Koh Ker and Beng Mealea

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.


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.



Birds: Black-headed Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Black-headed Woodpecker, White-throated Rock Thrush, Rufous-winged Buzzard, White-rumped Pygmy Falcon, Brown Prinia, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Burmese Shrike


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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