Over a hundred miles up the Srepok River, in the isolated Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri Provinces of Cambodia reside several ethnic minority and indigenous groups. Some of these people believe in spirits which live in certain forests, each with its own set of rules and taboos. Our expedition will begin near these spirit forests and end after we paddle what the Vietnamese call the nine dragons. Each dragon is one of the main channels of the Mekong Delta, hence the name From the Spirit Forest to the Dragon's Mouth.
This is a canoe expedition with Garrett Cooper and Matthew Smith down the entire Srepok River and over 400 miles of the Mekong River covering up to 750 miles. In December we will get on the water in Vietnam and paddle into some of the remote Provinces of Cambodia and through the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary. When the Srepok flows into the Mekong River at Stung Treng, we will paddle the entire length of the country from north to south before crossing back into Vietnam and into the Mekong Delta. Eventually we will reach the South China Sea where we will have to paddle up the coast to reach Vũng Tàu which marks the end of the expedition.
We will be on the water for 40-50 days and paddle from rapids and portages around waterfalls in the upper section (if we do the section in red on the map below), to isolated animist tribal areas along the Srepok, to the mighty Mekong River, and finally on to the ocean.
I want to do more than just an expedition, so along the way we will be teaching CPR in several villages. I have already spent time in Cambodia, including my last expedition, solo down the Mekong in a native wooden boat. Along the way I visited a few villages and believes the people will appreciate this kind of training, and are receptive enough for us to provide these classes which they will otherwise likely never have. The life of a fisherman is dangerous; there are some pretty serious entanglement issues with nets and of course there are no PFDs. But what I didn’t know until we started research for this expedition, is that every day on average 6 children drown in Cambodia, and 32 drown in Vietnam (swimsafe.org). I don’t know if the training we can provide will ever save a life, but it might, and that is what we hope for.
We are proud to announce that through Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, we will be documenting Irrawaddy Dolphin, River Tern, and Black Bellied Tern sightings for a scientist who works for the World Wildlife Fund in Cambodia. The data collected will help the WWF determine other areas to focus conservation efforts.