Ratanakiri is located in North East Cambodia (north of Mondulkiri) and translates to “Mountain of jewels”. Ratanakiri province is full of dense forest it incorporates the Annamite Range, Tonle Sap and Tonle Srepok rivers. The province shares borders with Vietnam and Laos, and has long been occupied by the minority highland tribe of Loeu and the province is still rich in traditional culture.
Ratanakiri Province is full of natural diversity. Here you will find hills, mountains, lowland watersheds, lakes and rivers, and up to 70% of the land is dense forest. With fertile red soil in the plateau region, there is a vast array of native flora and fauna. History in Ratanakiri dates back to the Stone or Bronze Age with changing boundaries and division. Nowadays Ratanakiri is made up of Banlung in the centre, Ta Vaeang and Veun Sai in the north, and Lumphat in the south.
Ratanakiri can be described as an ecological wonderland. Containing some of the most diverse ecosystems in SE-Asia, the province and neighbouring Mondulkiri are said to be home to hundreds of bird and animal species, including Asian elephants, monkeys and gaur as well as the Giant Ibis and Greater Adjutant and hundreds of plant species.
Unlike other regions in Cambodia that have a tropical or sub-tropical climate, Ratanakiri has a monsoonal climate.
- Rainy Season – June to October
- Cool Season – November to January
- Hot Season – March to May
The average year-round temperatures range from 22 – 34 degrees.
While 99% of Cambodians speak Khmer, of particular interest, is that less than 10% of locals in Ratanakiri speak fluent Khmer, instead speaking a number of different tribal dialects. Most Khmer Loeu people are very superstitious and follow animism unlike the majority of Khmer who follow Buddhism.
There are many taboos around food (especially for the sick, elderly, children or pregnant women). Most animals are only consumed if a sacrifice has been made.
The tribes in Ratanakiri generally make temporary homes out of bamboo and leaves collected from the forest and keep their homes for only a few years before burning them and setting up a foundation in a new area and practice slash and burn agriculture.
Each village group follows a different system for placement of their houses within the villages. Kreung Villages lay out their homes in a circle with a centre meeting house. In contrast, the Jarai villages extended families tend to live together in longhouses.
With more exposure to outside influence, the new generation believes less in superstitions and spirits than their elders, however, Ratanakiri still has a mystical feel with strong respect paid to nature.
Things to Do
Beung Yeak Laom
Yeak Loam is a beautiful lake nestled in a 4000-year-old volcanic crater. It’s around 5kms from Banlung and surrounded by rich green rainforest and abundant bird life. The water of the lake is crystal clear due to its depth, making it perfect for swimming.
The lake is a sacred place for the hill tribes who come here to worship. The tribe believes in the powerful spirit that protects the lake and its surroundings. It’s possible to purchase handicrafts made by hill tribes living in the villages by the lake.
Ka Chanh Waterfall
Ka Chanh waterfall is around 6km outside of Banlung in Ka Chanh commune. The waterfall is around 12 metres tall and its water source is the Kan Teung canal. Once the water flows from the waterfall it continues into the Sre Pork River which is surrounded by rubber plantations and other greenery making it a lovely picnic spot.
Ka Tieng Waterfall
Around 3km down from Ka Chanh is Ka Tieng waterfall, in Ka Tieng village. This 10-metre high waterfall is tranquil and shaded by forest. Like Ka Chang, it’s a great spot for relaxing and appreciating the natural surroundings.
Chaa Ong waterfall completes the trio of most popular waterfalls in Ratanakiri. Located in the forest of Chaa Ong village, it’s around 2kms west of Banlung. The source of this spectacular waterfall is Phnom Eysei Patamak. The water of Chaa Ong flows from a small rocky canal lined by rubber plantations and then majestically falls 25 metres. At the base of the waterfall are caves that are perfect for exploration.
Virachey National Park
Virachey National Park is home to many endangered and rare animals including tigers, sun bears, elephants and leopards and is listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park. The area is perfect for the more adventurous who truly appreciate the untouched nature and sacred habitat within the national park.