Angkor Wat and Angkorian Culture

A visit to Cambodia delivers experiences utterly unique – the opportunity to explore the rich cultural history of the country whilst also checking out the incredible array of birds inhabiting the ruins and surrounding forests. A number of our expert guides are also qualified Temple Guides – meaning you can explore the country’s natural history alongside its cultural wonders.

The iconic temples of Angkor are set amongst disturbed forest with permanent water sources in the ‘barays’, or moats providing habitat for kingfishers; Black-capped and Common, Cormorants, Oriental Darter, Brown Boobook, Hainan Blue Flycatcher and Forest Wagtail can be found around the site. A species list of 30 – 35 can be expected.

The Western Baray has recently proved an interesting birding location, with up to 27 River Lapwing seen in September 2012. The wonders of the temples themselves are more than worthy of a brief look as well!

There are numerous ways to combine experiences of Angkorian culture with birding in Cambodia.

  • A trip to ATT can be extended overnight to include a visit to the proposed world heritage site of Banteay Chma temple built in the 12th centuary by Jayavarman VII. The baray a few kilometers from the temple is a potential birding site.
  • 2 temples can be visited on route to Tmatboey or Prey Veng. Beng Melea though smaller in size than Angkor is a large temple in the Khmer Empire. Built by Suryavarman in sandstone from nearby quarries at Phnom Khulen in the early 12th century. It is similar in design to Angkor Wat. Extensive carving depicts scenes from Hindu mythology.
  • Koh Ker, 2 hours from Siem Reap and less than an hour from Tmatboey, dates back to the tenth century when during the reign of Jayavarman IV it was the capitol of the Khmer Empire. The temple is comprised of a premier pyramidal complex towering 7 tiered over nearby monuments, prasats and the huge baray (pool – now empty) of Rahal in the surrounding forest.
  • A short walk from the campsite at Prey Veng lies an ancient temple with few records. The entrance is overshadowed by a copse of thick bamboo making the experience all the more magical. The complex consists of an outer wall and inner area where brick monuments are framed with carved stone lintels.
  • Preah Vihear Temple about 80km North of Tmatboey and now an hour a half’s drive from Tmatboey, was built in the 9th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The earliest surviving parts of the temple date from the 10th Century when the Angkorian empire was at Koh Ker. Most of the temple was constructed during the reigns of Suryvarman I & II from 1002 to 1150. The temple remains at the centre of a dispute between Cambodia and Thailand. Historically under French colonial rule the temple was Cambodian however following the withdrawal of French forces in the fifties it became a volatile issue. An international court in 1962 ruled it belonged to Cambodia and in 2008 it was declared a world heritage site for Cambodia, which Thailand disputes. The temple lies on top of a 500m escarpment and offers fantastic views South over the forests of Preah Vihear.
  • Sambor Prei Kuk is on road from Tbeng Meancheay as you are leaving the Preah Vihear sites 30km North of Kampong Thom. The complex encompasses more than 100 brick temples scattered throughout the surrounding protected forest. Originally called Isapanura, Sambor Prei Kuk was the capitol of the Chenla during the reign of the early 7th Century King Isanarvarm and continued to be an important learning centre during the Angkorian era.


Key Species

Forest Wagtail, White-throated Rock Thrush, Black Bazza, Red-breasted Parakeet, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Asian Barred Owlet, Common Hill Myna, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Hainan Blue-flycatcher, plus other semi evergreen forest species


Accessible all year. Birds are easiest to see during the cooler, dry months of December – March when the trees have lost their leaves.


Deciduous dipterocarp forest with semi-evergreen forest patches.


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