Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Birding - the winged variety

From the Hanuman Tourism newsletter Som Leng, a look at birding in Cambodia.

World-class birding destinations in Cambodia

Cambodia is world renowned for its temples and gaining recognition for its laid-back colonial-era cities, its blissful beaches and its remote areas of outstanding natural beauty. However, what is less well known is its incredible birdlife, including many of the world's largest water birds. Many people have heard of Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake, but this is not the only place to see endangered birdlife around Siem Reap. It is possible to witness some of Cambodia's rarest birdlife at close quarters on pioneering ecotours that are working with the community to protect the species.

Large groups of Sarus Crane are found in Ang Trapeng Thmor in Banteay Meanchey during the dry season. This tall bird has a vivid crimson head and is depicted on bas-reliefs at the Bayon. The site also provides a habitat for other birdlife, including 18 endangered species. Due to road improvements from Siem Reap, about 100km away, it is now a straightforward day trip and arguably easier to access than Prek Toal. This is a must for all bird enthusiasts. The Giant Ibis has attained near-mythical status for birdwatchers thanks to its rarity. It is found in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary near Tmatboey village in Preah Vihear Province. This location is also famous as the only nesting site in Asia for the White-shouldered Ibis. It is possible to undertake a challenging 4WD adventure into this area to see these rare birds and assist the local community in their struggle to protect these birds. This can also be combined with a Temple Safari tour to the remote temples of Preah Vihear.

Hanuman is also proud to work with Osmose promoting eco-tours to the Prek Toal Biosphere, one of the premier birdwatching sites in Southeast Asia. Prek Toal is home to breeding colonies of large water birds now extinct elsewhere in the region and is a pristine flooded forest environment. Some of the more accessible birds include lesser and greater adjutants, spot-billed pelicans and milky storks. These incredible birds have huge wing spans and construct large nests in the trees of the flooded forest. The Prek Toal Biosphere is about two hours from Siem Reap by a combination of road and boat. Osmose is a non-profit NGO working in conservation, environmental education and sustainable development. The Osmose eco-tourism project offers alternative livelihoods to the local communities through opportunities in guiding, paddling, providing food and accommodation and the sales of water hyacinth handicrafts. Link: Hanuman

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