Rebecca is a traveller and animal lover. She was lucky enough to visit Phnom Tamao in April 2019.
Wildlife Alliance and the Rescue Centre
Wildlife Alliance was founded under the name Global Survival Network in 1995 by a group of passionate conservationists. Since its inception, Wildlife Alliance has worked to save and strengthen wildlife populations in Russia, India, the Galapagos, Myanmar and Thailand. Since 2000, Wildlife Alliance has been working to save the forests and wildlife of Cambodia.
Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) is a government-owned facility supported by Wildlife Alliance, covering 6,000 acres of recovering forest. An agreement with the Cambodian Forestry Administration means that any animal rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia will be cared for at PTWRC.
The primary goal of PTWRC is to rescue and rehabilitate animals into the wild. Where this is not possible, the animals remain at the centre to be cared for by the dedicated team of vets and animal husbandry specialists.
To date, PTWRC has rescued 74,918 animals, including 13,000 animals who receive daily care at the complex.
It is possible to visit the centre independently, but because of its size, a car is required. Entry to the site costs $5 per adult ($2.50 for children). There are maps available at the entrance, and depending on availability, you can hire an English-speaking guide for $10.
I would, however, highly recommend taking the 'Behind the Scenes' tour, which allows you access to all areas of the park, including those off-limits to independent visitors. The tour costs $150 for adults ($70 for children) and all proceeds go directly towards supporting the centre.
We visited the centre in April 2019 and this was our experience.
Pick-Up and Fruit Stop
The mini-van collected us near our hotel in Phnom Penh at 8:00 AM. You can arrange the pick-up location with them based on where you are staying. we were staying at a hotel near their head office, so this worked well for us! You will stop at a local market on the way to buy fruit for the animals.
Observing the Elephants
Next, we had the opportunity to hand-feed one of the female elephants. It sounds silly, but I had no idea how huge they would feel standing next to you! The keepers instruct you on how to feed them safely and will give you the opportunity for photographs.
We observed the keepers changing the prosthetic foot of one of the elephants. It's incredible how well trained this animal is!
Read More from WanderWisdom
Lunch and Relaxation Time
A Cambodian-style lunch was provided, along with fresh coconut water. Make sure you ask for one from the fridge as these taste the best! You can catch a bit of shade and a rest in the hammocks.
Visiting the Rest of the Facility
In the afternoon, we toured the rest of the facility, meeting many of the amazing animals who sadly were not suitable for rehabilitation. My favourites were the gibbons and the sun bears!
Next, we had a visit to the nursery in the rehabilitation area, which is closed to the public, where we saw the baby animals being cared for, including a beautiful baby gibbon!
My favourite part of the day was interacting with the rescued baby macaque monkeys in their enclosure! You are literally in the enclosure with them and they are not afraid to climb on you! Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this activity will not be taking place until further notice, keep an eye on the website for details.
The van dropped us off in Phnom Penh at the end of the day. For most tours, this will be between 4:00 and 5:00 PM depending on the group and traffic. An earlier drop-off is possible for a fee.
A full-day tour costs $150 and 100% of the profits go directly to supporting the animals at PTWRC.
Things to Consider Before Booking a Tour
I would whole-heartedly recommend taking a tour if you have the opportunity, but there are a few things to note.
- Come prepared for heat and sun. The tour takes the best part of a whole day, and most of that time is spent on your feet outside in the sun. Make sure you take the usual precautions against the heat and take special care if you are visiting between March and May, as this is the hottest period in Cambodia.
- Use the toilet whenever you get the chance. Toilet facilities are few and far between on the site. You will have the opportunity to use them on arrival, at lunchtime and before your trip home. I would advise you to take advantage when you get the chance!
- Be ready for motion sickness. The journey to the centre takes around an hour and the van is not air-conditioned. You will be in and out of the van all day, so take appropriate measures if you get travel sick.
- Avoid the macaque experience if you're easily scared. The interaction with the macaques (if it is running) is an incredible experience and was the highlight of the trip for me. You will be jumped on by hungry little monkeys, so don't go for it if this sounds terrible to you! You do of course have the option not to take part.
- Check the site to see up-to-date information. Due to COVID-19, tours may be running less frequently and at a reduced capacity, so make sure to check the website when making a booking. Please communicate with the centre prior to booking if you have any concerns.
Other Ways to Help PTWRC
Not everyone can make it to Phnom Tamao right now, so here are some other ways you can help.
- Donate. You can make a one-off donation to Wildlife Alliance. You can choose which of Wildlife Alliance's missions to support, or leave it to be spent where it is most needed.
- Give a gift. You can choose what your donation is spent on, for example, food, medicine or an enrichment activity.
- Sponsor an animal. You can sponsor one of the animals at Phnom Tamao for as little as $5 a month.
- Consider other ways to donate. Leave a gift in your will, donate stocks or support Wildlife Alliance through Amazon Smile. Check out the PTWRC website to find out more.
© 2021 R L Blackmore