Cambodia is the last stronghold of a set of magnificent birds that are now so globally rare they are considered Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. This tour is a superb opportunity not just to see these incredible species, but by supporting SVCs work with community-based conservation to give them the only chance of continued survival. Most of the birdwatching takes place in open dry forest, a beautiful habitat in which to bird. One night is spent in our safari-style large tents, with the other nights at a purpose built community-eco-lodge.
The Tonle Sap grasslands support over half of the world’s Bengal Floricans. Our guides have a very good track record of finding these Critically Endangered birds and the first of the six targets should be seen within the first few hours of the trip. Whilst we are enjoying the floricans other birds we typically see include Sarus Crane, storks, Pied and Eastern Marsh Harrier, Small Buttonquail, Bluethroat and Red Avadavat. From here we will travel to the Tmatboey eco-lodge, birding in dry forest along the way. We may get a chance at our second Critical species this evening, as we try to see White-shouldered Ibis at a roost site.
Night in the community run Tmatboey eco-lodge.
Day 2. Tmatboey – Dry Forest
At Tmatboey SVC operate a scheme where the local people are paid to protect the nests of the two Critically Endangered ibis present – Giant and White-shouldered Ibis. Consequently our guides have a 100% record of finding these species for visiting birders! We will try to get good views of both species during the time we spend here. The birding is excellent and our guides have made a special effort to locate the day roosts of nocturnal species such as Spotted Wood Owl and Brown Fish Owl so that these can be seen without the loss of any sleep.
Tmatboey also supports an incredible 16 species of woodpecker including the fantastic Black-headed Woodpecker, the huge Great Slaty Woodpecker and the scarce Rufous-bellied Woodpecker. Our guides know where to find these and all of the dry forest specialties such as the recently recognised Indian Spotted Eagle, White-rumped Pygmy Falcon, Collared Falconet, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Indochinese Bushlark, Brown Prinia, Neglected Nuthatch and White-browed Fantail at this or nearby sites.
Night in Tmatboey Eco-lodge
Day 3. Tmatboey – Dry Forest
All day birding at Tmatboey, concentrating on species not seen on the previous day, or getting better views of memorable species.
Night in Tmatboey Eco-lodge
Day 4. Tmatboey, Veal Krous Vulture Restaurant
There will be the chance to do some morning birding at Tmatboey, concentrating on anything that we have not already seen before we travel to Veal Krous Vulture Restaurant. Our local guides will have already set up large safari-style tents for us to sleep in. The vultures will not be fed until the next day, so there will be time for some birding in the dry forest in the later afternoon and certain species may be easier to see here than at Tmatboey.
Night at Veal Krous tented camp
Day 5. Veal Krous Vulture Restaurant, Beng Melea and return to Siem Reap
As vulture populations have crashed across Asia Cambodia has held onto populations of the three species now considered Critically Endangered. However, owing to a decline in wild cattle populations, Cambodia’s vultures are now reliant on supplementary feeding. Joining this tour offsets the cost of running the ‘vulture restaurant’ and includes the local community in the efforts to save these impressive, macabre birds. A dead cow will be provided to the vultures and from dawn we will be able to watch the spectacle of up to eighty White-rumped and Red-headed Vultures, and sometimes also Slender-billed Vultures feeding on the carcass.
After the vultures have finished feeding we begin the four-hour return trip to Siem Reap. We will break the journey at Beng Melea, a spectacular ruined jungle-temple set in semi-evergreen forest providing a different range of birds. There is a chance of finding some scarce winter migrants from the Himalayas here, such as the difficult to see White-throated Rock-thrush.