The 4 Rivers Floating Lodge is a very special Green Pearl: Guests stay at luxurious and sustainable floating tents in the midst of untouched nature in Cambodia. After particularly heavy rains in July 2018, most of the floating lodges were destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
2018: The year of disaster
4 Rivers Floating Lodge is famous for its unique swimming tents on the river Tatai. The hotel had been welcoming guests for nine years and was a retreat for maximum relaxation and wildlife adventure. The tents were constructed to handle rising water up to a height of 2 meters. However, after heavy rains in July 2018, the dam upstream was opened – and the hotel could not withstand the sudden water masses.
The platform broke into six parts, the tents swam down the river, some up to eight kilometers, including the people being in them. Fortunately, the team, as well as the neighbors of Tatai Village, Koh Andet and Koh Smach, acted immediately; they got the guests out of the tents by speed boats and did all they could to stop the tents from floating away.
Still, the results of this day were disastrous: The lodge had to be completely closed and all reservations canceled – instead, a cost-intensive and protracted reconstruction of the hotel waited for owners Valentin and Anna Pawlik and their team. “I built 4 Rivers nine years ago, I cannot describe now my feelings when I saw the damage.”, Valentin told us later. However, there was also hope and above all a lot of gratitude for the great support of all sides: the team, neighbors, partners – everybody gave a hand.
A restart in the country
They collected the different parts of the hotel along the river and began with the new building. Fortunately, some parts could even be saved: For example, some tents which had remained intact on the broken platform only had to be repaired.
With the new building the location was changed: Today the swimming tents are located on the opposite shore because there the current is less strong. The repaired tents were recycled as family tents on the mainland and added with a children’s room. At the same time, a new restaurant and platform for the bar were built, so that 4 Rivers could welcome its first guests already five months later – an impressive achievement of the whole team!
Tent for tent
However, what would 4 Rivers Floating Lodge be without its spectacular swimming tents? The previous metal construction was perfect functionally but had a high maintenance effort, so Valentin’s idea even before the catastrophe was to use swimming concrete blocks – and now he had the opportunity! However, this was and still is a great challenge, because Valentin and Anna don’t want to use heavy devices on the river.
For the first platforms (about 55 tonnes of concrete are needed per tent), they used small cranes, but in the meantime, they have refined their technique and now the concrete is being poured directly on the water. However, the process is ongoing, tent by tent they learn and slowly build their resort. “The last seven tents will hopefully be finished before next August, then the main platform and the bar will follow,” says Valentin. “I am also dreaming to have a floating swimming pool on the central platform, let’s see if life is good to us…”
Sustainability at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge
For Anna and Valentin sustainability plays a major role and besides the already implemented initiatives, they further developed their engagement: today 95% of the required energy is sourced from their solar plant. Through the new land property some new projects could be realized as well: On the area, they planted ten different types of trees including four different bamboo species. Besides, a special bamboo kind for drinking straws and banana palms whose sheets are used for food decorations and packaging was planted. Also new: there’s now WIFI at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, thanks to Valentin who has laid a six-kilometer-long cable from the Tatai Village along the river to the lodge.
A new form of collaboration at the hotel
The long-standing employees have remained and helped during the reconstruction phase; the team has grown together even further. With the re-opening, they got a new chance, tells Valentin: „In the long term we will act only as hotel proprietors, our employees have founded their own local management company and are taking care of the daily business independently. The transition takes a while, but they should feel as if 4 Rivers belongs to them.”