Occupying the 35km-wide peninsula northwest across the Gulf of Kompong Som from Sihanoukville, this is one of Cambodia's largest and most biodiverse national parks. Alas, some 75% of the park has been sold off. Developments include a US$3.5 billion Chinese-run tourism project that has swallowed up roughly the park's western third. Hope has arrived in the form of Wildlife Alliance, which has a concession to manage 10% of the park and has set up the groundbreaking Cardamom Tented Camp.
Encircled by mangroves and beaches, Botum Sakor National Park is home to a profusion of wildlife, including Asian elephants, fishing cats, pangolins, slow loris, sun bears, hog badgers and hog deer. But their habitat is fast disappearing because of the rampant development in the park.
Hundreds of people were evicted from the area to build the Chinese tourism project, dubbed Dara Sakor. The project includes the giant Dara Sakor Airport and a four-lane highway through the national park that provides access to the Koh Sdach Archipelago. Meanwhile, Cambodian businessman Ly Yong Phat has established a rubber plantation on a large central swathe of the park.
Trail-bikers and intrepid moto riders can bypass the newer highway and take the rugged road around the park’s east coast via the scenic fishing village of Thmor Sor, which is largely built on stilts over the alluvial bay, stretching almost 1km out to sea.
Also on the largely undeveloped eastern side, boats hired in Andoung Tuek can take you up into four mangrove-lined streams that are rich with wildlife, including the pileated gibbon, long-tailed macaque and black-shanked douc langur. The streams are Ta Op (the largest), Ta Nun, Ta Nhi and Preak Khsach. Kiem (088 795 8585) is a boat driver in Andoung Tuek, although you'll need a translator.