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April 7, 2007

River Dolphins in Kratie, Cambodia


After a quick night in Phnom Penh it was an early morning bus to Kratie where I was going to see the Mekong river dolphins. I survived the bus ride which included a video of Cambodian karaoke, no one sang along. Followed by an hour long WWE video. That one seemed to be the more closely watched and reminded me of some of the kids I have seen wearing different wrestlers shirts over here.

When the bus arrived I found someone holding up a sign for the guesthouse I wanted and he led me to the hostel and got me all set up. The guy I met can’t be more than 30, but has been doing this awhile since he has a quite decent british accent and had just met an American who taught him all the latest Snoop Dog slang to try out. I was cracking up all the way, he probably knows more of what is going on back home than I do. Despite his good English the sign of the guesthouse rules were pretty much indecipherable to me. I put up a picture of them. The last place at the beach told me to “shut up the water before I left the room”. You often see some little thing off like that, but I’m not sure I know what any of these rules are talking about.

I set up my dolphin tour for the next day and another bus trip for the day after that. When I arrived at the dolphin site the a group of tourists was just leaving so I had my choice. I could pay $5 and wait for at least two more people to show up and go out on the boat with them or pay $7 and go out right away by myself. An easy choice and two minutes later I was sitting on the bow of the boat. Right away you could here the dolphins coming up to the surface for air, but it took a little while to figure out where they were. Then you would look where you heard them last and one would come up somewhere you weren’t looking. The driver motored about halfway out and then shut off the engine and would paddle around to where they were moving to. We were just getting close to a group of 4 of them when two other boats started up and headed towards us.

That scared them off and sent them a few hundred meters away. The dolphins were quite shy and not as playful as the ocean dolphins I have seen. They have much smaller dorsal fins and I couldn’t really tell, but the good pictures I have seen on the advertisements in town show that their color is actually turquoise. The three boats seems to encourage them to group up and we had a good 30 minutes of up to 8 of them together obviously doing some pack hunting as they were thrashing about in the water and all coming up together. It was still tough to get a good picture of them, but I have lots of where you can tell they just went under. Thank goodness for digital cameras and not having to worry about taking bad pictures. I ended up getting about an hour and a half of the water watching them. There were about 12 in the area so there always something going on within eyesight. It seemed like you were listening to them as much as watching since that is what you would here before you actually saw them come above the surface. The guy at the hostel said they normally only take you out for an hour so I did quite well.

I’m heading to northeast Cambodia today where I will set up for a week or so in a town called Ban Lung. There isn’t a whole lot in the town itself but there are a variety of day trips that can be done with the town in the center. Lots of waterfalls, a volcanic crate lake to go swimming in, maybe an elephant trek, and seeing some of remote tribes that live in the area. It sounds like its right up my ally and includes some of the things I didn’t get to do when I skipped Chiang Mai to come to Cambodia. I got my Laos visa while in Phnom Penh so I’ll be heading there by the 16th when my Cambodia visa is up.

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