Mountains, river and sea all converge near the sleepy town of Kampot in Southern Cambodia, but it is the river, Prek Tuek Chhou, which really forms the focal point here, and dictates the mellow pace of life. While Kampot is undeniably the perfect place to relax and recoup, adventurous travelers do not have to fear; swigging a beer from one of the many riverside bars is not the only way to experience the river – perhaps a stand-up paddleboarding trip with the folk at SUP Asia may be for you!
I joined SUP Asia for their 2.5 hour river trip, by far their most popular (run twice every day!), and ideal if you’ve never tried to stand-up paddleboard before – this would only be my second time. It is however, worth checking out the other Adventure trips SUP Asia offer, some of which last a couple of days and look very exciting.
Editor’s Note: Traveling Cambodia? Check out our list of Best Places to Stay in Cambodia
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) in Cambodia
At 8:15 on an April morning in Kampot, the air is cool, the tremendous heat yet to hit Cambodia, the sunlight casts a gentle golden glow, and the town still seems mostly asleep. But on this day, I was wide awake and eager to get onto the river. Three boards were strapped to the roof of a tuk-tuk, and we all piled in. Being the only one to book this morning, I was spoilt with two guides, Fio, who had come all the way from Germany to work here, and local Cambodian paddler, Sal. A short ride, through a tangled maze of dirt roads and the tuk-tuk, pulled up by a grassy bank. This launch spot had been selected based on the weather conditions and river currents that morning.
Stand Up Paddleboarding is wondrously simple; only a brief talk mentioning safety instructions and proper technique was required before I was clutching at my own board and paddle, and pushing into the center of the river myself. I watched Fio and Sal gracefully shift their position from crouching on their knees to standing up in one fluid movement and without even a wobble of the board. Behind them, I put my hands on the board, as I had been taught, and tried to hop up. The board shook wildly. I swung out an arm for balance. For a moment I expected to fall in, shocked by how unsteady the board felt, but somehow I held my position, and cautiously began to paddle.
Related: Things to do in Kampot
SUP Asia Daily Tour
Within a few minutes, I felt completely at ease. Stand Up Paddleboarding really is a quick sport to grasp and can be enjoyed by everyone. As we glided through the water, it was impossible not to appreciate the beauty that surrounded us; even the guides who have paddled this river countless times seemed to gaze dreamily off into the mountains, their peaks shrouded in cloud, or peer into the mangroves. The world around us was mostly silent, save the occasional ‘plop’ as a fish broke the surface to snatch at some food. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you even saw the fish leap out.
Away from the main river, a confusing network of narrow backwaters passages awaits for you to get lost in. Here the water was shallow, and you could see down to the murky bottom. Palm groves which had bordered the river now protruded all the way across the tiny inlets seeming to block any further progress. What were they guarding? At one point, I saw the long, green palm fronds engulf Fio where I had assumed it was a dead end. One moment she was there, the next she wasn’t. I followed behind, brushing the palm fronds aside with my hand as I passed, not prepared for the sight that awaited on the other side. Once through the claustrophobic passage, the water suddenly opened up like a chasm, and a Cambodian monastery sat dead ahead.
As the heat had been increasing, the water had gradually become more enticing until it was nearly impossible to resist. I was just thinking about ‘falling in’ when the guides stopped and offered the opportunity to go for a swim. Splash! We spent 15 minutes swimming around, jumping and diving from our boards, and even practicing head and hand stands on the board, with inevitable but hilarious consequences. Our paddling skills and the gentle pull of the current brought us all the way back to Kampot. We got out, high-fived, and walked the last 50 meters to the shop, all the time wearing enormous grins. No better way to start to the day!
SUP Asia Package
While SUP Asia offers varied packages, this particular tour costs $25 and includes the following:
- Transport to and from SUP Asia (Central Kampot) to the river ‘get in’ and ‘get off’ points
- Full Equipment Hire – Good quality, well-maintained equipment.
- Experienced Guides
Apart from this particular tour, they also offer a half day tour which takes you through some interesting routes through the river as well as multi-day adventure tours.
For up to date prices and information, head on over to the website of SUP Asia
It is hard to conceive a pleasanter, more beautiful place to learn to stand-up paddleboard. The experience was one of adventure, not a white-knuckles, adrenaline pumping, heart in your mouth adventure, but a relaxing, soothing kind, ebbing along with the current, wondering what lay around the next corner, and exploring the secret passages by the river.
Overall, SUP Asia were very professional and made the entire experience very enjoyable. I think it is very good value for just $25, and even better a portion of your tour will go to providing environmental education to Cambodian youth. They also run campaigns to keep the river clean which helps promote sustainable tourism throughout the region.. Having gone on their 2.5-hour trip, I would love to try one of their longer expeditions next!
Please note that despite receiving complimentary services from SUP Asia, all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our other articles on Cambodia
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