I love a leisurely bike ride, and we’ve done plenty of cycling while we’ve been travelling — but the 35km round trip from Kratie to Kampi was sheer physical exertion!
We hit the bumpy, dusty mud track on bicycles that’d seen better days at around 8am, hoping we’d be able to navigate our way to Kampi without a map. One thing I’ll never forget from that day is all of the smiley, happy children who were so excited to see barangs (white people); I can’t even count how many times I had to wave and shout hello during the journey. Children generally seem so much more grown up and perceptive in Cambodia, and sadly I think it’s because they’re thrown into labour at a young age by their families to try and make ends meet.
Anyway, many cans of coke and many miles later, and we finally arrived at the section of the Mekong where one of the largest pods of Irrawaddy dolphins live. We clambered onto a little brightly-coloured wooden boat and made our way to the centre of the river – and within minutes we could hear the sound of dolphins splashing in and out of the water. One was about three metres away from us at one point, and it was an incredible feeling to be so close to such a rare and beautiful creature. They’re little buggers to catch a photo of though… however after some perseverance, I did manage to get a couple of decent shots!
The Irrawaddy dolphin, or river dolphin, is now a critically endangered species and our guide told us that there are only around 55 left in the Mekong. That’s largely down to the locals who, up until recently, have been hunting them; pollution from China and Korea is another reason for their decline. The promising news is that we saw a calf during our visit, so hopefully the dolphins will continue to breed successfully, live freely and bring as much joy to others as they did to me.