Like so many before and after me, the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that populate the Mekong River in ever-diminishing numbers, were a key reason for visiting Kratie back in December 2000. At the time, I managed to see quite a few of the smooth-headed grey dolphins break the surface at a viewing point called Kampi, which is recognised as the best place to spot these mermaids of the sea. Figures vary, but around 100 dolphins are believed to live in the Mekong between Kratie and the Lao border area, though its a constant worry that fishing, contamination and degradation of their habitat, as well as plans to build large dams on the river upstream in China, will further dilute this precarious population. Because of their tourism value and the need to preserve their numbers, the Irrawaddy dolphins of Kratie are a high priority these days and the Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project works in tandem with the Cambodian government, NGOs and the local populace to raise awareness and develop effective conservation and community programs. However, its a constant battle to save these beautiful creatures. You can find out more here.