Cambodian villagers are offering mountain bikers the chance to see remote parts of their country while helping to preserve its wildlife and combat poverty.
The off-road tours run through the remote Cardamom Mountains and aim to provide poor local loggers and poachers with an alternative, sustainable livelihood.
“For mountain bikers, the remote and unexplored mountains are a huge untapped resource,” said Mark Ellison, managing director of Cambodian tour operator Asia Adventures, which is assisting the people of Chi Pat with the community-based ecotourism project.
“If people coming here to mountain bike helps protect this beautiful environment by offering poor loggers and poachers alternative employment as guides, cooks and mechanics, that’s excellent,” he added.
Intrepid mountain bikers leave the dusty dirt roads of Chi Pat and are soon riding along old logging routes – a mix of undulating double and single track trails that are gradually being reclaimed by the surrounding vegetation – splashing through streams and wading across shallow rivers.
The trails pass through a mix of open meadow, bamboo thickets and pristine lowland rainforest, with fine views over the surrounding forested hills. Other sights include ancient burial jars hidden in cliff-side crevices, rich birdlife and the possibility of glimpsing wildlife such as elephants.