Explore Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago with Song Saa Foundation

Join the new ‘Journeys of Change’ tours to find out how the Song Saa Foundation is making a positive impact on the people and places of Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago

Fancy an unforgettable trip to Cambodia’s southern coastal region? The Song Saa Foundation, an initiative of the luxury eco resort of Song Saa Private Island, has launched a new programme of fascinating tours in this generally undiscovered region. The ‘Journeys of Change’ tours allow visitors to get first hand experience of the Foundation’s charity projects across the Koh Rong Archipelago.

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The region itself is a beautiful mix of palm-fringed beaches, coral reefs and dense tropical rainforest, all home to a vibrant range of animal and marine life, and indigenous Khmer communities. The Song Saa Foundation runs a number of charity projects in the region to improve the lives of local people and help protect precious species and habitats. On a four-day ‘Journeys of Change’ tour, visitors can see exactly how these projects are making a positive impact in Koh Rong, while using the luxury eco resort of Song Saa Private Island as their base.

Accommodation on the tour

All tour bookings include a four-night stay in a Jungle Villa in Song Saa Private Island (twin share), complete with private pool and sea views. The tour price also includes all drinks and meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There are several opportunities during the tour for guests to spend some time at their leisure and enjoy the spa and water-sport facilities on offer. The multi award-winning luxury resort is considered a leader in sustainable tourism due to its continued commitment to reducing waste and energy use, recycling and reusing wherever possible, and being fair employers that support the local community and local livelihoods. (You can find out more about their sustainability credentials here).

Tour itinerary

Day 1: Boat transfer from Sihanoukville; welcome drinks at Song Saa and introduction to the programme

Day 2: Introduction to Khmer words and customs; island safari around Koh Bong and Koh Ouen; Khmer fishing village encounter including participation in an education workshop with the Foundation’s youth environment group, the Song Saa Sea Turtles

Day 3: Boat of Hope Voyage – join the monthly outreach programme visiting communities across the archipelago to offer clinics and deliver nutritional support. Lunch will be a special picnic on the beautiful 5-mile beach.

Day 4: Guests can pick a morning and an afternoon activity from the following: Marine conservation encounter (help the work of the conservation team in the islands’ marine reserve); Rainforest conservation encounter (work alongside Foundation staff as they survey the surrounding rainforest); Garden to Plate cuisine experience (learn the art of sustainable food growing and Khmer cooking); The World is Your Basket (learn how to make a traditional Khmer basket).

Day 5: Spend the morning at leisure or taking part in one the activities listed above; boat transfer back to Sihanoukville.

Dates, prices and booking

The four-day tour costs £980, which includes accommodation on a full-board basis, speedboat transfers, and all charity project excursions and activities. Tours take place 16-20 of each month in June, July, August and September 2014. For booking and further information visit www.songsaa.com or email: reservations@songsaa.com. For full information about the Song Saa Foundation and its work visit www.songsaafoundation.org.

Recommended for… Those looking to get involved with charitable projects in Cambodia, but who only have limited time

Be aware that… Flights to Cambodia are not included in the tour price

‘Good’ credentials:

  • 100% of tour fees go towards continuing the charitable work of the Song Saa Foundation in Cambodia
  • Stay at a leading sustainable eco resort
  • Join and support marine conservation, rainforest conservation, and community charity projects
  • Tour groups kept to a maximum of 10 people to ensure minimal impact


(Please note: Google Marps marker is only an approximate indiction of location)

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Elephant Valley Project needs your help!

The Elephant Valley Project and ELIE (the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment), in Mondulkiri, Cambodia, has launched an urgent fundraising appeal to help secure the future of three of its much-loved resident elephants.

elephants at Elephant Valley ProjectEasy Rider, Gee Nowl and Milot are rescue elephants who have been living a restful and happy life in the wild environs of the Elephant Valley sanctuary. They were originally loaned to the project on a short-term basis by their owner but ended up staying for four years. Now their owner has decided the project must purchase the elephants to keep them for good, or they face an uncertain future (the EVP helps domestic elephants who have been forced to live an unnatural lifestyle working on the land or in the tourism industry).

The elephants cost a huge $22,000 EACH to purchase but buying them outright will ensure they live out their days in the sanctuary. It will also free up three more ‘rental’ spaces for other domesticated elephants in need of respite. The owner has given EVP a deadline of the end of the year to buy the elephants, so the race to raise the funds is on!

Donate now and secure their future

You can help secure a happy future for Easy, Gee Nowl and Milot – beautiful, gentle creatures – by visiting the EVP fundraising pages to read the story of each elephant and DONATE NOW! (Please note, there is a fundraising page for each elephant, but we recommend you give equally to all three and show your support for such a brilliant project!).

