Adventure to Mondulkiri

Trekking to waterfall

Things to do in Mondulkiri (waterfalls and trekking edition)

Sen Monorom, the capital of Mondulkiri province in the north east of Cambodia, is the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination. Sen Monorom has something for everyone: families, tourists looking for an outdoors experience, animal lovers, adventure types, and hobbyists interested in gemstones and traditional textiles. Oh, and did we mention the waterfalls?

Elephants are clearly the must-see attraction, but Mondulkiri’s beautiful rolling hills with dry and wet sub-tropical forests, and plethora of gushing waterfalls are also worth a visit. Here’s some things you can do and see, using Sen Monorom as a base for exploring Mondulkiri:

Bousra Waterfall

The largest, highest and most popular waterfall in the area is Bousra. Not only is it popular with foreign tourists, but Cambodian families also make a point to visit this unique and powerful waterfall and set out a picnic lunch to enjoy the spray and scenery. The path leads to the base of one large fall with a pool, and a short stream to the next waterfall (which in dry season you can climb down on the giant boulders to explore). You can put your feet in the upper pool, but be warned, the current is very strong and we definitely don’t recommend trying to take a swim in wet season. Bousra Waterfall is a fairly straightforward 45 to 60 minute drive on paved roads from Sen Monorom if you want to rent a motorbike. Parking costs 2,000 riel.

Monorom Waterfall

This is one of the only other waterfalls around Sen Monorom that you can easily get to on a motorcycle and without a guide. Monorom Waterfall also tends to be less crowded than the very popular Bousra, even though Monorom is closer to Sen Monorom town. It has only one nice broad major fall, but the current is still pretty strong during wet season. There is no food for sale here most of the time, and no parking attendant to watch your motorcycle, so come prepared.

The Sea Forest

About 20 km out of town, the Sea Forest is a favorite spot of Max and André, our jungle experts. The hill gives a great perspective on the surrounding countryside, and it is quite peaceful (when there aren’t too many other tourists) to just sit back and contemplate the layers of blue that fade into the late afternoon sky. Don’t expect too much to be going on here, it’s just a nice panorama view with parking.

Guided treks

If the prospect of navigating your way around by motorbike does not appeal, or you want to delve deeper into the forests, or see some Bunong villages and learn about the culture of the indigenous people of Northeast Cambodia, guided treks are an excellent and accessible option. Treks can be organized at various guesthouses and places in town, and can last from half a day up to two or three days. We particularly recommend checking out the eco-tourism treks advertised in Hefalump Cafe; they also procure local handicrafts to sell, with all proceeds going back to the villages that produce them.

You can also organize treks or meals at the Bunong Place, or arrange a trek and homestay with local Bunong guide Vanny and his family through the Mondulkiri Ethnic ProjectGreenhouse Restaurant and Nature Lodge also have full and half-day trekking that usually can be arranged without too much notice except in the very worst parts of high season.

Wondering how to get there? Read our guide on how to get to Sen Monorom and Mondulkiri from Phnom Penh.

  1. Elephant tour

Welcome to the Mondulkiri Project.

My name is Mr Tree.  I have signed an agreement with Bunong indigenous elders to rent a large area of forest close to Sen Monorom to protect it from logging. This area is now an award winning elephant sanctuary.  I hope you will come and visit the 5 elephants living at the Mondulkiri Project.  We offer one and two day elephant tours.

Unlike other nearby sanctuaries the Mondulkiri Project is not owned by a foreigner.  We empower locals by providing them with jobs at our sanctuary.   We do not believe in having Western tour guides or Western volunteers taking paid work opportunities away from locals.

We are a registered Cambodian NGO.  Your tour money is used to protect forests for our elephant sanctuary.  Money is also used to buy and rent elephants so they can live at our sanctuary and be kept away from elephant rides and heavy farm work.  Our NGO also funds wild elephant protection and supports the local Bunong hill tribes with employment, medicine and food donations.

Elephant Tours

One and two day Elephant Adventure and Jungle trekking tours within the Mondulkiri Project give you the opportunity to experience a beautiful jungle a short drive away from Sen Monorom.  Wild rivers, waterfalls, swimming holes, elephants, wild animals and birds are all waiting for you.

