Chasing Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Mekong River at Kratie, Cambodia

By Andrew Kolasinski 

Our boat had motored out two kilometers from the dock. Now, in the intense mid-day sun we drifted through a cluster of grassy sand islands mid-stream in the Mekong.

The day began in Kratie, on the east bank of the Mekong, 350 kilometers from Phnom Penh. The previous day I rode the bus ride for almost seven hours through pepper farms and rubber plantations.

Kratie, a city of 13,000 has dozens of hotels and guesthouses, all offering tours to see the dolphins.

Kampi, fifteen kilometers north of Kratie, is the port for the dolphin viewing fleet. This riverside village is near the dolphin's feeding grounds. A dozen twenty-foot wooden, double enders are powered by long-shaft engines. Luckily they have awnings to protect against the doubly bright, river glaring sun.

Our young Khmer skipper said there are 20 dolphins, but the pod is healthy and they are now protected by law. They are found in other parts of the Mekong River with a neighboring pod of 35-50 dolphins living among the 4,000 Islands of southern Laos.

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© Andrew Kolasinski

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