I had arranged a date with Jack Highwood for the next day.
About 30 minutes outside Sen Monorom, “Heaven” stretches 650 hectares across pristine jungle, hills and valleys and the sight in the shimmering morning sun just takes your breath away. The jungle screams with life, moisture is rising in misty threads amongst the giant trees and vines and I am pinching myself hardly believing this is Cambodia, so very different from the parched plains and dry harvested rice fields of Siem Reap in the midst of the dry season.
Jack and his team rent this piece of Heaven from the local tribes and minorities. They take care of 12 elephants in total, leathery ear flopping giants rescued from tourism, agriculture and logging industries. Free and able to be just elephants again,
it’s a great experience and a sustainable alternative to what comes into the minds of many when Cambodia is mentioned: elephant riding and trekking. This project also provides jobs for around 40 workers who share passion of protecting their natural forest and jungle.
Jack’s passion shines directly out at you from his intense blue eyes. His views are firm and uncompromising, yet ring true and I found it refreshing that somebody actually cares for the welfare of animals in Cambodia (Jack’s history with elephants goes way back and reaches across many countries) and puts up everyday battle for this worthy cause.
By mid-day we were just about finished with our jungle adventures and back up the hill we headed across another valley to the project’s home. Here volunteers can stay and lend a helping hand for as little or as long as they like, community spirit prevails and the atmosphere is laid back. The views are stunning – rolling hills and not a sign of civilization as we know it in sight, screeching jungle on your doorstep and the food just amazing.
Visitng Sen Monorom certainly put things into perspective. Not only did I love the ELIE project and what is stands for but I could sample the atmosphere of the real Cambodia where time stood still – or so it seems. A place, where expats are forced out of their comfort zones and learn to speak Khmer with a surprising ease and in no time at all. A place where expat community counts roughly 20 souls gathered from different corners of the globe and from different walks of life. A place where quick catch up over a beer on Friday is over by the time the clock reads 9 and then it’s all over again. A simple life in the forgotten corner of Cambodia. Worth visiting while this lasts.
A word of warning to the faint hearted – luxury is a word of empty meaning there and tourist facilities are best described as basic.
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.