Camps Familiarisation Adventures

As a company owning and operating our own camps with dedicated full-time staff, we’re privileged to offer teachers the opportunity to experience our camps before committing to expeditions with us.

Typically, we conduct familiarisation ‘fam’ trips for schools that have signed up for a trip, inviting teachers to our camps to facilitate their due diligence checks, risk assessments and to gain a comprehensive understanding of what they’re about to embark on. Our ‘fam’ trips, on the other hand, serve the purpose of acquainting potential travellers with the essence of what Camps is all about.

In December 2023, we assembled a small team of teachers from various parts of Australia, all eager to learn more about how Camps operates. We selected Cambodia as our destination and coordinated the arrival of most teachers in Phnom Penh around the same time. Following long overnight flights, the first day provided an opportunity to unwind, adjust to the city’s heat and noise and get to know each other.

The journey truly began the next day as we embarked on a four-hour drive north from Phnom Penh to our camp in the heart of the country, Camp Beng Pae. Upon arrival, as is customary for all teams visiting our camps, we conducted a comprehensive welcome briefing and tour of the camp and its facilities. One of the key aspects that was covered included familiarising everyone with our six bowl system of handwashing before and after meals.

Following this, we embarked on a walking tour of the local community, providing an opportunity to showcase completed as well as ongoing projects, like the new English teaching classroom. Visiting the local school allowed the teachers to experience the lively atmosphere of the village, with excited young children running around and eagerly engaging with us as we explored.

Leaving Camp Beng Pae after a restful night’s sleep, we continued our journey north towards Siem Reap, passing through the heart of the country. Just before lunchtime and on the outskirts of Siem Reap, we took a short drive off the main highway to reach the edge of Tonle Sap lake.

This area is home to communities that adapt to the lake’s seasonal changes. For six months of the year, they reside in “floating” villages, relying solely on boats for transportation and the other six months see them using wheeled transport. Our boat journey allowed us to navigate through various small communities, providing us with a first hand look at their way of life before emerging onto the expansive Tonle Sap lake.

In the evening, we enjoyed a visit to the highly popular Phare Circus, where we were treated to an incredible performance by the talented acrobats and performers.

Phare Circus is more than just a circus. Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. The Phare Circus’s social mission to empower Cambodian youth to build brighter futures.

The next morning, the team woke before dawn to witness the sunrise above the Angkor Wat temple complex. This area of Cambodia is rich with numerous temples, ranging from heavily visited ones to temples that are lesser-known. Our team explored three of the larger temples before returning to Siem Reap by mid-afternoon.

Siem Reap, a bustling tourist destination, was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We strolled through its charming alleyways, explored its diverse shops and savoured the vibrant atmosphere of its numerous night markets, all while navigating through the many tuk-tuk drivers.

A new addition to our future itineraries is to hopefully visit the Kulen Elephant Forest; we decided to introduce this experience to the teachers during our trip. Located a short drive from Siem Reap, we had the opportunity to interact with retired tourist elephants from the temples of Siem Reap.

Upon arrival, we prepared a morning snack for the elephants and then ventured into the forest to meet them. We had the privilege of feeding the elephants and walking alongside them as they explored the forest. It was an up close and personal experience with these magnificent creatures.

I was pleased to observe that the elephants were treated with care and respect; they were not exploited or chained up. Instead, this sanctuary operates sustainably, relying on tourism to support the care of these retired elephants. It was evident that the team greatly appreciated this meaningful experience.

In the afternoon, we drove into the heart of the Kulen Mountains, where we explored the Kulen Waterfalls and the sacred temple sites cherished by the Khmer people, who continue to visit and pay homage to them even today.

On our final full day before heading back to Phnom Penh, we paid a visit to our other main camp in Cambodia, Camp Beng Mealea. Our day began with the customary tour of the camp, a briefing on toilet facilities, and a delightful lunch. Afterwards, we took a leisurely stroll to observe some of the projects we had previously done, mainly within the school premises.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an intense football match in progress, featuring kids of all sizes, some sporting full football gear while others played barefoot. Naturally, our more athletic members seized the opportunity to join in, but they quickly discovered that the heat posed a challenge, resulting in the locals running rings around them.

The journey back south to Phnom Penh is a lengthy one, approximately 6 hours, yet it offers ample opportunities to observe the bustling scenes outside. Upon reaching Phnom Penh, our first stop was the S21 Security Prison museum, where we gained an in depth understanding of the harrowing events of the Khmer Rouge’s seizure of the country and the subsequent genocide in the early 1970s.

This visit is consistently a deeply affecting experience, leaving an indelible impact even on the most resilient individuals. To lighten the mood after such heavy reflections, we indulged in a bit of retail therapy, heading to the Russian Market with its narrow passages and multiple stalls.

Our final evening together saw us eating on the riverfront, prior to gelato and exploring yet more markets!

The trip was not only a joy to organise, thanks to an amazing group of teachers, but I also believe it served as a fantastic opportunity to highlight the wonders of Cambodia and the enriching experience of a Camps expedition. A huge shout out to the team for wholeheartedly immersing themselves in all that Cambodia has to offer and embracing every moment of the journey.

Reasons to join us on an inspection visit/familiarisation trip.

  1. See first hand what we do in country to deliver the highest standard of expeditions.
  2. Conduct any due diligence checks you need to help make an informed decision about joining a Camps International expedition.
  3. The expedition will have been designed especially for teachers to enjoy  in a controlled environment.

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