The Kingdom has countless areas of rich natural beauty, but it seemed that only a few were well known, leading many to conclude that Cambodia’s natural offerings were few and far between.
One unlikely benefit of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the rediscovery of many of Cambodia’s overlooked natural attractions.
As the Kingdom – and indeed the entire world – faced the looming threat of the pandemic, strict measures had to be put in place. To eradicate the spread of the virus, the government was forced to introduce strict polices of social distancing, mask wearing and a ban on large gatherings, all of which, at first, left many people feeling anxious and isolated.
As a result on restrictions on urban gatherings, hiking and other journeys through the Kingdom’s forests and mountainous areas began to take off. More and more eco-tourism sites were posted to social media, attracting the attention of many Cambodian people. They began to realise that there were many exciting and beautiful destinations that they themselves had been unaware of.
Among the adventurers and photographers, a young man Nheb Vannak stood out. His Facebook account DanCherng Adventure, has over 180,000 followers.
He posts new content to amuse and delight his fans at least once a week, with some of his videos having been viewed more than two million times.
He believes that his initial success was due to the large number of Cambodian youth who were bored and locked down in their homes during 2020.
Vannak said that at that time he just wanted to create funny and different videos to keep himself busy and relief his stress – as well as that of his followers.
“When the Kingdom was locked down, only the internet felt free. It became an incredibly important means of communication and expression,” he said.
When he first began creating content, he made videos at home. While they all featured creative and humorous activities, he also shared tips on how people could protect themselves from Covid-19.
After lockdowns were ended, he began to make videos of his adventures in the wilderness.
He claimed that all of his videos are from his own ideas, with no influence from other people. He is also an independent graphic designer and videographer, and uses his channel to showcase his abilities.
His videos – some that show him using an army surplus mess tin to cook rice in the forest, catching and cooking fish, collecting crabs at night and all kinds of other interesting survival and environmental tips – have the attracted people’s attention, both for the fascinating content and the professional quality of his shooting and editing.
“Of course, since I started creating my wilderness videos, I have gained a lot of attention. It seems to me that there has been a sharp increase in the number of people hiking and camping in the forests and mountains,” he said.
He also believes he is changing the lives of people in the more remote destinations he travels to.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of visitors seem to travel to places I have featured in my videos. After I featured Koh Kong Krao, I posted the phone number of a tour boat operator that I used. He has since called to thank me and says that he has many guests calling him every day,” he added.
In numerous other remote areas, he says people are pleased to see him, as they know that he will attract more business to their eco-tourism locations.
“In many areas, people have stopped destroying the forest and are now caring for it. They know that the forest is what will attract tourists and that sustainable tourism provides better long term prospects for their communities,” he said.
“I am very happy that I can contribute to promoting their communities and improving their lives,” he added.
His videos were originally created to amuse himself, and later became a labour of love. Now, his popularity means he is able to subsidise his production costs through small sponsorship deals.
He left one piece of advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps into the wilderness.
“Pick up your garbage. Whenever I feel like I am the first human to stand on a mountain or swim in a river, I notice some plastic waste,” he said.
“Anything that you introduce into nature is your responsibility. This means if you take it into the forest, you should take it out. This displays a dignified attitude and respect for the environment. It also keeps the Kingdom’s natural areas pristine and ready to impress the next visitors,” he concluded.