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Why Tonle Sap is special ?
The Tonle Sap Lake (otherwise known as the Great Lake) is a combined lake and river system in Cambodia. It is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and the richest fishing lake in the World.
The Tonle Sap is a unique ecological hotspot. Its flow changes direction twice per year, and the lake itself expands and shrinks by four times its size with the changing seasons. In the dry season, the Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. And when the monsoon rains begin in June, the Tonle Sap grows from approximately of 2,700 square km to 16,000 square km ! This provides a perfect breeding ground for fish and birds, and is one of the many reasons why the Tonle Sap Lake has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere.
It is one of the most productive fishing lakes in the World, supporting over 3 million people and providing over 75% of Cambodia's annual inland fish catch and 60% of Cambodians' protein intake. The colossul floodplains host ‘flooded forests’ which spend much of the year under metres of water with only their top branches visible. The local population has also adapted to the unique ecology of the lake with floating villages and stilted houses.
The Tonle Sap Lake is a natural wonder and a spectacle to behold. It is often overlooked by tourists visiting Siem Reap for the Temples of Angkor, who do not realise that less than 15km South lies the Great Tonle Sap Lake.
What to explore at Tonle Sap?
The lake located about 15 km south of Siem Reap town; you can make your journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by express boat crossing the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. Its takes only six hours, but this trip we may recommend you during Monsoon season. In dry season the boat sometimes stuck in mud because the water is low. 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 is the name of famous floating village at the edge of the lake. It locates at Southern part of Siem Reap town about 15 Km, and takes only 30 minutes by vehicles to the boat dock where there are always boats waiting for visitors. The boat trip through the floating village takes approximately two hours. You will explore the different of Khmer, Muslim and Vietnamese floating households and the floating markets, fisheries, clinics, schools, basketball course, pigsty and other boatloads of tourists.
Chong Khneas, was before very interesting, but now region is owned by private firm they did increasing prices and the area looks more commercial. 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 area.
- “Largest Lake in South east Asia ”
- “Nice experience dining on Tonle Sap Lake”
- “An emotional ride”
- “Atmospheric lake”
- “It's boat / shopping trip”
Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Campuchia
Tips for you
Prior to coming to Cambodia I really wanted to go to this lake, however since arriving in seam reap it's been getting bad reviews, and I was told don't go as its a scam, yes I had to pay $20 for the boat out and then I was talked into paying $50 for rice which I took to the alleged orphanage...yes it maybe a scam but if tourists don't go to the lake, money is not going to the local people, in the scheme of things what is $50 that's a meal in Aus...and after paying for 50cent beers all week I think everyone can afford the $50...pay the money go out there, and see the houses on the lake...I found it amazing and my boat drivers were lovely Cambodian people...worth the trip
You need to pass thru Kampong Phluk in order to get to Tonle Sap. The boat tour took around 2 hours and cost $15 per person for 1 whole private boat. Sceneries at Lake Tonle Sap was really magnificent. We can see the daily life of the village people and appreciate our life better. Tonle sap also linked to the great Mekong River. We were lucky to get a beautiful sunset in the middle of the Lake.
In reality the life of the people is not so awful as you may hear from locals. It's an ordinary village with its own churches, shops, cellular coverage. The only uniqueness is that it stays on water.