cambodianess.

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