Although I am sure the monks were praying early it mercifully was not broadcast across loud speaker as with some other temples so we woke gently in our temple camp site. As I stirred outside the tent for an early morning brew at dawn, so the monks were also stoking the fire in their kitchen area and preparing breakfast. We slowly broke camp and headed off (having persuaded the monks to accept a donation) to meet our guide for our kayaking trip (booked through Cambodia Discovery Trail). This part of the Mekong is famous for a pod of rare Irrawaddy fresh water dolphins and we were hopeful of spotting them.
We then paddled through an area called the floating forest – large trees looming out of the water with elaborate root systems.
We were then on open water and into the dolphin area. We were making our way to the opposite bank when lucky suddenly stopped and paddled rapidly to the other bank with us following as fast as we could. We pulled the boats onto the bank and soon saw a couple of the dolphins coming up for air then diving down again. These dolphins are shy and easily scared off but we watched for 20 minutes or so as they rose up and down. Glimpses only each time but as there are only 80-90 left in the whole Mekong river it was a privilege to see them. The fresh water dolphins have flatter noses and larger rounder heads compared to the ocean dolphins. There were around 2000 on the river but during the starvation of the Pol Pot years the local people killed them to eat and for oil – often shooting them or dynamiting them out of the water. In spite of concerted conservation efforts their numbers are still precarious but thought to have raised to around 90 last year because of good rains. With females only giving birth every 3 years if there is a year of a lot of pollution it makes a significant difference.
We then had a final hard pull directly across the river to the other bank to finish our trip. Out bikes were there waiting for us and we had just 15km along a small paved but bumpy road into the town of Kratie. We treated ourselves to a room with A/C and felt exhausted. We thought we were fit but suddenly using totally different muscles and we were wiped out again!