This was our real treat of our last trip to Cambodia.
The 4 Rivers Floating Lodge was expensive, but it was somewhere I had had my eye on for many years and now seemed the right time to do it.
Special occasion? Check!
Somewhere in Cambodia we hadn’t been to before? Check!
It was time to take the plunge! The 4 Rivers Floating Lodge is a tented lodge on the banks of the Tatai River in the Cardomom Mountains.
I was not too sure what to expect from the experience…but I ended up being blown away by it.
We booked our taxis through them (not the cheapest way to get there for sure, but it was nice and easy), so we were picked up from our hotel in Phnom Penh the day after we arrived in Cambodia and whisked off for our 5hr-ish taxi ride.
The lodge contacted me a couple of times during the journey to make sure we were ok, that the car was ok and that the driving was ok…was it too fast or too slow? Is the car clean? Are the seatbelts working?
Well, I have never encountered that before on taxi journey in Cambodia!!
This set the tone for the attention and care that the staff pay their guests throughout their stay.
We eventually arrived at a pier just before the Tatai bridge, which was the ‘reception’ area for the lodge. It was just a wooden pier, but there was a toilet (thank god!) and sofas for us to relax on whilst we waited for the boat to arrive to pick us up.
After a short wait, we were able to board the boat and we were to be accompanied by two guests who had been out on the jungle trek that day. We took the opportunity to chat to them and ask them about their experience so far. One word kept cropping up ‘magical’…this boded very well indeed then!
The view from the end of the pier!
The boat trip takes about 20 minutes and it was a good opportunity to take in the stunning surroundings which would be our home for the next few days. Eventually we saw a few other resorts dotted around, some tents on the bank, other resorts which had popped up on the river.
And then we rounded a bend and got our first glimpse of the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge.
Floating tents hugged the shore with palms swaying out over them, cue lots of ooohing and aaahing!
We motored past them, round another bend and docked a small pier. We disembarked and were immediately met by Mr Darong, the resort manager, and his team. Our bags were taken and we were ushered to the bar area and offered a nice cool drink.
There were some forms to fill in, whilst they explained the basics of the resort and once the formalities were done, we were shown to our tent.
The resort has two types of tents – floating ones which are located on pontoons on the bank of the river and on-land tents, which as the name suggests, are on the land!
The floating tents are the holy grail and what I was after when we decided we were going there.
Unfortunately they were all fully booked so we ended up with an on-land tent.
My initial disappointment was put to rest though, when I saw the room we would be spending the next 3 nights in.
There is a large veranda, containing two sun loungers and two chairs and table (where you will find hot water and a few home baked cookies left for you first thing in the morning!).
And then as you unzip the ‘doors’ to the tent you are greeted with this:
What the…!! I was not expecting such luxury! The furniture was made of a beautiful hardwood and it was impeccably clean.
And the bathroom…well! What a surprise that was. A wet room of sorts and with plenty of toiletries supplied.
And one thing I haven’t yet mentioned about the on-land tents is that they have two bedrooms…yes two rooms!
There is a smaller room off to one side which houses twin beds – and the view from ours was stunning! A perfect view of the sunrise!
The on-land tents occupy the land just behind the floating tents and are all within a stone’s throw of the main ‘hub’ of the lodge.
In fact our tent was tent number one, which was about 10 steps away from the restaurant area. I was a bit worried we might be disturbed because of this, but it turned out not to be an issue.
I say ‘hub’, but it’s a very sedate affair, with the reception, bar and restaurant area literally within seconds of each other.
And it is all tented, so has a real safari feel to it.
One of the most important areas for me…food! And I wasn’t disappointed!
It starts with breakfast…
Choosing from a little wooden menu, I mostly opted for the muesli and fresh fruit. There were also eggs, pancakes and of course bread. Definitely enough to keep you going until lunch…
Which we had on a boat both days, as part of our trips. There was a choice of sandwiches or rice, with two drinks. I opted for the fried rice on both trips, and it was heated up on a little stove on the boat for me!
