The Great Experience on the Tonle
Sap (Great Lake)
Cambodia's Great Lake, the Boeung
Tonle Sap is
the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia - a huge dumbbell-shaped body
of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet
season, the Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia,
swelling to an expansive 12,000 km2. During the dry half of the year the Lake
shrinks to as small as 2500 km2, draining into the Tonle Sap River, which
meanders southeast, eventually merging with the Mekong River at the 'chaktomuk'
confluence of rivers opposite Phnom Penh. But during the wet season a unique
hydrologic phenomenon causes the river to reverse direction, filling the lake
instead of draining it. The engine of this phenomenon is the Mekong River, which
becomes bloated with snow melt and runoff from the monsoon rains in the wet
season. The swollen Mekong backs up into the Tonle Sap River at the point where
the rivers meet at the 'chaktomuk' confluence, forcing the waters of the Tonle
Sap River back upriver into the lake. The inflow expands the surface area of
lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and
supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100
varieties of water birds including several threatened and endangered species,
over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and
other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Lake is also an
important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in
Cambodia. In harmony with the specialized ecosystems, the human occupations at
the edges of the lake is similarly distinctive - floating villages, towering
stilted houses, huge fish traps, and an economy and way of life deeply
intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and
The lake sits only about 15 km south of Siem Reap town. If you take the ferry
between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will cross the lake and dock at the village
of Chong Khneas. There are several ways to see the culture and wildlife of the
lake area depending on the amount of time you have and your interest.
Chong Khneas Floating
Chong Khneas is the floating village at the edge of the lake closest and most
accessible to Siem Reap. If you want a relatively quick and easy look at the
Tonle Sap, boat tours of Chong Khneas are available, departing from the Chong
Khneas boat docks all day long.
Khmer and Vietnamese floating households and the floating markets, clinics,
schools and other boatloads of tourists. Chong Khneas, while interesting, is
over-touristed and is not as picturesque and 'unspoiled' as floating villages
further from Siem Reap. The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a
touristy floating 'fish and bird exhibition' with a souvenir and snack shop, and
the other at the very highly recommended Gecko Environment Centre, which offers
displays and information introducing the ecology and biodiversity of the lake
HALF DAY TOUR
Duration : From 8 am to about 12 Noon or 10
am to 2 pm.
Price includes :
Transport, All check point tools, a drink & a full meal, and tour guide.
SUNSET ON LAKE
Duration : From 3:30 pm to about 7:30 pm.
$33/Pax for Adult ; $ 16.50 for children under 12 years old; Free for
children under 5 years old
Price includes :
Transport, All check point tools, unlimited drink & a full meal, and
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
The 'bird sanctuary' at the Prek Toal core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere
Reserve has been called "the single most important breeding ground in Southeast
Asia for globally threatened large waterbirds." The Biosphere covers 31,282
hectares at the northwest tip of the Tonle Sap Lake and plays host to species
including Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky
Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species. Of the
three Biosphere core areas on the Tonle Sap Lake, Prek Toal is the most
accessible from Siem Reap and the most popular with birdwatchers. The best time
of year for viewing is the dry season when flocks of migratory birds congregate
at Prek Toal. As the dry season progresses and the water recedes, the number of
birds increases but the travel to some of the more important viewing areas
becomes more difficult.
Duration & COST :
Kampong Phluk (The
Kampong Phluk is a cluster of three villages of stilted houses built within the
floodplain of the Tonle Sap about 16 km southeast of Siem Reap. The villages are
primarily Khmer and have about 3000 inhabitants between them. Flooded mangrove
forest surrounds the area and is home to a variety of wildlife including
crab-eating macaques. During the dry season when the lake is low, the buildings
in the villages seem to soar atop their 6-meter stilts exposed by the lack of
water. At this time of year many of the villagers move out onto the lake and
build temporary stilted houses. In the wet season when water level rises again,
the villagers move back to their permanent houses on the floodplain, the stilts
now hidden under the water. Kampong Phluk's economy is, as one might expect,
based in fishing, primary in shrimp harvesting.
Kampong Phluk sees comparatively few foreign visitors and offers a close look at
the submerged forest and lakeside village life as yet unperturbed by tourism.
The area can be reached by boat from the Chong Khneas or by a combination of
road and boat.
Duration & COST : 8 am to 4 pm
Price includes :
Transport, All check point tools, a drink & full meal, and tour guide.
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Kompong Khleang village tour, the Tonle Sap Lake.
Khleang is located on the northern lake-edge about 35 km east of Siem
Reap town, more remote and less touristed than Kampong Phluk.
Visitors to Kampong Khleang during the dry season are universally
awestruck by the forest of stilted houses rising up to 10 meters in the
air. In the wet season the waters rise to within one or two meters of
the buildings. It is a permanent community within the floodplain of the
Lake, with an economy based in fishing and surrounded by flooded forest.
But Kampong Khleang is significantly larger with near 10 times the
population of Kampong Phluk, making it the largest community on the
lake regions are dry up in dry season and flooded in rainy season as of
the Mekong River phenomenon.
fishing community views always change according to seasons. Houses are
built on stilts with a height upon on flood peak of the lake.
Excursion tours are organized according to different seasons to see and
understand local activities of fishermen, life adaptations, and the
amazing ecosystem of the Tonle Sap Lake. Visit local market, pagoda and
school and get unforgettable souvenirs.
Duration : One Day - From 8 am to about 3 pm
Price includes :
Transport, motorboat tour, paddle boat tour (July-December),
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