The Irrawaddy River Dolphin is actually just the Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) as it is an oceanic species that lives in estuaries (brackish water) and with some river populations (fresh water).
It’s an endangered species. In Cambodia there are only 90 dolphins remaining. In the Cambodian Mekong the species was driven to being endangered through fishing practices – use of explosives and electric stunning. These fishing techniques also eliminated all crocodile from the waters (there are no plans to reintroduce crocodile to the river).
Today there is a conservation zone running from Kratie upstream to the Laos border and it is patrolled to ensure illegal fishing methods are not practiced.
There are 10 groups of the dolphin living in the Cambodian part of the Mekong River and the conservation measures are working and the numbers are increasing.
One large group (around 30 dolphins) are often approx. 8 miles (13 Km) upstream from Kratie.
So a great opportunity to go kayaking to try and see some endangered dolphins. Kayaks should be ideal as this species is not inquisitive like many other dolphin species and engines tend to drive them away.
So ignoring practicalities (like a horrible wind, etc) … I found them (where the locals said they would probably be). Unfortunately they are a bit camera shy and only briefly surface to take a breath. You can see them easily, you hear the breath and turn and there they are briefly. But trying to point a camera and pressing the shutter to catch their brief appearance is a bit of a challenge.
The Mekong River
Around this area, the east side of the river is wide but shallow and has a lot of rocks and is not used for shipping. The west side is sand bars with a lot of trees and numerous channels. The main river traffic use these channels rather than the east side of the river. The channels are marked with concrete pillars originally built by the French and which run upstream to the Laos border.
West Side of Mekong Gallery
Distance 7¾ miles (12½ Km).
Other Cambodia posts at Cambodia Travel Map
Other South East Asia posts at South East Asia Travel Map