Donate for EASY RIDER / Donate for GEE NOWL / Donate for MILOTElephant at Elephant Valley Project

Goodtrippers visited the Elephant Valley Project back in January 2011 – it even inspired us to start Goodtrippers! – so we know from personal experience what a great project this is, and what wonderful animals Easy Rider, Gee Nowl and Milot are. The EVP is urging everyone who has visited the project, or anyone who loves animals, to help raise funds by either donating individually, organising a sponsored event, even running a ‘Drink to get TRUNK’ evening at their local pub – they are currently pulling together a fundraising pack with ideas on how you can help get friends, family, workmates and neighbours involved in raising the cash. Email eliefundraising@gmail.com for more information.

To read more about the work of ELIE and the Elephant Valley Project, plus pictures and stories of the elephants themselves, visit www.elephantvalleyproject.org.

Read the Goodtrippers review of our week volunteering on the Elephant Valley Project here.

Elephants at Elephant Valley Project



Soria Moria Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, Wat Bo Road, Salakamrouk, Siem Reap, Cambodia

T: +855 (0) 63 964 768 | E: booking@thesoriamoria.com


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This contemporary boutique hotel in the heart of Siem Reap (your base for the Angkor temple complex) boasts a real commitment to responsible travel – environmental practices help reduce energy consumption and waste, but it’s the hotel’s positive impact on the local community (including its staff – through the employee partnership scheme it’s Cambodia’s only employee-owned hotel!) that makes Soria Moria so ‘Good’. The hotel partners several local projects and makes it easy for guests to get involved. It’s surprisingly peaceful considering its location – you’re never more than a 5-10min walk from the restaurants, markets, bars and other attractions of Siem Reap.

Accommodation: Rooms are spacious, sleek and modern with all the mod-cons (large western-style en-suite bathrooms, satellite TV, mini-bar etc). Rates range from approx. US$40-60 per night including breakfast and pick-up service.

Food and drink: The fusion restaurant is very good (we enjoyed the breakfast buffet and one evening meal during our stay) but the dishes are (perhaps) a little on the small side (we were probably getting too used to large and cheap street snacks!). The small and friendly Rooftop Bar was fantastic for inexpensive cocktails – the list is extensive and there are regular promotions running (including a $1 Night with all food and drinks at that price – really!). Sipping a cosmopolitan while watching the sunset and enjoying the panoramic views from the rooftop are some very happy memories that have stuck in the mind…

Facilities: While you wait for your tuk-tuk, you can relax in the light and airy hotel lobby where a small shop sells Fair Trade and charity project hand-crafted souvenirs. The hotel also offers traditional Khmer massage and spa treatments, and a ‘fitness room’ (we didn’t visit but I believe it’s like a very small gym if you’re desperate for that sort of thing while on holiday). And for a bit of Vegas-style indulgence you could try the Rooftop Bar’s jacuzzi!

Recommended for… Those who want a peaceful stay (with all the mod-cons) within the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap

Be aware that… The feel is quite European (the founder is Norwegian) so maybe not for you if you’re looking for a real Cambodian experience

‘Good’ credentials:

  • An Employee Ownership Scheme allows local employees to own shares in the business (currently a 51% stake with plans to increase in the future); locals are paid a decent wage and benefits package
  • A training programme in partnership with three local NGOs (Anjali House, Sangkheum Centre for Children, NEDO) allows young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to work and train within the hospitality industry
  • The Soria Moria Higher Education Programme sponsors currently support 12 students
  • Soria Moria supports a number of local organisations and NGOs, promoting them to guests and selling local Fair Trade and NGO products in the hotel’s shop
  • They encourage guests to donate clothing and other items (especially if you need to make room in your suitcase!) in their collection boxes. Items are then distributed to poor families in the community.
  • Electricity and water consumption are reduced wherever possible
  • Bottles, cans and cardboard are recycled (juice cartons are crafted into wallets!)
  • The kitchen’s cooking oil is recycled and given to Angkor Children’s Hospital to be used for Bio diesel for their generator
  • Food waste is given to local pig farmers
  • Soria Moria sells Love Cards and rents White Bicycles on a non-commission basis with all proceeds going towards education projects


(Date of visit: January, 2011)

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Elephant Valley Project, Sen Monorom, Cambodia

Elephant Valley Project

Sen Monorom, Moldulkiri Province, Cambodia

T: +855 (0) 99696041 (in Cambodia) / E: evpbookings@gmail.com


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The Elephant Valley Project is great, both as a sanctuary for previously badly treated domestic elephants, and as a provider of jobs for the local Bunong community in northern Cambodia. I definitely recommend you stay for at least a week and volunteer, but it’s worth pointing out what’s involved…this is hard work, in a remote location!

The project was founded by Englishman Jack Highwood – reassuringly enthusiastic (and mildly eccentric to do such a thing), he doesn’t suffer fools and (rightly so) expects everyone to get their hands dirty helping with the various jobs around the place. Do not moan about the lack of mobile phone reception, spiders in your bungalow or that it’s too hot to work (as two Aussie princesses discovered to their regret!). However beautiful the valley is, and awesome the elephants are, this is not a holiday resort!

