Virachey National Park is one of the top priority areas for conservation in Southeast Asia.
The park is located in Ratanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces in northeastern Cambodia covering an area of 3,325 km² and protecting flora and fauna of international conservation priority.
Many ethnic minority peoples live around the park.
At 3,325 square kilometers Virachey is the largest national park in Cambodia.
Together with adjacent protected areas in Laos and Vietnam collectively forms one of the largest areas of protected forest in Asia.
The human population adjacent to Virachey National Park is characterised by a high percentage of ethnic minority groups. The majority are Kreung, Kavet, Brao, Lao and Lun people. Smaller numbers of Tampuen, Kachok, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Khmer and ethnic Vietnamese people are also found in the area.
Most of these live in 60 villages, some of which were located inside what is now Virachey National Park. The reliance on natural resource use inside the protected area is critical to the survival of the local communities. The main products harvested are rattan, bamboo and malva nuts.
Hunting for food and trade occurs in the forests of Virachey National Park and although a consistent decline in wildlife populations has been observed, reports still indicate that tiger, Himalayan black bear, Malayan sun bear, guar, Sambar deer, muntjak and civet are being hunted. Turtles, monitor lizards and pangolin are the most commonly traded animals. Rabbits, forest rats and other smaller animals are usually hunted for subsistence closer to the villages.
Tours around Virachey
Trekking trips into the park and within the buffer zone around the park to minority villages can be organised from Banlung but ensure that you choose carefully. Tourism is new in this region and insensitive visits to the park and villages do more harm than good. A good start is Mr. Thon Soukhon, Warden of Ecotourism at Virachey National Park, tel: +855(0)77965196.
There are currently three tours into the National Park. They are a short tour featuring an overnight stay in the forest, a medium tour featuring a river journey into the park and an extended wilderness trek deep inside the park to the spectacular Phnom Veal Thom.
Group sizes are kept at a maximum of 8 people to reduce impacts on the villages you visit and to maintain the quality and enjoyment of your ecotourism experience. You are also more likely to see or hear wildlife in smaller groups.
Trekking in Virachey
Duration: 2 days / 1 Night
This tour is suitable for people who are new to trekking or who have limited time. It includes travel through traditional Kavet villages, agricultural land and secondary forest, overnight stay in the forest and a leisurely walk along a half-day loop trail in the park.
Duration: 4 days / 3 Nights
For the more adventurous, this tour includes a four hour river journey up a tributary of the Se San river to a small Brau village on the border of the national park, trekking in the forest and a return journey by inflatable kayak. Stay overnight in the village before commencing a two day overnight trek through a river valley inside the national park. Visitors will have the opportunity to taste the locally made rice wine before waking bright and early to kayak down the gentle O’Tabok river to its confluence with the Se San.
Extended Wilderness Trek
Duration: 6/7 days to 5/6 nights
For the serious trekker, this tour features a visit to Phnom Veal Thom, a spectacular, montane grassland deep inside the park rarely visited by tourists. It operates out of Taveng District and takes 7-8 days return. Visitors will need to be fit as trekking through deep forest for several days is demanding. Your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular scenery and the best chance of all our tours to see elusive wildlife and primary forest.
Respect the Culture
As tempting as it may be please do not purchase cultural artefacts (e.g. gongs, silver jewellery, old weavings, carvings, pipes etc) in the village. Many people need additional income and will sell off their heirlooms even if they are not happy to do so. These artefacts are an important part of the community’s cultural heritage. You can buy every day handicrafts such as baskets, mats, weavings, knives if offered – ask your guide for advice on an appropriate price.