Photo: Beach scenes at Otres Beach.

Kbal Chhay Waterfalls

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Ream National Park, which boasts 210 square kilometres of forest and mangroves, was the first national park to be inaugurated in Cambodia after the civil war. In addition to extensive mangrove forests, low hill rises and freshwater marshes, the park is dominated by the Prek Toek Sap estuary which is fed by a network of water sources that converge at the Kbal Chhay Waterfalls some 18 kilometres north of Sihanoukville town, on the other side of National Route 4.

Family fun.

Family fun.

The waterfalls are a tiered, 14-metre drop in the middle of extensive forests, with loads of food stalls, picnic spots, hammocks and local shops selling all manner of useless stuff to help you while away a very relaxing few hours in between splashes.

Waterfalls are one of those eternally popular features of Cambodia (thank goodness there are so many). Locals flock to them for weekend picnics and family outings, which creates a fun, family-oriented and predominantly gentle atmosphere. If you want to have more of the place to yourself (as we did), visit on a weekday or during the dry season when the waters slow down and are less dramatic (do make sure there are still falls at all, though).

The atmosphere takes this a whole world away from the seedy streets of Ochheuteal, and the fresh water is also a lot cleaner than the sea’s (although the litter that can be found in some spots around the site is rather off-putting).

Taking it easy.

Taking it easy, Kbal Chhay style.

The food stalls will sell you everything from grilled fish to rice cakes, as well as soft drinks and beers. Salas fringe the top tier of the falls, where dust-caked (you will be) souls can tuck in in comfort on picnic mats or swing from the hammocks in the drowsy air.

There are plenty of souvenir stands as well, selling all kinds of stuff you’ll wonder at when you get home, including shell wind-chimes and corals, which you probably should absolutely not purchase.

By 2005, 192 bird species had been recorded in and around Ream National Park, more than a quarter of the 700 species found in Cambodia. Among them the milky stork, painted stork and lesser adjutant are vulnerable, while others such as the white-bellied sea eagle, blue-tailed bee-eater, and the great slaty woodpecker have populations here, while their populations in neighbouring countries are at risk. We didn’t see any on our day out, but that’s not to say that no one else will.

Part of the Khan Prey Nup community that is home of the waterfalls.

Part of the Khan Prey Nup community that is home of the waterfalls.

The falls are 16 kilometres away from Sihanoukville, half of which is along National Route 4 and half of which is along a graded, red dirt road. Any tuk tuk will take you there. If you book with Cool Banana Tours, the return trip costs $20, and will include a small tour of the area as well if you choose. The drivers wait at the falls for you, so you don’t need to worry about getting back. There is an additional entrance fee of $1 per person.

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Location map for Kbal Chhay Waterfalls

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