Kratie is mostly known for the possibility to see the critically engendered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins but it is also a nice departure point to explore the areas around the mighty river, such as the cute Koh Trong island.
Situated in centre-east of Cambodia, in the province that carries the same name, Kratie is a small town on the riverbanks of the Mekong, without much of a character nor tourist life. It isn’t exactly on the most frequented routes in Cambodia, but it makes an interesting short pit-stop if you are heading, say, to the adventurous jungles of Ratanakiri province.
Still, I always like quiet places with less tourists, that’s where normally I meet the most interesting travellers, which is for me a big added value. Plus, because of this, it is possible to still find cheap accommodations and food, if you look around properly, and if you are adaptable.
Nothing extraordinarily out of the normal, just don’t expect brand new guesthouses with swimming pools like you can find elsewhere in Cambodia. Although some of these places have been built on Koh Trong island.
Anyways, the reason everyone goes to Kratie is really that of the presence of some river dolphins. So, here we go:
About the Dolphins
The Irrawaddy dolphins is a vulnerable species with some critically engendered subspecies and an overall estimated worldwide population of about 7,000 individuals. In the 190 Km stretch of the Mekong River where they can be seen, between Cambodia and Laos, only 70 to 90 individuals remain.
Unfortunately the presence of humans in and around their habitat is really threatening for these, and other, river dolphins. Many die in fishing nets, are captured to become food or to be placed in an aquarium, although for some Khmer and Vietnamese people they are sacred animals and therefore their lives are preserved as much as possible.
Also the changing of their habitat by building dams or mines is a huge problem, and even tourism, especially the noise from high-speed vessels which causes them to remain underwater for too long, or the presence of too many boats a the time. They don’t like a busy river.
It seems that in Kratie there’s been some education about this, and boats go in the river and come back only paddling. At least when I was there, there weren’t many tourists, only three or four small boats. Frankly speaking, I cannot say if this is too much or not, but the dolphins seemed to be swimming around our boat, at 10 m. to 50 m. distances without hesitation.
How to see the dolphins
I was lucky as so many of them were swimming around when I was there. But in general I believe that seeing the dolphins is not too hard as they live in the same spot all year around.
This is a very wide stretch of the Mekong about 20 Km north of Kratie. Tuk Tuk drivers offer transportation there, every guest-house will be able to get a driver for you, for about 10 $. They will wait for you there and bring you back.
The boat tour on the Mekong to see the Dolphins cost 7 $ to 9 $ per person depending on how many are on the boat, and it lasts for about an hour. If you don’t feel like spending this money, the Dolphins can be seen from ashore as well. Actually, I have seen them getting pretty close to the shore. So with a little patience, there is no need to go on the boat.
It’s always a fun and emotional experience to see dolphins, hearing them pushing out the air from their blowhole when they emerge for breathing and trying to guess where they will come up to snap a photo or two.
Koh Trong Island
Koh Trong is a cute 3 Km sand island situated just in front of the town. It makes for a lovely, relaxing day out, among big sandy beaches, rice fields, and Khmer fishing villages (Featured photo).
Getting there is very simple: a shared taxi boat goes back and forth from Kratie, crossing the Mekong, and takes people there for only 1000 Real (0,25 $).
On the islands a comfortable concrete-made cycling trail has been built, which is 7 to 10 Km long. It’s along this trail, in the Northern part of the island, that some beautiful small resorts have been built, with bungalows and swimming pool and all. Really a nice spot if you are looking for complete quiet and relax.
There’s no need to rent a bicycle before taking the boat, they can be rented on the island directly for 2$. Food and water can also be found with no problems, although it is always better to have your durable bottle with you to refill instead of buying another plastic one.
This is all for this post. I have noticed that guest houses and agencies do sell other kinds of tours, Eco-tours, river tours etc… but I did not have the time to stay longer and I haven’t seen or done anything else, nor I have read anything specifically amazing to do in the area beside the two activities I have described above. But you never know, if you try something different around Kratie worthy of being mentioned do let me know 😉