Chi Phat is a community-based tourist destination in Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district, which has been attracting both locals and foreigners since 2008.
Mountain biking, hiking, camping in the forest, kayaking tours and bathing under the area’s many waterfalls are just some of the activities that it offers to visitors.
Each year, thousands of people are drawn to the Chi Phat ecotourism community, where they are able to enjoy the pristine wilderness and commune with nature. In addition, visitor can learn about the lives of the people in the community.
“Our community was established in 2007, but at that time there were not many local visitors. Most of the holidaymakers were foreigners. At that time, trekking and hiking activities seemed to be popular with foreign guests,” said community president Orn Sovann.
He added that after a year or two, Cambodian visitors started to appear in greater number.
“The income we earn from our guests – whether domestic or international –has made a great contribution to improving the lives of the members of our community,” he said.
“In an average year, we receive between 3,200 and 3,500 guests, and almost all of them utilise local businesses in some capacity, whether as guides or cooks. They rent motorcycles, boats, kayaks, or cars, and of course we offer many different kinds of accommodation,” he added.
According to Orn Sovann, more than 600 families live in the community. The district features a wide range of natural resources and biodiversity clusters, with many reasonably priced tour packages available. Lately, bicycle tours through the community itself – to see the daily lives of the people and their farming activities – have proven to be very popular.
Of the more than 600 families in the community, more than half benefit directly from tourism, while the other half are indirect beneficiaries.
Although the number of visitors decreased in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he has noticed many old guests returning to visit lately. In addition, he said that domestic tourists seem to be paying closer attention to local attractions, perhaps due to global travel restrictions.
Sovann issued a call for more people to pay a visit to his small slice of paradise, saying an increase in visitor numbers would create more jobs for local people, and allow increased conservation of natural resources.