custom school group & youth adventure travel specialists

Cambodge

  • A group of young inquisitive Cambodian boys&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Donna Lawrence</i>

    The safety of our young travellers is our number one priority

    Our commitment to provide a proper duty of care guides everything we do

    World Youth Adventures has an unblemished record in the operation of school & youth adventures

    We will only operate tours in accordance with strict operational standards that have built our reputation as leaders in the student travel industry

    Every tour is underpinned by an industry leading risk assessment plan that exceeds the benchmark standard in Australia, New Zealand, the UK as well as the USA and Canada

    Three decades of tailoring successful student expeditions adds another dimension to the overall student experience

    Thinking about a trip to Cambodia - ask about our Price & Value Guarantee

    Thanks to careful management and thorough consultation with local partners our track record is exemplary

    Our industry leading risk management procedures have become a skill that we continue to refine

    All of our school group experts are highly trained and experienced consultants who have safety as their number one priority

    Expert leaders, risk assessments, quality inclusions and your financial security all come standard when travelling with World Youth Adventures

    Learn more about our safety practices on our Safety page

    A bear at Phnom Tamao Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Julie Miller</i>

    World Youth Adventures is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability

    To reduce the amount of carbon producing transport we use on our Cambodia trips we design our itineraries to use environmentally friendly modes of transport whenever possible - such as cyclos, city walks, bicycles and electric cars.

    We are committed to hiring local Cambodian crew and guides, paying them competitive wages, providing them with opportunities for self-development and ample training in health, safety and environmental issues.

    We encourage our travellers to dress conservatively and appropriately to avoid offending the local people, especially when visiting temples and pagodas.

    World Youth Adventures has assisted many Community Projects for schools in Cambodia. Improving local school, tasks which include painting, cleaning, constructing and planting, improved the learning environment for local children and created a focal centre for the entire community.

    Over the past decade World Expeditions’ travellers have raised AUD$280,000 for the Free the Bears Fund. The money has entirely funded the best medical vet clinic in South East Asia located in Phnom Tamao. It has entirely funded the Bear Discovery Education Centre in Cambodia that local schools visit to educate students about the bears and the dangers they face. It has directly funded the release of over twenty-five dancing bears in India. It has built three night dens in the India rehabilitation centre which helps the bears in the transition from a caged to freedom in their large open rehabilitation centres. It has bought three vehicles in India to help transfer between the two rehabilitation centres in India. It has contributed to full renovations in the Luang Prabang and Phnom Penh rehabilitation centres.

    Well-defined environmental plans exist on every trip within Cambodia

    Learn more about our commitment, and view our free Responsible Travel Guidebook, on our Responsible Travel Page

  • Bass relief work in a temple at angkor Wat&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Sue Badyari</i>

    Angkor Wat: Without doubt the ancient Khmer temples of Angkor Wat, located near Siem Reap, is the most important tourist destination in Cambodia. Built for King Suryavarman in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is a shining symbol of Cambodia and even appears on the countries flag. Whether your school is wanting to learn more about Angkor Wat's history or simply looking for an alternative way to experience this fascinating relic of classical Khmer architecture. World Youth Adventures can assist be ensuring knowledgeable local guides help bring Angkor Wat to life for your students and even provide fascinating ways to experience the various temples on bike or on foot.

    Killing Fields: Bombed during the war in Vietnam, Cambodia was soon after ruled by the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot. This period of approximately ten years during the 1970's was extremely violent and resulted in many Cambodians fleeing to Western countries via border camps established in Thailand. In 1992 the United Nations assisted Cambodia in conducting democratic elections. One of the ugly legacies of this period is the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh, which documents the brutality of this period in Cambodian

    Phnom Penh is the present-day capital of Cambodia. The city suffered much during the long war years and the subsequent abandonment from the Khmer Rouge but today its wide, riverside boulevards are bustling with activity. Phnom Penh never became a thoroughly colonial city but it has a unique blend taken from Asian and French traditions. The story of the capital of Cambodia dates back to an event in the year 1327. It is said that a rich widow named Don Penh found a tree with five Buddha’s in it. She thus founded a pagoda Wat Phnom Don Penh, the monastery on the Hill of Lady Penh. In 1434 the city founded years earlier by King Ponhea Yat was completed and in 1866 became the capital. Today Phnom Penh is a bustling city built at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The city is reminiscent of its French colonial days reflected in the evocative European architecture.

