Ream National Park is a lush, green ecosystem, unknown to most travelers who visit Sihanoukville. Ream encompasses 210 sq km of coastal land, including mangrove forests, the Prek Tuk Sap estuary, two islands, isolated beaches, and off-shore coral reefs.
It is the most established park in Cambodia, yet officially receives no international support and development of the park is still in the early stages.
Though many travel agents in Sihanoukville offer trips to the park, it’s easy to get there on your own. The head entrance to Ream is located 18 km outside of Sihanoukville. To reach it, travel 18 km north on Route 4 through the hills, then right on Airport Road (near the naga statue). The park office is located 500m further, just opposite the entrance to the airport. Several of the rangers in the park speak English and their services are very reasonable ($2/hour). Usually a hike first goes to Meditation Mountain.
For the villagers Meditation Mountain (Phnom Samathik) is the preferred area to gather medicinal plants. They believe the plants on the mountain are endowed with extraordinary potency by genies who dwell among the boulders. Incense sticks smolder in the rock clefts to honor the spirits.
Water and Jungle Fowl
A variety of water and jungle fowl can be seen by visitors, though the park also contains rarely glimpsed species such as mouse deer (muntjac) and pangolin (spiny anteaters). Furthermore, macaques and sun bears live in the forest. Rumors persist of a tiger in the park, although none have been confirmed in recent years. Smaller felines such as the “fishing cat” can be seen along the edges of the forest. Your best chance to see most terrestrial mammals is at dawn or dusk.
A very popular and rewarding tour is a boat trip down the mangrove-lined Prek Toeuk Sap estuary. This river is salty in the dry season when seawater flows inland, while in the wet season freshwater from ponds pushes the salty water back.
Dugongs and spot-billed pelicans are just some of the wildlife that can be found in the estuary. During the months of December, January and February you can spot the white freshwater dolphin and flying fish cartwheel out of the water.
This trip is best done by a group, as the minimum rate is $35 for up to 5 people, and each one more $6.
You can also arrange longer boat trips out to the two islands in the park, Koh Ses and Koh Thmei.
The park has landscapes for anyone: mangrove forests, a mountainside waterfall, and miles of unspoilt beaches. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise with nearly 200 species living here, including herons and cranes. King cobras and pythons have been spotted, too.
Ream is under-funded and the staff are paid very little, despite the sometimes dangerous job of fending off illegal loggers and poachers. This beautiful park needs the support of tourist dollars in order to ensure it has any future at all.
There’s little food or drinking water available in the park, so ensure you have enough of your own. Basic accommodation is available.
You can reach the rangers by telephone: 012-875096.