Been In Asia blog

Spotting dolphins on the Mekong River

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Date: March 9th 2017
Traveller: Carla Rijnders
In a 190km stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos, you’re able to find around 80 Irrawaddy River dolphins. They symbolize the magnificence of the Mekong River and its continued high biodiversity.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is shy – not strange when you know that they’ve been hunted and killed by fishermen in the past – and look quite a bit different than your ordinary dolphin. They have a dark grey colour with a paler underside, round heads, and foreheads that stick out slightly over their straight mouth, and unlike their seagoing cousins, they have no beak, which makes them look more like a small whale. Instead of jumping out of the water, they make upward arches, breaking the surface of the water as they swim around in this beautiful stretch of the Mekong River. It is one of only three whale and dolphin species that occupy both fresh and marine waters. As you can imagine this makes them landing on our ‘not to miss in Cambodia’-list!

They are one of the main attractions to visit in Kratie, and even though they are described as a rare species, it’s pretty easy to catch a glimpse of these incredible creatures. However, you do need to know where to spot them and when… The best time to head out and find these endangered dolphins is by the end of the afternoon. This makes it not only a perfect time to see them, but also to enjoy a serene and relaxing sunset while cruising the Mekong River. And as only a few visitors make it to the quiets backwoods of northeastern Cambodia, it feels as if you’re the only one enjoying this spectacular view.
Discovering Kratie and its surrounding can be very easy when joining the 3 days tour.  Besides spotting the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, you’ll get to know this lovely colonial town where you can enjoy beautiful sunsets along the river! A great stop when travelling Cambodia.

At this moment the Irrawaddy dolphins are one of many endangered species. Their preferences for freshwater and near-shore marine environment make them especially vulnerable to intensive human use and abuse. That and the dam-building boom on the Mekong River have the species under pressure. There is, however, some good news as by the end of 2016, 10 new calves were discovered in the section of the Mekong River! Let’s hope this is an upward trend so that we can keep enjoy spotting these lovely animals.


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