Virachey National Park
Virachey National Park is a national park in north-eastern Cambodia. Although partly protecting flora and fauna of international conservation priority, the park is under serious threat from illegal logging in the region.
This park is one of the largest protected areas in Cambodia, stretching for 3325 sq km east to Vietnam, north to Laos and west to Stung Treng Province.
Located in some of the most deep and isolated jungles of Cambodia, Virachey is largely unexplored and holds a large assortment of wildlife, waterfalls and mountains.
The park comprises dense semi-evergreen lowlands, mountain forests, upland savannah, bamboo thickets and occasional patches of mixed deciduous forest. Most of the area lies above 400 meters up to 1,500 meters.
The park has never been fully explored and is home to a number of rare mammals, including elephants, clouded
tigers, leopards and sun bears, although your chances of seeing any of these beasts are extremely slim.
However, you’ll probably hear endangered gibbons and might spot great hornbills, giant ibises, Germain’s peacock-pheasants and other rare birds.
So important is the park to the Mekong region that it was designated an Asean Heritage Park in 2003.
However, the bad news is that it is seriously under threat from developers, and Cambodian authorities have already sold more remote regions of the park to Vietnamese rubber plantation developers.
Virachey has one of the most organised ecotourism programs in Cambodia, focusing on small-scale culture, nature and adventure trekking. The program aims to involve and benefit local minority communities.
All treks into the park must be arranged through the Virachey National Park Eco-Tourism Information Centre in Ban Lung. The park offers two- to eight-day treks led by English- speaking, park-employed rangers.
Private operators offer tours in the park buffer zone but are forbidden from taking tourists into the park proper.
However, private tour companies can be useful in setting things up in advance with park staff, who are not always responsive.
The signature trek is an eight-day, seven-night Phnom Veal Thom Wilderness Trek. It starts from Ta Veng with an overnight homestay in a Brau village. The trek then goes deep into the heart of the Phnom Veal Thom grasslands, an area rich in wildlife such as sambar deer, gibbon, langur, wild pig, bear and hornbill.
Trekkers return via a different route and pass through areas of evergreen forest. The price includes transport by moto to the trail head, park admission, food, guides, porters, hammocks and boat transport. Prices drop the larger the group. There are also one- and two-night treks available in the park.
Banlung, the capital of Rattanakiri province, can be reached by bus from Phnom Penh. This takes about 12 hours. Virachey National Park is 50km away from Banlung.
During dry season it takes roughly 1 hour to get there by car or 1 ˝ hours to get there by motorbike. During rainy season the drive takes about 4 ˝ to 5 hours due to the road conditions.