When most people go to Kirirom, they pack food and drink for a picnic along with themselves into the car and speed towards the top of the the mountain in Kirirom National Park. When you get out of the car you’re just steps away from your final destination.

Their only experience with the rest of the national park is typically the mountain road and the pine trees lining it that they see out of their window as they fly past them.

If you want to try something new on your next trip to Kirirom and spend some more time in nature taking in scenic views and listening to bird calls then you should consider trying a new hiking trail that will lead you to the top of the mountain ultimately but give you a more satisfying experience getting there.

The trail winds through Kirirom National Park and is new and untouched by humans and without waste and litter everywhere.

Kirirom National Park – officially Preah Suramarit-Kossamak Kirirom National Park – has an area of 283.8 km². It is located mostly in Phnom Sruoch district of Kampong Speu province, with smaller sections located in neighbouring Koh Kong province.

Those ages 12 and above are welcome to start walking the trail on foot from Chambok village in Chambok commune of Phnom Srouch district in Kampong Speu province.

“It is the first trail that we built with the Chambok community to use for day trips we organise. Starting from the community and hiking to the national park is about 15km distance,” said Chea Thong, founder of Vana Adventure Travel, who sponsors the trail.

Vana Adventure Travel delivers outstanding adventure tours, cycling tours and unique travel experiences for both amateur and experienced travellers.

Thong said that the tour groups who have hiked the trail have numbered from as few as five people on up to 20 people and he generally suggests that they start walking from Chambok village at 5:30am.

The hike to Kirirom National Park follows a new trail that is untouched by rubbish and litter. SUPPLIED

The 15km trek goes to a maximum altitude of 675 metres and adventurers traversing the trail will walk across three mountains that all feature different landscape views.

The hike is guided by a local community member and it isn’t uncommon to spot wildlife on the way to the top, with plenty of birds everywhere and some huge trees still standing in the park.

Chambok village itself already shines with charm to attract visitors with its waterfall, authentic local foods and ox-cart rides.

The new trail even has selfie-worthy hidden waterfalls in the forest that look like they were put there just for that reason somehow and only recently was their true purpose revealed with the invention of social media.

“For the first mountain, we are going to see and walk through bamboo forests and maybe find some birds such as hawks, wood peckers, blue rock thrush, monticola solitaries and other mountain birds,” said Thong.

Thong, who also organises half-day trips to the capital’s suburbs for wetland bird watching, Hikers begin their trek in bamboo forests which gradually become denser and thicker with larger trees and increased shade that also provide shelter for monkeys like gibbons and large birds like hornbills.

Climbing upwards through the hills those hiking the trail are grateful for the green pine forest that offers a cooler climate and serene surroundings.

“The third hill located in the national park is the pine forest that was made a national park by royal decree in 1961,” said Thong, who also arranges various other trips to different destinations in the Kingdom.

“The third hill has the best views from the walking routes through the pine forest and it’s home to a lot of bird species like green pigeons, hornbills and black-naped orioles,” he says.

With an experienced tour guide leading the way, visitors are instructed on how to handle a forest hike across various types of terrain they encounter and they are also informed about some interesting facts regarding the natural habitat and the history of the national park.

“We always tell our guests to watch their step, especially when they are climbing slopes or passing through bamboo forests where they might get injured. We point out some plant species that are beneficial and provide medicines or that are used for making furniture. There are also bat caves nearby,” said Thong.

The 15km trek goes to a maximum altitude of 675m as part of the day trip that crosses three mountains featuring different landscape views. SUPPLIED

After their long walk from Chambok village to the top of Kirirom National Park, people don’t have to worry about making the return trip on foot. When they arrive at the centre of the national park where the visitors parking lot is located they get to ride back to where they started in a car courtesy of the tour outfit.

With a packed breakfast and a box lunch cooked by a local chef for each guest included, foreigners are charged $65 and Cambodians are charged $45 for the day tour, which also includes all park entrance fees, the local trekking guide, drinking water and the return trip transportation.

If you’re going on the hike you should be sure to carry additional snacks or anything else you think you’ll need because there are no mini-marts along the trail. Wear clothing appropriate to the rainy season and be sure to use refillable water bottles and to collect any waste you create to dispose of properly.

Mountain boots, sunglasses, sun block with SPF+, mosquito repellent and a camera or smart phone for taking photos during the trip are all recommended items – and make sure your devices are fully charged and consider bringing along a power bank just in case.

The next Kirirom hiking day-trip starts at 5:30am on June 4, 2022 and the meeting place for those who want to come along will be Wat Ounalom Monastery on Sisowath Quay near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

For further details and to register for the trip, visit their Facebook page: @vanaadventuretravel or visit this link to fill out a registration form: https://bit.ly/3MMzuX5