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Cambodia Gap Year Program

Community + conservation + culture

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Cambodia, but not as you know it...

Step off the backpacking trail

Instead discover Cambodia's beautiful ancient history combined with modern day sustainable projects. This adventure showcases the best of Cambodia, from the must-see tourist hot spots to hidden gems away from the hustle and bustle.

Over the course of this dynamic four week journey you will be whisked away off grid into the beautiful area of Kampot where you will spend your time with NGO The Red Road Foundation. This is not just any charitable project, this is genius, fun, exciting and immensely rewarding. You will spend time improving the community space in Kampot - from building eco bricks made from rubbish to make buildings and schools, teaching the children how to swim, getting involved with arts, crafts, dancing...you name it.

Winding up on the coast at Sunset Beach to relax and reflect after an epic four week adventure. The perfect place to plan your onward travels around Asia.

This is how it rolls...

Venture out to Cambodia to get stuck into an mix of community development, exploration and volunteering across this historic country.


Cambodia's Program Itinerary

Embark on a journey that will take you from the vibrant city of Siem Reap to Sunset Beach. Integrating with local communities where you will help with sustainable community development, conservation - exploring Cambodia's hidden treasures

Days 1 - 4

Siem Reap Settle in + Angkor Wat + Kulen Elephant Forest

East Meets West

Siem Reap is a town rich in history, where east fuses with west in spectacular style, situated at the foot of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple complex. This old French colonial capital echoes European influences, with shuttered windows and delicate ironwork, but now interspersed with a buzzing nightlife, street food on tap, night markets and cafes.

Your first 3 days will be a gentle introduction to the hustle and bustle of Asian life, whilst we show you some of the city’s highlights, such as Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building. Spend the whole day tuk tuking your way around the incredible complex.

Phnom Kulen – the Mountain of the Lychees, which is about 2 hours outside Siem Reap. The main attraction being the waterfalls cascading down the mountain. You will also get to experience Kulen Elephant Forest. The elephants here have spent most of their lives working in the tourism industry and are enjoying a long-awaited and well-deserved retirement. Here in the forest, they can finally roam free and unburdened. They will rediscover relationships, natural foods they haven’t eaten in years, and receive the best of care.

The rest of your time will be spent exploring the markets and the famous pub street.

Accommodation

Local, centrally located hostel, single sexed dorms.

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Expect: authentic Cambodian food with rice and noodle dishes forming the basis of most meals.

Cambodia Gap Year Program
Days 5 - 6

Phnom Penh Cultural Exploration

Explore Phnom Penh

Arriving in Phnom Penh, the city will assault your senses and that’s a guarantee. Traffic everywhere, tuk tuks and motos whizzing around with no regard for anything or anyone. The city is big and bustling, with markets selling everything from chickens to microwaves.

Rising from the ashes of the war and the Khmer Rouge it has plenty to offer with a great selection of bars, restaurants and cafes - you will visit Nesat Seafood House in Phnom Penh which is a very fun dining experience. If time we will get you to the killing fields, as we feel it will really help you understand their culture. Tickets not included (budget $10).

Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
About 20,000 defenceless men, women, children and infants from S-21 were taken to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek between 1975 to 1978 where they were mercilessly killed. More than 8000 skulls can be viewed behind a glass screen at the Memorial Stupa which was erected in 1988.

Accommodation

Local hostel, single sexed dorms.

Food

All meals included.

Cambodia Gap Year Program
Days 7-22

Kampot Community development with Red Road

Red Road Foundation

This is the meaty phase of the program and we are really excited to have teamed up with the Red Road Foundation who focus on village-led social enterprises while addressing critical global issues, such as waste and education.

For the next couple of weeks you’ll be working on ECO building projects and sustainable development. You’ll help and learn about organic farming, harvesting and learning to craft handmade products to help sustain the school. Building projects include plastic bottle brick-making and working with the plastic bricks machine, using these for ongoing building projects.

Other activities you can join in with are yoga, meditation and personal well being activities, Khmer cooking classes, swimming in the local spring and trekking to the waterfall with a picnic, paddle board through the mangrove forest and help run field trips with the local children to the river or waterfall.