On our tours you will get to feed 5 elephants and follow them as they walk through the forest eating bamboo.  A highlight of your tour will be swimming at a waterfall and helping to wash our elephants there.  We do not allow tourists or our mahouts to ride the elephants or sit on them when they are being washed.

The 5 elephants at our Sanctuary spend all their time in our protected forest.  They will never again have tourists riding on seats on their backs or be used for heavy farm work.  Some locals offer cheaper tours but only rent elephants on the days when there are customers.  Unfortunately these elephants are also still used for elephant rides.

Our elephant tours are lead by an english speaking guide who has extensive knowledge about the elephants you will see and the traditions and customs of the hill tribe people who live within the forests.  We only employ Bunong guides for our overnight jungle tours.   They are experts at living in the jungle.  

You will need to be in Sen Monorom the night before your visit date as we meet in town at 8.20am.  Our tours finish around 4.30pm.  

The Mondulkiri Project currently offers two elephant tour options:

  • 1 Day Elephant Adventure Tour ($50 per person)
  • 2 Day Elephant Adventure & Jungle Trek Tour ($80 per person – only the first day is spent with elephants)

1 Day Elephant Adventure Tour

A fun day in the jungle with 5 elephants at the Mondulkiri Project’s elephant sanctuary

(8.30am to 4.30pm, 7 days a week)

Cost = $50 per person

Tour Includes:

  • Pick up from Sen Monorom, with transport to and from the Mondulkiri Project’s elephant sanctuary.
  • Hand feeding and observing 5 elephants  as they walk through the jungle.
  • Waterfall swimming and washing of elephants.
  • Learning about elephants and local hill tribe traditions and culture
  • Delicious Khmer lunch, relaxing and wildlife watching at our Jungle Lodge
  • Unlimited bottled water

hike level: easy (more difficult in wet season)

group size: 1 to 20 guests

Our Community

The Mondulkiri Project supports a growing community.  We currently have six elephants living full time in our sanctuary away from elephant rides and hard physical work.   Our community also includes residents of the Putang and Oriang Bunong hill tribe villages. They are employed as mahouts or jungle guides at the Mondulkiri Project.

The Mondulkiri Project’s protected forest is not only home to our elephant sanctuary but also contains many important trees and plants used to make income and food for the local Bunong people.

The Mondulkiri Project is managed by the Cambodia Elephant Rescue Organization, a registered Cambodian ngo.


Princess the elephant loves to be treated like a princess. She is around 45 years old. She weights approximately 2.5 tonnes. She is best friends with Comvine. She was bought by the sanctuary in 2017. She is such a PRINCESS!!! You need to put the bananas right into her mouth to feed her. Before she joined our sanctuary Princess worked carrying tourists at Putang VIllage. She had a heavy wooden plank strapped to her back which the tourists sat on for these rides.


Lucky the elephant was about to move to Siem Reap for tourist rides around Angkor Wat but we convinced her owners she would be happier at our sanctuary. She used to work for the logging industry and to help carry heavy farming goods. She is around 70 years old from a village near Bou Sraa Waterfall. She weighs about 3.5 tonnes.


Comvine the elephant was born at Ka Tien waterfall in Ratanakiri province. She had spent all her life being used for tourist rides at the waterfall. Siem Reap tourist rides bought her mother but this time we bought Comvine before they could. She is a very beautiful elephant approximately 30 years old. She is best friends with Princess.


Sophie was the first elephant at our sanctuary. She is around 55 years old. She is owned by 9 families. Sophie loves to eat anything and everything. She really likes being fed bananas. She likes to wash herself at one of our large waterfalls. Before she joined our sanctuary Sophie worked in logging.


Happy is the newest arrival at our elephant sanctuary. She is a young elephant, around 35 years old. She is not very big, only around 2.7 tonnes. She is a bit shy but is slowly making friends with Princess and Sophie. Happy's owner moved her to our sanctuary because there is lots of food and water here and because we treat our mahouts well.


