Saturday, February 16, 2013

Magical Tonle Sap Lake: Living on the water
and with the nature

See the locations on Tonle Sap Google Map

Picture by cucumber!

Picture by to ang, with love
Walking in Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap lake and its resources are a very important food source for Cambodians. