If you’re looking for the best things to do in Kampot, the Climbodia Discovery Tour will challenge you both mentally and physically – and leave you wanting more!
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I’ve always thought I would love rock climbing… but I never got around to actually trying it!
Despite plenty of opportunities, I’ve managed to reach a ripe old age without ever hauling my body up a vertical rock face. So when I was looking for the best things to do in Kampot, Cambodia, and discovered there was a rock climbing tour, I knew it was time to climb!
Cambodia might seem like an unlikely place to find rock climbing, but the mountains around Kampot are perfect for it, with their pitted, angular rock formations. The team at Climbodia recognized this and started to decided to develop a small mountain just outside of Kampot.
Now, they have 17 climbing routes plus they offer a rock climbing tour perfect for beginners like me!
If you want a challenging but manageable introduction to rock climbing, the Climbodia Discovery Tour is ideal. It will definitely stretch the boundaries of your comfort zone (but probably won’t make you cry).
(Related: Learn how to travel Cambodia on a budget with this great post from Cycloscope.)
Is the Climbodia Discovery Tour One of the Best Things to do in Kampot?
Read on to find out…
What to expect from the Discovery Tour
Finding our Footing
The tour starts with a gentle climb up 35 metres of rock wall. I expected to just waltz up this first section like a pro but it was steeper than it looked from the ground. By the time I got to the top, I was a little shaky from the exertion and the adrenalin! It was a great start to a great day in Kampot.
Crossing the Cliffs
The next section of the tour is a 100m traverse, called a “via ferrata”, across the cliff we had just climbed. The traverse is very exposed, with a steep drop-off and a gorgeous view over the countryside. The good news is, you will be clipped securely to a cable the entire time, giving you the safety and security you need to keep going!
I was surprised at how nervous I felt. I’ve never had a problem with heights but the via ferrata definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.
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Back Down to Earth
Before I knew it, we were standing at the top of narrow hole in the rock, peering down at the ground far below. I had never abseiled before and as the guides leaned out over the opening to demonstrate the technique, I was silently freaking out.
Would I be able to launch myself into empty space when the time came?
Suddenly it was my turn to make the leap (OK, more like a gentle step) into the gap. Once I was hooked onto the rope, I was surprised to find that I felt completely secure. There was no sense that I would fall or zip too quickly to the ground.
I soon realized that abseiling is the reward for all the hard work of climbing. As soon as I hit the ground I wanted to do it again!
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I love caves, so I was excited to get to visit the inside of the rock formation we’d been climbing all morning. There’s more rock scrambling and another via ferrata inside the caves, plus a few tight squeezes through very narrow passages.
As we walked, the guides gave us some background on the caves and the small Buddhist temples that are hidden inside.
Up in the Air
For the finale, we got to do some real rock climbing. This is the stuff you’ve probably seen on YouTube, where people Spiderman their way up sheer walls of rock, with only a rope to ensure they don’t fall. Though my efforts weren’t particularly YouTube worthy, I did feel pretty badass as I pulled myself up the mountain.
In just a few short hours I had learned to trust the harness and the rope. The guides did an excellent job of belaying (that’s rock climbing speak for handling the rope so you stay safe on the rock wall) which gave me extra confidence. After a few attempts at the two easiest climbs at the site, I felt capable enough to really push myself and try scaling sections that would have terrified me at the beginning of the day.
By the third climb, I was exhausted, my fingers stiff and my forearms feeling like limp spaghetti.
But, just like my tour-mates, I am now hooked. We all loved the experience and plan to get out rock climbing again just as soon as the opportunity arises!
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What I loved about the Climbodia Discovery Tour
Great teachers. Since I had never climbed before, I was worried that I would just get stuck in the middle of a climb, unable to move forward or backwards. The guides from Climbodia know every foothold and handhold on all the routes, so each time we needed help, they called out the next step.
I did get stuck on my final climb of the day, but by that time I had learned to trust the rope, so I knew I could let go of the rock any time and gently float down to the ground.
Safety first. It’s no secret that safety standards in Asia are sometimes a little too casual for comfort. So, the idea of learning to rock climb in Cambodia did make me a little nervous. I was happy to see that all the equipment was in excellent shape, helmets were mandatory, and that the guides made sure to prep us well for a safe climb.
