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Kayaking at Kratie, looking for dolphins

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The quiet village of Kratie, 260 km northeast of Phnom Penh, is located on the banks of the Mekong River. The most important landmark is seeing the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are at risk of extinction. In all of Cambodia there is no better place to spot these dolphins. This freshwater dolphin still has a population of more than 80, while during the Khmer Rouge regime there were more than 1,000 specimens in Cambodia. Due to an enormous food shortage, the Irrawaddy dolphin was actively hunted during that period. Even so, fishermen are still illegally trying to catch the dolphin, despite this being prohibited.

The kayak expedition around Kratie

We went on a kayak expedition of half a day through the professional organisation, Soraya kayaking, led by an enthusiastic Australian. With a truck, we went to a place 15 kilometres away. We then paddled over the Mekong River, where there are occasionally slight rapids. If you follow the guide’s course, nothing will go wrong. On the way, you relax at a beach and of course eat “sticky rice”.

The highlight is when you see a group of dolphins in the distance. You have to look hard, but you actually always see them. With the canoe, you have the advantage that the dolphins are not frightened by engine noise so you can get reasonably close. It’s a nice sight to see such a group swimming through the water in search of food. It is difficult to photograph them, before you know it they are deep below again and they always dive in unexpected places. But the thought that you’ve seen them remains! Finally, you will walk to a floating village. Here you can see how the residents live and fish and we saw a beautiful sunset.

If you don’t feel like kayaking, you can also take a motorised boat to see the Irrawaddy dolphins. These can be booked in Kratie or at the starting point in Kampi. This is somewhat more relaxed, but the downside is that the boatman often has to turn on the engine to get closer to the dolphins. This scares them and they disappear again to another place. The best thing is if the boat is just quiet without an engine and waits for the dolphins to pop up somewhere nearby.

In Kratie, you can stay in Le Tonlé Guesthouse. Guests can enjoy a meal in the guesthouse’s restaurant.