The Tatai River meanders through the Cardamom Mountains, for the most part with a gentle flow that belies its 20-metre depth, and in some places with a thunderous roar as the riverbed drops away to form cascading waterfalls.
The hills of the Cardamom Mountains loom around the river, in some places in steep, frothy green escarpments that you search for signs of wildlife as your boat chugs by, ably handled by one of the drivers who live locally.
Fringed primarily by palm trees and bamboo, the river is home to a small collection of resorts clustered around the Tatai Bridge about 18 kilometres out of Koh Kong City. Prices range from $35 at Neptune River Bungalows, through to $80 (all inclusive) at Rainbow Lodge, and up to $200+ at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge. We didn’t check out Tatai Resort, which sits just under the Tatai Bridge.
You can visit the waterfalls alone, or combine a visit with a trek through the forest. Do wear appropriate shoes, and you’ll need long socks because they make life harder for leeches — harder, though not impossible for the persistent little suckers.
For the waterfall, you can get there under your own steam and then negotiate a boat hire up to the waterfall, 20 minutes away from the bridge or, far better, book a tour with one of the operators in Koh Kong city.
The Tatai River may look like a haven of tranquility, but there is trouble beneath the surface.
Sand dredging continues, despite protests by local communities who are unable to fish in waters that have been disturbed by the activity.
The army has been implicated. And, as is so often the case elsewhere in Cambodia, the army is alleged to be involved in ongoing illegal logging of the forests here.