Environmentally friendly floating hotel in Cambodian Rainforest
The Four Rivers Floating Lodge is located on the Tatai River in the southern reaches of Cambodia Cardamom Mountains, halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
This region of rainforest and coastal mangroves barely features on the tourist trail and is accessible only by boat.
Four Rivers consists of twelve huge South African safari tents erected on a string of floating platforms anchored to the riverbed.
There are no permanent structures so if the hotel were towed away there would be little sign that it had ever existed.
However Cambodia’s economy is developing fast and the Government wants to increase its domestic energy production by building dams along rivers such as the Tatai.
This development along with sand dredging, which destroys fish breeding grounds and illegal logging threaten the delicate environment around the resort.
The resort is the idea of its Romanian owner Valentin Pawlik and his Filipina wife Anna Pawlik-Szocs who decided to build the hotel after visiting the area in 2007.
“We knew Cambodia as just Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville that’s all.” says Anna. “So when we saw Koh Kong and specifically Tatai and this spot here, it has just amazed us and we decided then, right then and there, this was in 2007 when we decided to do something here.”
Simple yet stylish, the tents come complete with en suite bathrooms, minibars, flatscreen TVs and DVD players.
A central pontoon carries a small library, bar and restaurant.
The aim at Four Rivers is to make little impact on the environment.
Twelve hours of electricity is generated daily from solar panels with the rest from generators burning bio diesel.
There is a sophisticated water filtration system that collects and recycles used water before pumping it back into the river.
The use of wood is limited and modern composite materials have been integrated in the construction.
Maintaining a hotel in the middle of a jungle is a constant challenge says Anna.
“The extreme humidity is actually challenging all of the structures here,” she says. “It makes everything rust, it encourages the build up of microbes which can eventually tear the tents.”
The resort organises daily excursions into what is one of the largest and most unexplored forests in Southeast Asia.
Piles of sand from sand dredging, which has wrecked the local fishing industry, can be seen all along the riverbank.
The dredgers churn up the riverbed destroying fish breeding grounds and causing the riverbanks to collapse.
For now the large sand dredging boats have moved on from Tatai leaving only small local operators but they may return.
Many of the tourists staying at the resort take organised treks into the rain forest with the help of local guides.
A swim at Tatai waterfall is the perfect way to cool down with the pounding torrent giving a great back massage.
Many of the animals who live in the forest come to the river to drink including elephants, pileated gibbons and monkeys.
Yiyeksi Larrasolo from Mexico City is staying at the resort taking time out from a busy schedule managing a restaurant in Singapore.
“They respect the nature and they work with the locals and they try to maintain this environment in a pristine condition,” she says “This place is amazing.”
Sunsets are often spectacular at Tatai and they highlight the beauty and fragility of the environment.
The weather in Cambodia is excellent in December, with very little rain, and with average temperatures hovering around 26 degrees celsius.
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