Sen Monoron – Mondulkiri Project
The Mondulkiri Project is a community project, with monies raised being used to protect forests from logging for an elephant sanctuary and (soon to start) breeding program. The project also supports the local Bunong hill tribes with employment, medicine and food donations.
Day 1 – Meeting the Elephants
Our night in the log cabin was restless and we got very little sleep, but nothing could dampen our spirits as it was the day that we got to go on a trek through the jungle to meet elephants.
We rose quite early and after a very refreshing cold shower, packed our bags and carried them up to the main base hut where we could store them for the night. We then sat in the dining area and ate a delicious pancake breakfast washed down with tea, and waited for the rest of our tour group to assemble.
At around 8.30 a.m. two jeep utes arrived and our group of 15 climbed aboard (the majority seated in the flat boot areas) and we all got driven to the main jungle headquarters – the ride over was pretty bumpy as our driver navigated the terrain we were all slipping around and clinging on to each other – let’s say the experience made us all make friends very quickly.
At the jungle headquarters we all gathered in the main hut and our guide for the morning ‘Mr Tree’ briefed us about the project, local tribal beliefs and values, where the money goes and the itinerary for the day. Mr Tree was very animated in his explanation and was very entertaining.
It was then time to begin our trek and we all walked through the jungle on a slippery mud track (it had rained the night before), across a bridge made of a few planks of wood, and then into a cleared forest area. It was at this area that ‘Happy’ the elephant came up to us and we all fed her bananas. Sophie the elephant then came up to us, and again we began to feed her bananas. We spent the morning with Happy and Sophie as we fed them, touched them and walked with them – watching them rip up jungle roots and throw the roots and dirt on themselves to keep them cool. Mr Tree also spoke to us about each of the two elephants and answered all the questions we had for him.
It was then time to say goodbye to Happy and Sophie and we walked back through the jungle and back over the bridge to another clearing where we met four other elephants, Moon, Princess, Lucky and Comvine. We again fed them bananas and walked with them as they wandered around – what a fantastic way to spend a morning!
For lunch we walked back up to the main jungle headquarters where a feast was waiting for us – delicious veggies, a pork dish and rice – followed by a fruit platter. We then spent some time talking with our group, such a fun and lively bunch and mostly all Brits, lucky for us!
After lunch we trekked back into the jungle where we could get into the river with two of the more social elephants. The part of the river that we entered was near a mini waterfall and there was a strong current to the water – we all actually thought the guide was joking when he first said to enter here! Eddie led the group in to the water and tested the ground, um I was last in the water, full of nerves! First up was Happy the elephant who confidently entered the river and let us wash her and then feed her some more bananas. After Happy it was Princesses turn for a wash and she also wasn’t shy about coming straight at us for a good soaking and some bananas. Well, that was a lot of fun!
The other four elephants were a bit more shy, so after bathing Happy and Princess we followed them out of the river and dried ourselves off. Our group then got lead through the jungle to another part of the river where we could watch Moon, Sophie, Lucky and Comvine walk through the river and bathe themselves, it was a very enjoyable sight – they actually looked very graceful as they entered and left the water.
After all this excitement it was getting late and so we all trekked back to the jungle headquarters hut. It was at this point that our group was separated as the ‘one day tour’ people left to return to the base, leaving just four of us who opted for the ‘two day tour’ – Steph, Ollie, Eddie and me.
For the four of us that remained, we had a great evening chatting the night away and drinking a beer or two. For dinner we ate a delicious bamboo soup dish and some fried chicken with rice, followed again by some fruit. After dinner our tour guide for the next day introduced himself to us and sat with us, pouring us some shots of local rice wine – quite abrasive but definitely warmed us up! At bed time, hammocks and blankets were made up for us and so we clambered in and got as comfy as we could… A night sleeping in a hammock, this will be interesting…
Day 2 – Jungle Trek
This was the second night in a row that I got very little sleep… so. Tired. The hammocks were actually relatively comfy but I guess for some reason I couldn’t relax but I did manage to get a couple of hours sleep. Needless to say, Eddie managed to sleep like a log – so jealous!
Our morning was very pleasant listening to the sounds of the jungle as we ate our breakfast of banana and Nutella pancakes. Unfortunately Steph and Ollie decided they wanted to opt out of the 18km hike so it was just me and Eddie left with our very own personal tour guide, lucky us!
At around 8.30 a.m we bade farewell to Ollie and Steph and headed off with our guide, ready for our long hike. The first part of the trek we walked past where we had visited the elephants the day before, so all familiar terrain down the slippery path, over the bridge and through the the Forrest clearing – so far so good!
The next few kilometres were a little more tricky as we scaled the side of a large jungle hill – the jungle floor was very muddy and slippy and so it was a little challenging. At the top,of the hill the ground flattened out so it was easier to walk through the bushes and around the large trees. After a kilometre of jungle we came to a beautifully clear open field. Our morning trek was a equal mix of muddy terrain through flat and hilly jungle and through open fields – on the trek we managed to spot a monkey, some amazing flora and fauna and a beautiful lime tree.
After a few of hours of trekking we reached our half way point, the first waterfall in a succession of three. At this waterfall we were invited to enter the water before we stopped for lunch. We arrived and there were a few westerners there – on different tours – but none wanted to venture in the water… But that didn’t stop us! We quickly got changed into bathers and jumped into the lovely cool water. Eddie decided he’d walk along the top of the waterfall and jump in – it looked like a lot of fun but I was happy to sit in the pool at the bottom. After our shenanigans in the water our guide called us over – he wanted to show us something he’d spotted… A green tree snake, sat on a log next to the waterfall! One of the most deadly snakes around, oh my!
It was then time to change back into hiking gear and eat a delicious lunch that was prepared for us, pork fried rice – so, so good.
After lunch it was time to get going and it was just a short ten minute trek to the next waterfall – this waterfall was huge and the crashing noise of the water was deafening, a magnificent force of nature.
We then continued on our trek through jungle and our guide stopped us suddenly – he’s spotted a monkey in the tree right above our heads – we looked up and stared at the monkey square in the eye before it let out a shriek and bolted away – what a sight! A few metres later our guide points to some holes in the ground near a small puddle of water and says “crabs” – sure enough in the middle of the jungle there are crabs! How bizarre.
We then walk to the next waterfall, where we actually walk underneath the main rock and around the back of the waterfall, it was pretty thrilling!
The rest of the trek that afternoon was over some very steep and slippery jungle terrain but we did manage to see more beautiful flora and fauna, a cicada in its cocoon on a “skin tree” and the paw print of a honey bear on a tree.
The last few kilometres of the trek I was getting very tired and slipping a lot (I blame two nights of poor sleep!) so Eddie and the guide were both helping me navigate secure footing.
At the end of a particularly slippy downwards slope we reached a rickety bamboo bridge over a stunning clear water stream and as we walked over the bridge we could see the other side was vivid lime green and planted with artichokes, rice and beautiful purple flowers – it was breathtaking.
Towards the end of the tour we reached the top of a mountain and our guide pointed out below to the huge loop we had completed that day, we felt very accomplished and justifyably tired!
It was then just a short five minute walk over flat terrain to our guides village where we sat and took some pictures of the village buildings and animals as we waited to be picked up by the tour jeep, we were pretty wrecked!
Arriving back at the lodge we grabbed our bags and checked back into our cabin where, another cold shower later, we sat on the bed with crisps, beer and wine and chatted about the last two days and the fun we had.
For dinner we returned to the lodge restaurant where we met up with Steph and Ollie and told them about our day over delicious food and a few cans of beer – cheers! I slept very well that night.