    Very little is known about prehistoric Cambodia. Skulls and human bones found at Samrong Sen date from 1500 BC, and suggest that Cambodians at that time resembled the Cambodians of today. The Khmer people were among the first inhabitants of South East Asia. They were also among the first in this region to adopt religious ideas and political institutions from India and to establish centralised kingdoms comprising large territories. The earliest known kingdom in the area, Funan, flourished from around the 1st to the 6th century. This was succeeded by Chenla, which controlled large parts of modern Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

    Between the 6th and 8th centuries, Cambodia was a collection of competing kingdoms, ruled by autocratic kings who legitimised their rule through hierarchical caste concepts borrowed from India. The Khmer Empire grew out of these remnants, becoming firmly established in 802 when Jayavarman II (reigned c790-850) declared independence from Java and proclaimed himself a devaraja, or “god-king”. He and his followers began a series of conquests that formed an empire which flourished in the area from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

    In terms of cultural accomplishments and political power, this was the golden age of Khmer civilisation. The great temple cities of the Angkorian region, located near the modern town of Siem Reap, are a lasting monument to the greatness of Jayavarman II's successors. (Even the Khmer Rouge, who looked on most of their country's history and traditions with hostility, adopted a stylised Angkorian temple for the flag of Democratic Kampuchea.)

    Around the 13th century, monks from Sri Lanka introduced Theravada Buddhism to Southeast Asia. The religion spread and eventually displaced Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism as the popular religion of Angkor; however it was not the official state religion until 1295; when Indravarman III took power.

    The Khmer Empire was Southeast Asia's largest empire during the 12th century. The empire's center of power was Angkor, where a series of capitals were constructed during the empire's zenith. In 2007 an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world with an urban sprawl of 1,150 square miles. The city, which could have supported a population of up to one million people and Angkor Wat, the best known and best-preserved religious temple at the site, still serve as reminders of Cambodia's past as a major regional power.

    After a long series of wars with neighboring kingdoms, Angkor was sacked by the Ayutthaya Kingdom and abandoned in 1432 because of ecological failure and infrastructure breakdown. This led to a period of economic, social, and cultural stagnation when the kingdom's internal affairs came increasingly under the control of its neighbours. By this time, the Khmer penchant for monument building had ceased.

    The court moved the capital to Longvek where the kingdom sought to regain its glory through maritime trade. The first mention of Cambodia in European documents was in 1511 by the Portuguese. Portuguese and Spanish travellers described the city as a place of flourishing wealth and foreign trade. The attempt was short-lived however, as continued wars with Ayutthaya and the Vietnamese resulted in the loss of more territory and the destruction of Longvek in 1594. A new Khmer capital was established at Udong, south of Longvek, in 1618, but its monarchs could survive only by entering into what amounted to alternating vassal relationships with the Siamese and Vietnamese for the next three centuries with only a few short-lived periods of relative independence.

    In the 19th century, a renewed struggle between Siam and Vietnam for control of Cambodia resulted in a period when Vietnamese officials attempted to force the Khmers to adopt Vietnamese customs. This led to several rebellions against the Vietnamese and appeals to Thailand for assistance. The Siamese–Vietnamese War (1841–1845) ended with an agreement to place the country under joint suzerainty (whereby, while maintaining its autonomy, Cambodia effectively relinquished the control of its foreign affairs). This later led to the signing of a treaty for French Protection of Cambodia by King Norodom I.