Honestly - this is an exciting and dynamic NGO run by the gorgeous Rachel who will be leading the whole program.

Accommodation

Here you‘ll be staying in volunteer accommodation house close to the project. Rustic but comfy and clean.

Food

3 meals provided of local fresh food.

Cambodia Gap Year Program
Days 23-28

Sunset Beach Downtime

Time to kick back

After all your hard work you’ll be ready for some R&R. You’ll transfer from Red Road to Sunset Beach by road and then ferry, where you’ll have the perfect chance to unwind and relax, or for those wanting adventure there is a great opportunity to go rock climbing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Why not enjoy some yoga, My Thai and snorkeling trips to the reef while you are here?

Think white sand, tropical - need we say any more.

On day 28, you'll ravel back to Phnom Penh to fly home.

Accommodation

Hostel on the beach.

Food

3 meals included.

Cambodia Gap Year Program
Cambodia Gap Year Program

Add on Independent Travel

Combine with Vietnam and Thailand

What we are finding is that our teams never want to come home post program and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - certainly making the most of their gap year. We can easily support this through our Leap VIP travel resource which every leaper has access to.

Cambodia is perfectly placed to add on Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. Borders are open and it is easy to move about. Want to get the most out of your gap year? Call us and chat through your ideas.



Children playing with water in Cambodia.
A man cycling through the rice fields in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat at sunset in Cambodia.
Children playing in Cambodia.
Sunset view from the beach with palm trees in Cambodia.

Cambodia's Details & Costs

Our teams are a maximum of 12 per departure so please don't dilly dally for 2023.

Options and costs

Whats included?

Budget

Flights: £1000 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: £100 per week approximately for extra bits and bobs.


Social Life

Guaranteed. You will travel and live with a tight team of volunteers throughout, so always someone to hang out with.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside rural communities who will welcome you into their society.

Contrast

See the best of Cambodia by living and working in an ancient city, in the depths of the jungle and on the white sandy beaches.

The Bigger Picture

All our projects are long term and you are part of the flow of volunteers needed to keep progress in motion.

Monday to Friday

Expect to busy with your projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day.

Weekends

While you are at the Red Road Foundation you will have days off (not neccessarily at the weekend as this is a busy time for working with the local kids). There are lots of local activities and Rachel will help arrange and advise. Please note however that will be an extra cost. Please ensure you have adequate medical insurance before you do any activity.


Cambodia Gap Year Program

Cambodia is a special place for us as its devastating history is only a snippet away in time, making our projects feel even more urgent.

The Khmer Rouge

From 1975-1979 Cambodia was governed by the Khmer Rouge and their sadistic leader, Pol Pot. During this 3 year and 8 month period, it is estimated that approximately 3 million Cambodians died from either execution, famine or overworking. Considering that the population of Cambodia, or Kampuchea as it was known, was only 8 million during this time, that was nearly half the population killed, plunging the country into deep poverty and destruction.

Aftermath

Miraculously what has emerged is a peaceful, verdant land with arms outstretched to visitors. Their culture remains trusting, kind and remarkably forgiving. Industry and business started to regenerate heavily dependent on tourism and more recently on voluntourism, but with all things in life, some have good intentions, some do not.

Red Road Foundation

We are really excited to have teamed up with the Red Road Foundation down in Kampot who focus on village-led social enterprises while addressing critical global issues, such as waste and education. They bring people from all over the world together in cross-cultural collaborations and experiential learning that raises the quality of living for all involved.

Rachel Riggio is the dynamic back bone of the Red Road - she moved from the states 8 years ago and settled in Kampot to make a difference - promoting student leadership & fostering immersive travel for our volunteers, many young minds have the opportunity to grow into sustainability-focused, philanthropic innovators. She is amazing - skilled in mindfulness and fluent in the local khmer - you are in for a treat.