Physical and mental challenge. Rock climbing often gets compared to yoga and now I understand why. Once you’ve started a climb, your entire body and mind are engaged in making it up that rock face. Just like in yoga, full concentration is required and every muscle is involved. It’s a perfect way to bring yourself sharply into the present moment – an incredible route to mindfulness!
Very well planned. It wasn’t until after the tour that I realized how carefully planned it is. Each step of the way, starting with the first climb, then the traverse, and then the abseil, is a little more difficult, requiring a little more trust in your body, the ropes, and the guides.
It is a step-by-step learning process which meant that once I got onto the vertical climbs, I was comfortable enough to really push myself physically. The tour is a real progression and perfect way to be introduced to rock climbing.
What I didn’t love about Climbodia Discovery Tour
Disposable water bottles. Each harness has a small loop that just fits a small plastic water bottle, si you can’t carry your own bottle while climbing. Because of that, each of us were given a small disposable water bottle. Rather than giving us several bottles throughout the day, it would be better we could refill the small bottles from a big water jug. Climbodia does make sure that the water bottles are all recycled (which is rare in Cambodia)!
Little technique training. Though the guides were very good when it came to showing us where to step and how to safely abseil, I would have liked a quick tutorial on rock climbing technique. I would have appreciated tips on how to use my hands and arms most effectively and how to find the best handholds and footholds. Next time I go, I’ll be sure to watch some how-to videos before I head out.
What surprised me about the tour
Real adventure. I’ve been on a lot of “adventure” tours that end up being a Disney-fied version of adventure, slightly lame and only exciting if you’ve been chained to your desk for the past several years. So when a tour challenges my entire body and mind and pushes me outside of my comfort zone, too, it’s a bit of a shock.
The Climbodia tour did just this – forcing me out of my comfort zone and then rewarding me massively, through a sense of huge accomplishment, for doing so.
Stress reducer. I was also surprised by the feeling of tranquility and peace that came over me at the end of the tour. I attribute that to the meditative quality of climbing. While your body and mind are engaged in a single, unified goal, there’s no room for worrying about the future or fretting about the past. A fantastic, mindful experience.
Here’s what you need to know about the Climbodia Discovery Tour.
When: Every morning at 8:45am, weather permitting. You must visit the Climbodia offices in the centre of Kampot at least one day before to sign up.
Where: At the Climbodia site, around 5km from Kampot.
Length: 3.5–4.5 hours
Transportation: Take a tuk tuk from the Climbodia offices in the centre of Kampot for $5 return. If you have your own transportation, you can drive to the site yourself. Be aware that the road to the site is unpaved and can be full of bumps and potholes, especially in rainy season.
Food & drinks: Unlimited water is provided. No other food or drinks. Bring your own snacks – you’ll need them!
Additional expenses: The guides are amazing, so a small tip is a good idea ($1-2 per guide).
Facilities: The “toilet” at the Climbodia site is a nature toilet in a cave. You’ll either have to squat in the dirt or hold it!
What to wear: Running or walking shoes. Heavy hiking shoes make it difficult to climb but sandals and casual shoes won’t provide enough grip. T-shirt and shorts that you don’t mind getting dirty. Longer shorts are better, to prevent the harness from chafing your legs.
What to bring: Sunscreen, snacks, a little money and ID, camera or phone.
Climbodia’s Social Initiaves
Climbodia is a great example of how a very small company can make a big differences in people’s lives. Before they developed the site for climbing, the mountain was neglected – now it attracts climbers and lots of other visitors. The tourism brings income to the local Kbal Romeas village, as people who visit hire transportation and eat at the small cafe near the site.
The five Climbodia staff members, including the manager, are all from the Kbal Romeas village, too. They’ve had to learn a lot of new skills for the role and are doing an amazing job!
More of the best things to do in Kampot
Climbodia also offers a half-day of top-rope climbing and independent climbers can visit the site for a one-time fee. There are 17 routes at the site of varying levels – enough to challenge most levels of climbers. Climbodia also offers a lead climbing course if you want to take your climbing to the next level.
Of course, there are lots of other tours and things to do around Kampot.
I would have loved to join SUP Asia for one of their mangrove paddle boarding trips but didn’t manage to find the time.
If you still need more ideas, here’s a full list of the top-rated things to do in Kampot.
Of course, you should also leave a little time just to sit by the river and enjoy the view!
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I was a guest on Climbodia’s Discovery Tour but as always, I only participate in and recommend trips that I think you’ll truly enjoy!
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Stephen & Jane