    In 1863, King Norodom, who had been installed by Thailand, sought the protection of France from the Thai rule. In 1867, the Thai king signed a treaty with France, renouncing suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which officially became part of Thailand. (The provinces were ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty between France and Thailand in 1906.) Cambodia continued as a protectorate of France from 1867 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina, though occupied by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945.

    In 1941, the French governor-general of Japanese-occupied Indochina, Admiral Jean Decoux, placed 19-year-old Prince Norodom Sihanouk on the Cambodian throne. The French authorities assumed young Sihanouk would be pliable, but this proved to be a major miscalculation. In late 1952, King Sihanouk dissolved the fledgling parliament, declared martial law and embarked on his ‘royal crusade’, a travelling campaign to drum up international support for his country’s independence. Cambodian independence was proclaimed on 9 November 1953, ending French control of Indochina.

    The post-independence period was one of peace and prosperity. It was Cambodia’s golden era, a time of creativity and optimism. Phnom Penh grew in size and stature, the temples of Angkor were the leading tourist destination in Southeast Asia and Sihanouk played host to a succession of influential leaders from across the globe.

    In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father in order to participate in politics and was elected prime minister. Upon his father's death in 1960, however, Sihanouk again became head of state, taking the title of prince. As the Vietnam War progressed, Sihanouk adopted an official policy of neutrality in the Cold War, although he was widely considered to be sympathetic to the communist cause. Sihanouk allowed the Vietnamese communists to use Cambodia as a sanctuary and a supply route for their arms and other aid to their armed forces fighting in South Vietnam. Members of the government and army became resentful of Sihanouk's ruling style as well as his tilt away from the United States.

    On 30 April 1970, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia, ousting Sihanouk, and with the intent of flushing out thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. As a result of the invasion, the Vietnamese communists dug deeper into Cambodia, further destabilising the Lon Nol government. Cambodia’s tiny army never stood a chance and within the space of a few months, Vietnamese forces overran almost half the country. As they gained control of Cambodian territory, the Vietnamese communists imposed a new political infrastructure, which was eventually dominated by the Cambodian communists we now refer to as the Khmer Rouge. Between 1969 and 1973, the Republic of Vietnam and U.S. forces bombed Cambodia in an effort to disrupt the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge.

    The Communist insurgency inside Cambodia continued to grow, aided by supplies and military support from North Vietnam. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary asserted their dominance over the Vietnamese-trained communists, many of whom were purged. By 1973, the Khmer Rouge were fighting battles against government forces with little or no North Vietnamese troop support, and they controlled nearly 60% of Cambodia's territory and 25% of its population. The Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh surrendered on 17 April 1975, just five days after the US mission evacuated Cambodia.

    Upon taking Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge implemented one of the most radical and brutal restructurings of a society ever attempted; its goal was pure revolution, untainted by those that had gone before, to transform Cambodia into a peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative. Within days of the Khmer Rouge coming to power, they changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The new regime modeled itself on Maoist China during the Great Leap Forward, forcing the entire population of Phnom Penh and provincial towns, including the sick, elderly and infirm, to march into the countryside and work as slaves for 12 to 15 hours a day. Disobedience of any sort often brought immediate execution. Currency was abolished and postal services ground to a halt. The country cut itself off from the outside world.

    Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population). This era gave rise to the term “Killing Fields”, and the prison Tuol Sleng became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated.

    In November 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia in response to border raids by the Khmer Rouge, toppling the Pol Pot government. As Vietnamese tanks neared Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge fled westward with as many civilians as it could seize, taking refuge in the jungles and mountains along the Thai border. The Vietnamese installed a new government led by several former Khmer Rouge officers, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had defected to Vietnam in 1977.

    In opposition to the newly created state, a government-in-exile referred to as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) was formed in 1981 from three factions. This consisted of the Khmer Rouge, a royalist faction led by Sihanouk, and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front. The crimes of the Khmer Rouge were swept aside to ensure a compromise that suited the realpolitik of the day.

