Located just 18km east of Sihanoukville, Ream National Park covers 210 square kilometers of jungle, rivers, mangroves, and lush tropical islands. The park is also home to an amazing array of wildlife and marine life, including over 155 species of bird, sun bears, gibbons, pangolin, fishing cats, turtles, dolphins, and even dugongs. Here’s our guide to escaping the crowds and exploring the beautiful scenery and natural wildlife in Ream National Park on Cambodia’s southern coast.
Established by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1993, the first National Park in peacetime Cambodia is also one of the most historically important; its sandy shores and forested peaks providing the perfect location for the Vietnamese insurgence against the Khmer Rouge in 1979. In a way, it feels like Ream has changed little since then. The lush jungle and beautiful beaches are still all but untouched by tourism, and there are only a few villages and guesthouses tucked away within the confines of the park. While there is a bit more industry including oil and gas mines and a big military base, this doesn’t detract from the beauty of the park or of the sense of authentic Cambodia you get as you pass through.
What to do in Ream
These days, most visitors come to Ream National Park to connect with nature and get away from it all, and with plenty of tropical forest and coastal ecosystems to explore, it’s easy to see why. If you only have a day to spare, there are plenty of guesthouses and travel agencies in Sihanoukville who offer trekking and boat tours through the heart of the park. These are perfect for catching a glimpse of some of Cambodia’s more unusual wildlife and enjoying a unique perspective of the jungle and mangroves. Tours cost around $15 to 20 for a full day, including pick-up, transport, trekking with a guide, lunch, and an optional boat tour.
Those who fancy being a little more adventurous can also rent a moto (approx. $5/day) and enjoy the 30-minute drive down the highway to the Ranger’s Station just past Sihanoukville Airport. You can book a private trek with a guide for approx $8 per person, and either charter a boat for $35 (max 10 passengers) there, or at Ream Yacht Club.
If you have more time, it’s well worth heading to Ream Yacht Club for a spot of kayaking and chilling out on the river, or driving onto Monkey Maya to relax and enjoy the picturesque beaches that the National Park has to offer. You can also stop en-route at Ream Beach for some delicious food or a nap in a hammock, and swing by Wat Ream to check out the pagoda and the waterfalls.
Where to stay in Ream National Park
There are only a couple of guesthouses in Ream National Park. Monkey Maya, on the coast, Hidden Valley Resort and Ream Yacht Club, on the river, and Koh Thmei Resort, on a remote island, are our favorite options. Each offers a unique taste of tropical paradise, with sturdy, well-built bungalows, good views, delicious food, and spacious and comfortable bars which are perfect for chilling out after a long day exploring.
Monkey Maya has its own private beach for swimming, along with plenty of other activities including volleyball, Frisbee, fishing, and kayaking. You can also go trekking through the jungle on their well-signposted trails and discover the beauty of the National Park on your own. Monkey Maya is closed as of 2019
Ream Yacht Club offers boat tours through the river and mangroves as well as guided and self-guided kayak trips. They also have fishing, golf and free bicycles and scooters for hire so you can explore the beautiful National Park to your heart’s content.
Those who crave adventure and getting up close and personal with nature will love Koh Thmei Resort, the only guesthouse on Koh Thmei. Activities on offer include kayaking, hiking, bird watching, beachcombing, snorkeling and, of course, enjoying your own all-but-private island eco-resort!
Islands: Koh Sampouch, Koh Thmei and Koh Ses
Just past Monkey Maya on the dirt road lies Koh Sampouch, also known as Ferret Island, or, to the Chinese developers targeting the region, Prince Island in the Golden Silver Gulf. This tiny rocky island lies just a stone’s throw from the shore and has become an increasingly popular destination thanks to the raised wooden walkway that circles its colorful cliffs and rock formations and connects it to the mainland.
Ream National Park also includes the secluded islands of Koh Thmei and Koh Ses. Located just 300 meters from the mainland, Koh Thmei’s unspoiled shores are fringed with mangroves, deserted beaches, and primeval jungle. The island is a haven for nature lovers, and is home to some of the region’s most varied flora and fauna. At 40 kilometers squared it is one of the biggest islands of the coast of Cambodia, but also one of the least developed, with just one guesthouse and a smattering of local villages tucked away on its quiet shores. Its much smaller cousin, the spectacularly beautiful and uninhabited Koh Ses, is located just 1.5km south of Koh Thmei, and is also an important habitat for local wildlife.
Ream National Park Rangers Station
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. excluding public holidays
Off Highway 4 next to entrance to Sihanoukville Airport [map]
T: 012 875 096
Hidden Valley Resort & Ream Yacht Club
Ream River, Romdoul Commune [map]
T: 034 677 3444
Ream Beach [map]
T: 078 760 853
Koh Thmei Resort
Koh Thmei [map]
T: 097 737 0400
I chose the wrong national park. I went to Virachey National park. It was physically brutal and we were not rewarded with anything spectacular.