ITINERARIES Temples & Birds: One day tours

Temples and birds; a selection of one day tours

SVC has several guides that are official Angkor Temple Guides as well as being expert Bird Guides. For a relaxed day of viewing the remote and less-visited temples in the countryside around Siem Reap with the chance of seeing some high-quality rare birds why not join us for a trip into Angkorian culture?

Of course, our guides can show you the best of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and all the Angkorian sites as well as the trips outlined below. Drop us an email to discuss your desires:

Trip 1: Koh Ker and Beng Melea

Koh Ker

Koh Ker is approximately 2 hours drive east of Siem Reap on the way to Tmatboey. It is a stunning and unique pyramidal temple built in 931AD, strikingly reminiscent of the structures built by the Central American Maya. Not only is the appearance unique but also the history, as this was the location that became the capital of the Khmer Empire away from the Angkor area for the only time in an otherwise uninterrupted 500 years. 

King Jayavarman IV, in 921AD created this new capital for reasons still much debated. It would only hold this position until 944AD however, with Jayavarman IV dying in 941AD and his son – Harshavarman II in 944, King Rajendravarman II returned the capital to the Angkor area in 944AD.

The site has only recently been thoroughly de-mined and visitor facilities are still rudimentary, so it still has an authentic feel of the remote, mysterious jungle temple.

It is situated in dry deciduous forest with some semi-evergreen forest and so also has an excellent range of birds, potentially including Black-headed and White-bellied Woodpecker, Velvet-fronted and Neglected Nuthatch, Rufous-winged Buzzard and Indochinese Bushlark. In addition our guides know the location of several pairs of the excellent White-rumped Pygmy-falcon (above), a key species to see while in Cambodia, and when searching for these you should also encounter the endearing Collared Falconet (right).

Beng Melea
It is possible to combine a visit to Koh Ker with a visit to the fabulous ruined temple of Beng Melea, which is about half an hour back towards Siem Reap. Not only is this large temple thought of as almost the blueprint for Angkor Wat, being virtually the same layout if a bit smaller, it also contains good semi-evergreen forest. This gives the birder a chance to pick up some migrants from the Himalaya during December – March, often including the difficult to connect with White-throated Rock-thrush.

Trip 2. Phnom Kulen, Kbal Spean and the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB)

The Siem Reap River originates in the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen, some 50km northeast of Siem Reap. The route passes through timeless rural Cambodian villages and countryside before we have the chance to visit a preserved area of Ironwood forest on the slopes of the mountain. This area has a good variety of birds and excellent views of species such as Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Black Baza, Red-breasted and maybe Blossom-headed and Alexandrine Parakeets.

From here we will visit Kbal Spean, walking through protected forest to see the famous carved lingas in the stream bed. These were carved in the 11th and 12th Centuries and stretch over several hundred metres of river, sanctifying it for the river’s journey into the fertile lowlands and Tonle Sap.

There is also the opportunity to visit the ACCB, the first nature conservation and endangered wildlife rescue and breeding centre in Cambodia. Implemented through a partnership between Munster Zoo and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP) the centre aims to promote the rescue and rehabilitation of certain native Cambodian wildlife and to establish a conservation breeding program to enable reintroduction of native species. This is carried out in conjunction with capacity-building approaches and alternative livelihood works that aim to prevent the loss of species while improving the living standards of rural Cambodians. SVC shares this latter approach and we work closely with ACCB wherever we can. A tour around the facility allows visitors the rare opportunity to see some exceptionally rare, shy and seldom seen Cambodian mammals, birds and reptiles, all rescued after having been taken from the wild. At present captive birds include a Giant Ibis, Greater and breeding Lesser Adjutants, breeding Green Peafowl and four species of raptor.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher, captive breeding male Green Peafowl and Lesser Adjutant, Silvered Langur