    For much of the 1980s Cambodia remained closed to the Western world, save for the presence of some humanitarian aid groups. Government policy was effectively under the control of the Vietnamese, so Cambodia found itself very much in the Eastern-bloc camp. The economy was in tatters for most of this period, as Cambodia, like Vietnam, suffered from the effects of the US-sponsored embargo.

    In 1984, the Vietnamese overran all the major rebel camps inside Cambodia, forcing the Khmer Rouge and its allies to retreat into Thailand. From this time the Khmer Rouge and its allies engaged in guerilla warfare aimed at demoralising its opponents. Tactics used by the Khmer Rouge included shelling government-controlled garrison towns, planting of thousands of mines in rural areas, attacking road transport, blowing up bridges, kidnapping village chiefs and targeting civilians. The Vietnamese, for their part, laid the world’s longest minefield, known as K-5 and stretching from the Gulf of Thailand to the Lao border, in an attempt to seal out the guerillas.

    The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin saw the Cold War draw to a close. It was the furthest-flung Soviet allies who were cut adrift first, leaving Vietnam internationally isolated and economically crippled. In September 1989, Vietnam announced the withdrawal of all of its troops from Cambodia. Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia to end the resulting civil war, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a Paris Comprehensive Peace Settlement. The UN was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

    In 1993, Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia, but all power was in the hands of the government established after the UNTAC-sponsored elections. The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 by a coup d'état led by the co-Prime Minister Hun Sen against the noncommunist parties in the government. Many of the noncommunist politicians were murdered by Hun Sen's forces. In recent years, reconstruction efforts have progressed and led to some political stability through a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

  • The saffron robed monks at Angkor Wat&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Donna Lawrence</i>

    Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia, which is practised by more than 96 percent of the population. The Theravada Buddhist tradition is widespread and strong in all provinces, with an estimated 4,392 monastery temples throughout the country. The vast majority of ethnic Khmers are Buddhist, and there are close associations between Buddhism, cultural traditions, and daily life. Adherence to Buddhism generally is considered intrinsic to the country's ethnic and cultural identity.

    Islam is the religion of the majority of the Chams and Malay minorities in Cambodia. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis of the Shafi'i school and a great number reside in the Kampong Cham Province. Currently there are more than 300,000 Muslims in the country.

    One percent of Cambodians identify as being Christian, of which Catholics make up the largest group, followed by Protestants. There are currently 20,000 Catholics in Cambodia, which represents 0.15% of the total population. Other denominations include Baptists, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Apostolic or United Pentecostals, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    At first glance, Cambodia appears to be a nation of shiny, happy people, but beneath the surface it is a country of evident contradictions. Light and dark, rich and poor, love and hate, life and death—all are visible on a journey through the kingdom. Most telling of all is the evidence of the nation’s glorious past set against the more recent tragedy of its present.

    Angkor is everywhere: on the flag, the national beer, cigarettes, hotels and guesthouses—anything and everything. It’s a symbol of nationhood and fierce pride, and has withstood the country’s turbulent political and social times.

    For many Cambodians, life is centered on family, faith and food, an existence that has stayed the same for centuries. Family is more than the nuclear family we now know in the West, it’s the extended family of third cousins and obscure aunts—as long as there is a bloodline, there is a bond. Families stick together, solve problems collectively, listen to the wisdom of the elders and pool resources. The extended family comes to together in times of trouble and times of joy, celebrating festivals and successes, mourning deaths and disappointments.

    School students in Vietnam

    Always ask permission before entering a temple.

    Ask permission if you wish to photograph people.

    Respect local dress standards, particularly at religious sites. Covering the upper arms and upper legs is appropriate, although some monks will be too polite to enforce this. Always remove shoes before entering a temple, as well as hats. Nude sunbathing is considered totally inappropriate, even on beaches.

