Cruising through Cambodia along my favorite river ever, the Mekong, I stopped for a couple of nights in Kratie. It was going to be only one night but life by the Mekong is so peaceful that you always want to stay one more night. It turns out that in this part of the Mekong river live 75 Irrawady dolphins. Only 75 live between Kratie and the Lao border, it is an endangered species. There are more in other countries but only these in Cambodia.
Fifteen km North of Kratie is where you have to go and everybody tells you so, from to the Lonely Planet to the guesthouse manager. I am always a bit wary of this animal spotting tours/expeditions because either you don’t get to see the beast or it’s crowded with other tourists snapping photos just like you. None of that happened. Since I’m of the late-sleeper chronotype, I didn’t go at sunrise but at around 2PM, when it’s hottest. Best ever, I was almost the only tourist dolphin spotting at the time and I saw loads of them.
At first it’s a bit strange, you don’t know what to look for and the boat driver shoos you to show you where the dolphins are but of course, when you have turned in his direction and then to the direction he’s pointing at, they are gone. But then you start hearing it, when they come out to breath. The sound of them exhaling is what you should be listening for. Looking is almost useless because you don’t know where they are going to surface.
And the water comes alive with dolphins around you everywhere, they are pretty shy and don’t come close to the boat when the engine is on but the boat driver turns it of and goes on with the oar. At some point there was dolphins on either side of the boat and I didn’t know which way to look. I was in awe, it was absolutely beautiful.
And I will leave you with a book recommendation: Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardines’s Last chance to see.
Oh, and they say also that Kratie has some of the most beautiful Mekong sunsets. I let you be the judge of that.