Cambodia Gap Year Program

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

First week in the jungle, elephant time Sophie Rumble

The next two weeks would be spent in a remote jungle in Mondulkiri volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project. Our day was divided into two parts; elephant observation, where we learnt all about the different elephants, and secondly volunteering. The jungle took us a while to get used to, in the first few days it was a frequent occurrence to hear screams during the evening when people went to the toilet and were faced with huge spiders/ scorpions/ frogs!

The project had around 8 elephants, this included Sambo, who is considered to be the most famous elephant in Cambodia. We learnt a lot about her cruel history where she spent the majority of her life begging along the river in Phomn Penh. Here she was fed all sorts of foods that elephants shouldn’t eat- including birthday cake! Sadly, one day she stepped on a nail which went straight through her foot and subsequently resulted in a bad infection which was never properly treated until she came to EVP.

Over the week we all learnt loads about elephants and the mahouts. For example, elephants typically spend 20 hours a day eating – not a bad life. Also, that the bond between the mahout and the elephant is as strong as the bond between family as they spend all day, everyday together.

For the volunteering part, we spent most of the week clearing a part of the jungle so that we can create a banana field to feed the elephants. This involved the use machetes which the boys were definitely excited about

Cambodia Gap Year Program

The raw beauty of Cambodia Georgia Ling

Hey guys! I’m writing to you from Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where the Leapers have spent a week working at a school and exploring the exotic beaches that the province has to offer! Sihanoukville certainly felt different to the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap. Driving through the shantytowns of Siem Reap was a shocking eye-opener to the poverty of the countryside, but the fishing towns of Sihanoukville was an overwhelming picture of desolation. To think that locations such as these exist for a percentage of the world’s children to grow up in presents a terrifyingly real problem. The sad reality is that some only ponder upon the real issues in the world without having any inclination to do something about it. I think governmental and non-governmental programmes such as the one I am participating in should be advertised with much more fervour as an opportunity to help the plight of the less fortunate whilst also being able to experience different cultures in the world, which will undoubtedly contribute to a person’s worldview and their attitude towards multiculturalism.

The school at Sihanoukville tells us of much the same story. With leaking roofs and a lack of fans, the classrooms are by no means a comfortable and convenient space for learning. The Leapers contributed to tidying up the school by picking up rubbish around the site, as well as painting the walls to make the school look more presentable. Whilst doing so, we had the opportunity to talk to many of the children who could speak English and learn about their lives. Since the school was located in a fishing village, their parents tended to work in the fish-market community, which meant that their income was irregular and the family vulnerable. Despite the school’s condition, their ambitions were not dampened.

Cambodia Gap Year Program

Sunrise at Angkor Wat Victoria Price

This past week in Siem Reap has been pretty great, we have gotten into the routine of manual labour in the morning and teaching English in the afternoons during the week.

The students at the schools are very cheeky so to begin with a lot of us struggled to get them engaged during lessons but practice makes perfect and now we leave school each day with pictures and an uncountable number of high fives! They really are very adorable. Today we went to Spitler school and took part in a cultural exchange, we got shown some traditional Cambodian dance which was really beautiful.

We have started work on the toilet which is much harder than I expected, I don’t think brick laying is a career I should pursue but it’s fun to learn a new skill and to play with the children we are helping during our breaks. Although it is hard to communicate most of the time we have realised they really enjoy piggy backs and rock-paper-scissors!

This weekend we visited Angkor Wat, we woke up at 4:00 to try and see the sun rise but missed it by about half an hour but it was still insanely beautiful, possibly the most photogenic building ever. We also saw two other temples, one of them being where tomb raider was filmed, there where trees growing on top and the buildings and roots wrapped round all of the ruins, it felt like we were in the heart of a rain forest.

We also all received a water blessing so we now have incredibly good luck, it was an interesting experience, not as spiritual as I thought it would be as the man before us brought his new motor cycle to be blessed and the monk just drenched us all with water as we tried to hold in giggles, but if it means nothing bad will happen to us now so it was definitely worth it.

We are adjusting to the extreme heat, and I am looking forward to finishing the toilet this week as we have all worked so hard on it. I am also looking forward to some more Fro-yos and a $4 massage as well as taking part in the legendary pub crawl in order to make the most of our final week in Siem Reap.