    Since most temples are maintained through donations, remember to make a contribution when visiting a temple. When visiting a Khmer home, a small token of gratitude in the form of a gift is always appreciated.

    Learn the Cambodian greeting, the sompiah (which involves pressing the hands together in prayer and bowing), and use it when introducing yourself to new friends. When beckoning someone over, always wave towards yourself with the palm down, as palm up with fingers raised can be suggestive, even offensive

    Monks are not supposed to touch or be touched by women. If a woman wants to hand something to a monk, the object would be placed within reach of the monk or on the monk’s ‘receiving cloth’.

    No matter how high your blood pressure rises, do not raise your voice or show signs of aggression. This will lead to a ‘loss of face’ and cause embarrassment to the locals, ensuring the situation gets worse rather than better.

    Exchanging business cards is an important part of even the smallest transaction or business contract in Cambodia. Get some printed before you arrive and hand them out like confetti. Always present them with two hands.

    Leaving a pair of chopsticks sitting vertically in a rice bowl looks very much like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. This is a powerful sign and is not appreciated in Asia.

    Cambodians like to keep a clean house and it’s usual to remove shoes when entering somebody’s home. It’s rude to point the bottom of your feet towards other people. Never, ever point your feet towards anything sacred, such as an image of Buddha.

    As a form of respect to the elderly or other esteemed people, such as monks, take off your hat and bow your head politely when addressing them. Never pat or touch an adult on the head—in Asia, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body.

    Don't hand out money to the locals—sometimes it is a good idea to have, for example, some postcards or stamps from your own country to give out. These always cause excitement and are of interest, particularly if of well-known or recognisable places and animals. And people love to see photos of your home and family so take along a few snapshots!

    Giant Puppet Parade (February): This colourful annual fundraising event takes place in Siem Reap. Local organisations, orphanages and businesses come together to create giant puppets in the shape of animals, deities and contemporary characters, and the whole ensemble winds its way along the Siem Reap River like a scene from the Mardi Gras.

    Chaul Chnam Khmer (Khmer New Year) (April): This is a three-day celebration of the Khmer New Year, and it’s like Christmas, New Year and a birthday all rolled into one. Cambodians make offerings at wats, clean out their homes and exchange gifts. It is a lively time to visit the country as the Khmers go wild with water in the countryside. Throngs of Khmers flock to Angkor, and it’s absolute madness at most temples, so avoid the celebration if you want a quiet, reflective Angkor experience.

    Chat Preah Nengkal (Royal Ploughing Ceremony) (May): Led by the royal family, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is a ritual agricultural festival held to mark the traditional beginning of the rice-growing season. Held in front of the National Museum, near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

    P’chum Ben (Festival of the Dead) (September): This festival is a kind of All Souls’ Day, when respects are paid to the dead through offerings made at wats. P’chum Ben lasts for several days and devout Buddhists are expected to visit seven wats during the festival.

    Bon Om Tuk (Water Festival) (October): Celebrating the epic victory of Jayavarman VII over the Chams, who occupied Angkor in 1177, this festival also marks the extraordinary natural phenomenon of the reversal of the current of the Tonle Sap River. Boat races are held on the Tonle Sap and Siem Reap Rivers, with each boat colourfully decorated and holding 40 rowers. It’s one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar, and is a wonderful, chaotic time to be in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.

    Angkor Photo Festival (November): This photo festival has become a regular on the Siem Reap calendar. Resident and regional photographers descend on the temples and team up with local youths to teach them the tricks of the trade. Exhibitions are staged all over town.

    Angkor Wat International Half Marathon (December): This has been a fixture in the Angkor calendar for 15 years. Choose from a 21 km half marathon, a 10 km fun run or various bicycle races and rides. It’s hard to imagine a better backdrop to a road race than the incredible temples of Angkor!