Dinner was a really special experience! Chosen at around 4pm when Mr Darong, the lovely resort manager, would come around with the menu for the night. There were usually a few choices for main course, but the whole thing turned out to be a 4 course affair each night. Something we were not expecting!!
I didn’t end up taking any photos of my food as I was too busy eating it, but I can assure you it was delicious! Paired with a nice glass of wine, it was a lovely way to end each day.
On their website they advertise all sorts of activities you can do whilst here. I was a bit worried that it might be a bit full-on to be honest! But there is no pressure, you can do as much or as little as you like.
We ended up doing two trips, one to the waterfall and one to the mangroves.
Both were a lot more relaxed than I thought they’d be (although there was kayaking involved on the mangrove trip…that was hard work, I am not a natural kayaker!!) and involved fabulous boat trips on the river.
There are also jungle treks you can undertake if you are feeling a bit more energetic. Or you can just sit back at the lodge and relax.
They have kayaks which are free to use and quite a few guests would take them out at all hours of the day, paddling around in front of the lodge or going further and doing a lap of the island we were based on!
The Staff and Service
The atmosphere at the the lodge is one of quiet relaxation. The staff are the stand out stars of the show, they are an amazing group people. They are so engaging and knowledgeable and will make sure that your stay is one you will remember.
Anna, who is one of the owners was there for most of our stay. She is a very interesting and inspiring lady, having started this venture with her husband mainly as a way of helping to preserve the surrounding forest and communities. She is devoted to this project and the area and it really does show.
On our second night there, we were told there would be a presentation at 6pm. We weren’t really sure what this was all about, but as we made our way to the communal area we saw bar stools and tables set out in a circle around a projector and screen.
Aah! Ok! I see what they mean now!
Anna did a short presentation to the guests, explaining the history of the lodge, why they are there and what they wish to achieve through their venture, along with the details of some of the other conservation projects going on in the forest.
They are dedicated to their staff and their development, as well as to the wider community and of course the environment. Anna was very hands on and she was willing to stop and chat to everyone and answer any questions we had about these matters.
If you wish to know more about these issues, they have page on their website which explains their concept well.
And Then There’s More…
Of course, I can’t not mention the bugs. The lodge is in the middle of a river and jungle after all, so there are bugs!
Particularly, these little blighters! They gather in their, what feels like, thousands around any kind of light source as soon as the sun sets.
It is therefore advised to keep lighting to a minimum in your rooms as night, as although there is netting on the windows in the tents, they still manage to get in! So, we only put a few lights on at night and it seemed to work.
There are also of course a few creatures out and about. We didn’t see any in our rooms, but our veranda was visited by quite a few small frogs each night, and there were some massive grasshoppers hanging out too!
We were told that there was a nightly excursion to see the fireflies which were just down river. We joined the short trip on the second night. I had never yet seen fireflies so I was really excited to see what all the fuss was about.
We all piled into the boat and motored about five minutes downstream. They cut the engine and we glided towards the shore.
I looked up and there they were! A whole tree full of them, blinking on and off, lighting it like it was a Christmas tree!
Ok, that’s another travel goal ticked off my list!
Phosphorescent plankton next…one day hopefully!
And last but not least, the other guests! They were a very interesting bunch! As it is quite a small place, there will be ample opportunities to mingle with your fellow guests…if you wish to of course. There were people from all over the world and it was really nice sharing a pre-dinner drink with them and hearing their stories.
It’s safe to say this is a splurge! We paid the following:
Room rate: $299 per night
Taxis: $216 in total for trips Phnom Penh to 4 Rivers and 4 Rivers to Sihanoukville
Lunch and dinner (at least $50 each per day) and excursions were then also charged on top of that.
It was expensive and it’s not something we would do ordinarily. But it was worth every penny for the unique experience it was for a special occasion.
I mostly felt quite humbled by the people I met who are working so hard, not only to make your stay amazing, but also to make sure their surrounding environment and communities are looked after and preserved.
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