Monday, April 13, 2009

Ripples on the river

Tim's shot of one of Kampi's ultra-friendly dolphins
When you see this sign, you know you have arrived at Kampi
Dolphins at Kratie, well Kampi to be precise. I hadn't forgotten that I was going to share with you a few more of our pictures from our dolphin encounter last month. Tim's photos were better than mine, I seemed to find the happy knack of clicking the shutter just as the dolphin disappeared from view, leaving the majority of my pics showing just ripples on the river. Nevertheless, we enjoyed considerable dolphin activity during the hour or so on the Mekong River and some of the unexpected full, body-out somersaults and vertical head-out manoeuvres were quite exciting. We persuaded our boatman to paddle to reduce the noise and in the quiet of our 6.30am start, we thoroughly enjoyed our brief flirtation with the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. The pod that lives at Kampi is about twenty strong I'm told, and I reckon we saw most of them, though without any way to formally identify them, its impossible to tell. However, with dolphins breaking the surface at the same time in at least four directions, often in a group of four, we had our fill. As we went further out into the middle of the river our group of four dolphins followed us, deliberately teasing me and my failure to capture their antics on film - well, that's my theory. As we returned to shore, both Tim and I deemed our dolphin-watching a major success.
The sun rises over the Mekong River
Two dolphins head out to deeper water in the middle of the river
Tim captures one of the day's first somersaults
Local traffic began to pick up around 7am
If I had managed to capture the picture before the dolphin disappeared, this may've been a nice shot!Dolphin in foreground, French-colonial river markers in background, on the right
Vertical head-out pose from this dolphin, quite close to the shore at Kampi
This was how the majority of my photos turned out, an indistinct shadow and some splashes
Welcome to Kampi and the Irrawaddy Mekong dolphins - the boat costs $9/hour/person
The stretch of the Mekong River at Kampi and the tourist boats lying in wait for customers

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Frisky dolphins

Though we were out at 6am this morning to whizz up to Kampi to get our dolphin fix, it was well worth it as the 'early bird catches the worm' or in this instance a considerable amount of dolphin activity ranging from the regular splash when they slightly break the surface of the water, to full, head-out vertical appearances followed by full, body-out somersaults, which we didn't expect to see. There was one group of four dolphins who circled our boat for twenty minutes, providing us with a series of displays across the range I mentioned above. This was Kratie dolphins at their best and most customer-friendly. The boat pilot ferried us to three locations to catch sight of the dolphins, all within100-300 metres of the riverbank, most of the time using his oar rather than his engine so he didn't scare them off. It's difficult to judge how many dolphins were in the area, or whether we kept seeing the same ones, but it was certainly an experience that exceeded our expectations. And just for good measure, we were the only boat on the river during the hour-plus we were on the Mekong. For those who haven't seen the dolphins at Kampi, it's 16 kms north of Kratie, took 25 minutes by moto and the cost per person for the boat ride was $9, quite a hefty rise from recent years but if everyone has the experience we did, they'll think its worth it.
Following our dolphin fix, we carried on north as far as Wat Sarsar Mouy Rouy, the 116-pillar pagoda at Sambour, stopped at the village of Baay Samnom to chat to a group of women and children for half an hour, before heading back for a sticky-rice with nuns encounter at Phnom Sambok. We called into a few wats en route including Wat Thma Krae where I spotted a partial lintel at the base of some steps that was in good nick. Back in Kratie for 1pm, we ate at U-Hong restaurant next to the market despite there being a power-cut that affected the whole town. Now its time for some shut-eye for an hour or so. Tomorrow morning we head for Stung Treng before a cross-country adventure to rendezvous with our transport at Tbeng Meanchey (for the onward trip to Preah Vihear and Banteay Chhmar).

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