Kwert - Mahout for Sophie
Kwert has three sons and two daughters. His wife is a farmer. Kwert is from Oriang Village. He enjoys watching elephants and caring for them. He likes that Sophie eats a lot and is bigger than the other elephants. He also is happy that Sophie is a slow walking elephant.


Loyin - Mahout for Lucky
Loyin is the mahout for Lucky. He is from Putang Village. He lives at the Mondulkiri Project with his wife and daughter who together help us manage the Jungle Lodge.


Pukpey - Mahout for Combine
Pukpey is the mahout for Combine. He is from the Oriang Village. He has three children. His job as a mahout allows him to send them to school in Phnom Penh.


Duong - Jungle Guide
Duong is one of our Jungle Guides. He is from Putang Village. He is 23 years old and has two brothers that study in Phnom Penh. His sister looks after her son and daughter. Duong enjoys trekking in the jungle to see waterfalls. He also likes to show tourists monkeys and the footprints of sun bears.


Lar - Jungle Guide
Lar is one of our Jungle Guides. He is 25 years old and was born in Dak Dam Village. He is married and has a 1 year old daughter. His favourite thing about being a guide is being able to improve his english skills and to spend time at the waterfalls.


Om Sou Ann - Jungle Lodge Manager
Om Sou Ann is from the Putang Village. She enjoys cooking for tourists, looking after the Jungle Lodge and having the opportunity to practise her English. She hopes she will be able to afford to send her daughter to school to get an education and then she will have some good work choices in the future.


Putang & Oriang Villages
By renting our forest area from many families in these two villages we provide an economically and ecologically sustainable source of income to the Bunong people. Two of the elephants we rent so that they can spend time in our sanctuary are from Putang Village and Oriang Village. The Mondulkiri Project also delivers rice and other food ingredients to these two villages several times a year to help them when needed.


Protected Forest
The Mondulkiri Project has agreed to rent a large area of forest from several Bunong families in the Putang and Oriang Villages. For at least 30 years there will NO LOGGING in this area. Instead this area will be used as an elephant and wildlife sanctuary. Since this agreement was made, several large companies have tried to turn this area into rubber plantations. Fortunately our agreement with the Mondulkiri Governor has saved this important catchment area from widespread logging. The protected forest also provides several non-timber forest products for the local indigenous people. These include resin, wild honey and forest herbs and medicine.


Resin Trees
We are protecting many large Resin trees in our elephant sanctuary. Resin is one of the most important natural forest products collected by the indigenous Bunong in the forests around Mondulkiri. Tapping resin involves cutting a backward sloping hole in large trees, burning the hole briefly to stimulate resin flow, and collecting the resin in plastic containers after a few days. Trees can continue to yield resin for several decades. Tapping does not damage the trees. The “typical” resin tree yields about 30-35 litres of resin annually. The local Bunong sell the resin that they collect from the forest. It is used as a raw material in the manufacturing of varnish, cheap soap, leather making, sealing wax for keeping boats waterproof and in torches for lighting houses in the village.


Wild Honey
Honey is one of the important forest based livelihoods that communities living in and around the protected areas of Mondulkiri are dependent upon. Harvesting wild honey is a dangerous task with people climbing 20 metres up trees. When they arrive at a bee hive they smoke the bees away and risk getting stung. They can sell wild honey for around $20 a litres. April is the best time to find wild honey.


Forest Herbs & Medicine
The local Bunong have always harvested plants and herbs from the forest. They use these for themselves and also sell them to make money to buy rice. One example is Galingal which is used to make tiger balm and for cooking. Ferns are used in soups. There is a special plant to treat skin fungus. The river that flows through the sanctuary is also used for fishing.

Ethic tour

Camping in Mondulkiri Province

In Cambodia's "wild east" and stay amongst the beautiful jungle, wildlife and local people. Embark on an adventure on one of our tours. Stay in our simple yet natural bungalows with hot showers. Or just sip a beer on our terrace enjoying the sunset. With a variety of offerings to choose from, we’re sure you’ll be happy staying with us. We can't wait to meet you!

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