    Total population is 15,458,332 (July 2014), making Cambodia the 69th most populous country in the world, growing at an annual rate of 1.63%

    The median age is 24.1 years, with 31.6% aged 0-14 and 3.9% aged 65+.

    Sex ratio is 1.05 males to 1 female.

    20% of the total population live in urban areas (as of 2011), with an average annual rate of urbanisation at 2.13%.

    Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%

  • Kompong Cham once known as "The city of Gardens"&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Peter Walton</i>

    Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate with three distinct seasons:

    A rainy/monsoon season from May to October, a cool dry season from November to February, and a hot dry season from March to April.

    Average daily temperatures vary little from month to month, but April is the hottest month of the year, with average daily temperatures in Phnom Penh ranging from min 25°C (77°F) to max 35°C (95°F).

    The temperature is generally hot, although there are transitional periods, with the best time to visit being between November and January, before it gets extremely hot.

    The mean temperature between November and January is approximately 28 degrees, and between February and June 33 degrees, although humidity is high.

    Located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.

    181,035 sq km; 69,898 mi (90th largest country in the world, roughly the size of Syria or Uruguay

    The temples of Angkor Wat epitomise the classical style of Khmer architecture that has become a symbol of Cambodia&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Rachel Imber</i>

    Cambodia is ranked 145th out of 178 countries on the Environmental Performance Index (2014)—which quantifies and benchmarks performance of government environmental policies and outcomes.

    The forests of Cambodia are diverse and comprise a variety of evergreen, deciduous, mixed and mangrove forest types. Current estimates of remaining natural forest cover vary considerably, but the consensus is that about half of Cambodia’s land area has some form of forest cover. Weak governance and unsustainable resource use, shifting cultivation in the upland areas, especially in the northeast of the country, and forest clearing for agriculture are causing rapid deforestation. As a result, Cambodia’s rich natural habitats have been significantly degraded, affecting the quality and quantity of habitat for biodiversity and non-timber forest resources, both important elements of food and livelihood security.

    Cambodia’s coastal, marine and freshwater resources are also being degraded by a combination of river and coastal sedimentation (often linked to logging), conversion of mangroves, poorly managed shrimp aquaculture and salt farming and dynamite fishing. Pressures on aquatic resources and on environmentally-significant wetlands are also increasing rapidly, most notably from over-fishing, illegal fishing practices, increasing use of hazardous pesticides, and conversion of flooded forests, as well as swamp drainage for agriculture.

    As the country grows economically, more and more people gravitate towards urban centres in provinces such as Phnom Penh, Kandal, Prey Veng, and Takeo. The resulting higher quantities of untreated urban domestic sewage, industrial effluent and solid waste are polluting surface and ground water in many of Cambodia’s cities and towns. Throughout the country, sewerage system coverage is limited and/or no longer functioning, resulting in increased health risks to urban and peri-urban populations, including higher incidences of diarrhea and cholera.

    The disposal of hazardous (mostly industrial) waste is also a growing problem in Phnom Penh. There are no special landfills or other treatment facilities for toxic, hazardous or medical waste, which is often burned at open dumpsites, together with solid waste.

    Cambodia is party to a number of environmental international agreements, including: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling

    Cambodia has signed, but not ratified, the Law of the Sea treaty.

    Native flora in Phnom Penh, Cambodia&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Peter Walton</i>