Work: Get stuck in to whatever jobs Jack tells you to do as you’ll have a much more rewarding experience anyway. We spent several happy afternoons working with the rest of the volunteers (around 12 at any one time) sorting out reclaimed timber to build a new bungalow, therefore expanding the opportunities for eco-tourism (a vital way to raise funds). The deal is, you work at least 3-4hrs each day then you can spend the rest of the day at leisure or (more importantly) watching the elephants in their natural environment. You can follow the mahouts routine and depending on the time of day, you could be watching them bathe in the river or being fed. On your first day Jack will introduce everyone to the project, the elephants (there were about seven in their care when we visited) and the mahouts. He’ll no doubt get you chopping up banana plants to feed them, but by no means expect to be touching or riding the elephants – this isn’t a zoo and Jack (and his team, including a vet) believe it’s cruel. These elephants have been mishandled in the past and they’re being cared for in a safe, natural environment and encouraged to act like elephants again.

Volunteering stints vary but can include anything from a day trip or one week stay, to a month or more. Jack welcomes anyone willing to help out but do let him know if you have any special skills that may be of use.

Accommodation: The cute, thatched bungalows were a very pleasant surprise, and worthy of any eco resort! Jack has installed western-style plumbing, fans and a generator that remains on for 3hrs a night. Just don’t be scared of the creepy-crawlies that you may be staying with (with had at least three large Huntsman spiders and a brown scorpion – all part of the fun!). If you pay less (or offer to work full-time in exchange for food and board) you’ll be sleeping in a hammock in the living room.

Food: All food is included and the local chef cooks a communal meal every night (mostly excellent Khmer cuisine) and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast is also communal and involves the excellently strong Cambodian coffee.

Recommended for… A real and genuine experience (there is no fake feel of ‘voluntourism’ on this project) of working with local people on a great project – and the wonder of observing (now) happy elephants!

Be aware that… We booked a week’s stay but you only get to live on the project for 5 out of the 7 nights (first night in Phnom Penh and final night in a bizarre hotel in Sen Monorom). All accommodation is paid for but it would have been nice to stay in the valley for as much as possible (especially if staying for much longer-term placements – fellow volunteers who were there for several weeks found the to-ing and fro-ing a little wearing…).

‘Good’ credentials:

  • The project provides much needed employment for local people in this very rural area
  • Visitors and volunteers are never allowed to touch or ride the elephants, ensuring that the animals are free from stress and allowed to behave naturally
  • The project is part of the ELIE (Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment) which provides veterinary care for domestic elephants and education and support for the people who rely on them. Supporting the local communities helps them keep the forest and therefore the elephants habitat. More info about ELIE can be found here
  • The project provides free universal medical coverage to the village of Putrom and aims to employ one adult from 50% of the families in the village
  • They continue researching, monitoring and providing veterinary care to the elephants across the Moldulkiri province.


Date of visit: January, 2011


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The River Garden Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The River Garden (Hotel and Bar/Restaurant)

(near) River Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia


Open to the public 7am – late, 7 days a week

You could almost get lost trying to find The River Garden – the website gives a location but no exact address (it’s near the River Road) – but take a tuk-tuk as it only takes 5 minutes from the center of Siem Reap. We went on a Tuesday which was a stroke of luck – turns out that’s ‘Teapot Tuesday’ when the cafe serves a small selection of cocktails in pretty Khmer teapots (and only for around £5)! We daintily drank Long Island Ice Tea and their own special (i.e. strong!) Green Frog (named after a recent species discovery in the mountains) in the lovely private garden and pool setting.

Food: The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks – a mix of Khmer cuisine, Asian dishes and western comfort food. (Their chocolate brownies are named ‘the finest in Siem Reap’!). The bar serves beer, wine, cocktails, juices and smoothies.

The kitchen also runs the popular ‘Cooks in Tuk Tuks’ cooking lessons which involve a trip to the local market to source produce.

The River Garden is also a hotel with a select few chalets available (if you’ve used the accommodation, please tell us what you thought via the comments board below or send in your own blog post. Similarly, they also arrange ‘voluntourism’ packages – tell us your experience if you’ve been on one).

Recommended for… Visiting on a Tuesday if you like civilised (and cheap!) cocktails

Be aware that… If you’re walking there, be prepared to be walking along some very long roads with no signs

‘Teapot Tuesday’s at The RiverGarden

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Staff are well-paid with additional employment benefits to the Cambodian required standard
  • General rubbish is a problem in Siem Reap so The River Garden work with the local community to clean up the surrounding streets – children who bring 5 kilos of rubbish to their English or dance classes at the local pagoda, get in for free (this is popular).
  • They compost waste from the kitchen and the chickens to use in the garden – they also teach the local community how to improve their own soil through composting.
  • The River Garden staff uniforms, and any other sewing needs, are provided by a local sewing lady and her family business ‘The Tin Shed’ (which was soon to be demolished by the local government)
  • English-speaking visitors are invited to volunteer a couple of hours a time to teach English to local monks and school children


Date of visit: January, 2011


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