Cambodia Gap Year Program

Watch our videos

Cambodia

Community and Conservation

"Hand on my heart it's been the experience of a life time"

I've just been having THE best time here! It's gone so quickly, but I feel like I've been here forever at the same time.

We've done a lot of work already, so I feel like we've made a big difference. Through this work we've all learnt a lot, but it's mostly given us a good sense of liberation and generally put a lot of things in perspective. And of course, we now understand how difficult it is for these communities to get just essential amenities!

But the main thing is that I am very happy with the programme, and I can put my hand on my heart when I say it's been the experience of a life time, and I can't wait to continue for the 2nd half of it!

- Peter Blake

"You are amazing organising it all"

How exciting for them!! - Trip of a lifetime. Inigo has been stuck at home since last March as I suppose they all have - so what a wonderful, exciting, fun and not to mention horizons broadening time they will have. You are AMAZING organising it all - I don't know how you do it. Huge thanks for everything


- Rose (mum)

" Madagascar leap program SUPERB"

Experience of a lifetime, met people I would never have met and now consider them as my closest friends, gave me a more humble and appreciative view of life and provided me with memories that I can never replace and will never forget.

Highly RECOMMEND!!! (Make sure u like rice and beans and chickens in your room).

- Georgia Burgess

Cambodia Gap Year Program

"The most incredible experience"

This 10 week programme was truly the most incredible experience, where I have made amazing friends and immersed myself in getting to know a whole new place and culture.

The camp itself has members of all different volunteer programmes, allowing you to develop incredible relationships with people from all over the world in such a unique environment. I did a month of marine conservation and a month of teaching. The marine conservation was beautiful, and being able to get an advanced open water PADI in marine protected areas of Madagascar was very special.

As for the teaching, this was something which was so special to me, it allowed me to become so connected with the community, and I created bonds with people that I will truly never forget. Seeing students progress over time was so rewarding and allowed me to develop such close relationships. The staff members are super relaxed and it really feels like your own community! Honestly the best experience!!!

- Izzy Proud

"So helpful with everything..."

Dear Milly

Just wanted to say thank you for the way in which you and your team have looked after our kids.

I was very nervous about letting Sam do this all on his own, but you have walked him though every step and the team has been so helpful with every thing from Visa’s to sun cream.

Thank you for the photos and updates which is very reassuring when they are so far away.

I cannot recommend you and your team highly enough and wish you many more years of shepherding these young people in overseas travel. I have been recommending you to any lower 6thparents whose children are just getting to this stage.

Good luck and thank you again

Julie

- Julie

"Very professional service"

I am super impressed that The Leap have been in contact at the beginning of my daughters’ trip to tell me she had arrived arrived safely. Very professional service - thanks very much!

- Abi Crampton

"How on earth you have managed to pull this off I don't know!"

But you have all been absolutely incredible. I never could have imagined Charlie being able to take part in such a fantastic project in this, the strangest of years! I have huge admiration in your professionalism and ability to deliver in the toughest of times. Thank you so much, I'm sure the presence of the team will do wonders for the project and wonders for the Team Members..what a fantastic opportunity for them all!!

- Andrew Fairs

"Grown in confidence"

I have grown in confidence from meeting new people and I have realised how much of an impact everyone could make with everyday things

- Louisa

"So helpful with everything..."

Dear Milly

Just wanted to say thank you for the way in which you and your team have looked after our kids.

I was very nervous about letting Sam do this all on his own, but you have walked him though every step and the team has been so helpful with every thing from Visa’s to sun cream.

Thank you for the photos and updates which is very reassuring when they are so far away.

I cannot recommend you and your team highly enough and wish you many more years of shepherding these young people in overseas travel. I have been recommending you to any lower 6thparents whose children are just getting to this stage.

Good luck and thank you again

Julie

- Julie

"Thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences"

My son has just got back from an amazing trip to Madagascar. The Leap were great in keeping in contact with emails, blogs and can call and get a speedy reply if you need to contact them, thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences.
Many thanks to Milly from The Leap who was amazing.

- Nikki Field

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