    Although much of Cambodia is heavily forested, the central lowland region is covered with rice paddies, fields of dry crops such as corn (maize) and tobacco, tracts of tall grass and reeds, and thinly wooded areas. Savanna grassland predominates in the transitional plains, with the grasses reaching a height of 1.5 metres (5 feet). In the eastern highlands the high plateaus are covered with grasses and deciduous forests. Broad-leaved evergreen forests grow in the mountainous areas to the north, with trees 30 metres (100 feet) high emerging from thick undergrowths of vines, rattans, palms, bamboos, and assorted woody and herbaceous ground plants. In the southwestern highlands, open forests of pines are found at the higher elevations, while the rain-drenched seaward slopes are blanketed with virgin rainforests growing to heights of 45 metres (150 feet) or more. Vegetation along the coastal strip ranges from evergreen forests to nearly impenetrable mangroves. • Cambodia is home to a diverse array of wildlife. There are 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 176 reptile species (including 89 subspecies), 850 freshwater fish species (Tonlé Sap Lake area), and 435 marine fish species. Many of the country's species are recognised by the IUCN or World Conservation Union as threatened, endangered, or critically endangered due to deforestation and habitat destruction, poaching, the illegal wildlife trade, and farming, fishing, and forestry concessions. Intensive poaching may have already driven Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey, to extinction, and wild tigers, Eld's deer, wild water buffaloes and hog deer are at critically low numbers.

    Cambodia is home to a diverse array of wildlife. There are 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 176 reptile species (including 89 subspecies), 850 freshwater fish species (Tonlé Sap Lake area), and 435 marine fish species. Many of the country's species are recognised by the IUCN or World Conservation Union as threatened, endangered, or critically endangered due to deforestation and habitat destruction, poaching, the illegal wildlife trade, and farming, fishing, and forestry concessions. Intensive poaching may have already driven Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey, to extinction, and wild tigers, Eld's deer, wild water buffaloes and hog deer are at critically low numbers.

    Wildlife in Cambodia includes dholes, elephants, deer (sambar, Eld's deer, hog deer and muntjac), wild oxen (banteng and gaur), panthers, bears, and tigers. Cormorants, cranes, ibises, parrots, green peafowl, pheasants, and wild ducks are also found, and poisonous snakes are numerous.

    Much work is being done in this area to help conserve and protect Cambodia's unique wildlife. Wildlife conservation organisations operating in Cambodia include Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International, BirdLife International, Wildlife Alliance, and many others.

    Cambodia's landscape is characterised by a low-lying central plain that is surrounded by uplands and low mountains and includes the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the upper reaches of the Mekong River delta. Extending outward from this central region are transitional plains, thinly forested and rising to elevations of about 200 metres (650 feet) above sea level. To the north the Cambodian plain abuts a sandstone escarpment, which forms a southward-facing cliff stretching more than 320 km (200 miles) from west to east and rising abruptly above the plain to heights of 180 to 550 metres (600 to 1,800 feet). This cliff marks the southern limit of the Dângrêk Mountains.

    Flowing south through the country’s eastern regions is the Mekong River. East of the Mekong the transitional plains gradually merge with the eastern highlands, a region of forested mountains and high plateaus that extend into Laos and Vietnam. In southwestern Cambodia two distinct upland blocks, the Krâvanh (Cardamom) Mountains and the Dâmrei (Elephant) Mountains, form another highland region that covers much of the land area between the Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand. In this remote and largely uninhabited area, Mount Aôral, Cambodia’s highest peak, rises to an elevation of 1,813 metres (5,949 feet). The southern coastal region adjoining the Gulf of Thailand is a narrow lowland strip, heavily wooded and sparsely populated, which is isolated from the central plain by the southwestern highlands.

    The most distinctive geographical features are the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 sq mi) during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers (9,500 sq mi) during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia. Much of this area has been designated as a biosphere reserve.

    Angkor (1992) - Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 sq km, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

    Temple of Preah Vihear (2008) - Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre-long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.

  • World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to Cambodia to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.

    Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.


  • Capital City:  Phnom Penh
    Time zone:  Cambodia is +7 hours ahead of UTC/GMT
    Language:  Khmer (official)
    Currency:  Cambodian Riel (KHR)
    Highest Mountain:  Mount Aôral
    Highest Mountain Elevation:  1,813 mts / 5,949 ft
    Three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (double width), and blue with a white three-towered temple representing Angkor Wat outlined in black in the center of the red band; red and blue are traditional Cambodian colors. Note: this is the only national flag to incorporate an actual building in its design.