The stunning seaside town of Kep is located on Cambodia’s south coast. It is only a three-hour journey from Phnom Penh by road.
Kep National Park
The stunning seaside town of Kep is located on Cambodia’s south coast. It is only a three-hour journey from Phnom Penh by road. An exciting and unique way to travel to Kep is by train. This slower yet fascinating train journey takes you to Kampot. Or a 30-minute drive to Kep.
Kep is famous for its crab market, crab shacks, beach, and sunset viewpoint. However, it is also home to one of Southeast Asia’s most accessible and natural beauty national parks. Kep National Park offers one of the only hiking, trekking, and national park experiences in the country that does not require a guide.
While the park is small and covers an area of 66.65 sq km, it is home to an array of exciting wildlife and tropical vegetation. Also, you get a real sense of this by the array of sounds that echo throughout the park. The lush mountain ranges reveal spectacular natural scenery and views of Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island and Cambodia’s Bokor Ranges.
Walking, Hiking and Trekking
The Kep National Park hugs the coast of Kep, and visitors can enjoy walks that are suitable for all levels of fitness and experience. The main walking track starts at the west entrance to the park and is just behind the Verandah resort. The 8km mountain trail circuit takes you around the outside of the mountains.
However, if you are craving adventure and seeking real natural beauty, take the inside track. It is more complicated since it’s more profound into the jungle with long grass and heavy bushes. But the path is relatively flat and wide. Moreover, the trail is marked with yellow signs on trees and rocks to guide your way.
You can stop at a few vantage points along the way, the most spectacular being the Kampot lookout. You can see the town of Kampot in the distance and the sweeping views of rice fields and the Bokor Mountain. In addition, the island of Koh Karang and the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc as well. During the wetter months, the small but beautiful Sreytal waterfall flows. The hike down from the summit is a further 5.5 km walk. Meanwhile, this section of the walk offers spectacular views of the Kep archipelago.
The other impressive vantage points on the way down are the Remarkable Tree, the Angkoul beach viewpoint, and the small pond. One of the more enchanting sights on the way down is the Samathi pagoda. Sits amongst the jungle in the distance and has an alluring charm.
The main walking track is also suitable to explore on mountain bikes. Without a doubt, the best time to visit the park is early morning. There are parts of the downward path that are open and exposed. Many visitors prefer to take the same route.
Led Zep Cafe
Led Zep café was established by a French national but is now under new and local management. Located near the west entrance to the park. The café is an excellent end for those choosing to only walk up and down the summit as it offers ideal refreshments and light meals. Coffee, cold drinks, sandwiches, crepes, and other food are available. Enjoy your well-deserved cup of coffee on the tables with the natural beauty views of the national park.
A highlight for those who do walk the entire path is the few remaining ruins of Kep as you head back into the heart of the town. These ruins are a real treat and remind one of the glory days of Kep when it was once referred to as the St Tropez of Southeast Asia.
Wildlife in National Park
The Kep National Park is home to many wildlife. Therefore, when walking through the park, you can be almost certain that you will see and hear many animals such as squirrels and wild gibbons. Gibbons have a hard time in South East Asia. They are often being captured for the illegal wildlife trade or used to attract tourism for photos.
For avid bird watchers, various species live in the park, including the majestic and mighty Hornbill, of which the park has a healthy colony. The forest is lush and green with lots of trees and bushes. The vegetation is very abundant all year round. Especially between April and October, there are literally hundreds of beautiful butterflies fluttering everywhere. The park is also home to giant millipedes and an array of insects and reptiles.
For more experienced bushwalkers and hikers, there are several other walks that you can take up in the park. These walks are really off the beaten track, but thanks to a local group of people who formed the Kep Squirrel Association. All the tracks are well marked and if you are not sure about where you going, there is a map available at Led Zep cafe as well.
The park is a treasure for the township of Kep. It is one of the very few remaining national parks in Cambodia. And it is well maintained by a dedicated team of park rangers. To ensure proper waste management is conducted and document essential factors that may impact the park’s life. Including rainfall, wildlife species, and vegetation.
Kep is one of the lesser-visited destinations within Cambodia, so there isn’t much tourism in the park. Although Many travelers to Cambodia do not visit Kep, there is certainly no shortage of excellent accommodation options for all budgets. At the higher end, you cannot go past Knai Bang Chatt, a stunning resort on the water’s front that consists of three restored 1960’s villas. Several budget bungalow-style lodgings are available around the west base of the park.
Tips: Proper hiking or running shoes is a must for a good grip and comfort. In addition, you should also bring insect repellent. There are a lot of mosquitoes in the national park.
Do not forget to bring water, as the weather is hot and humid. Also, given the problematic nature of parts of the path, you will be sweating all day!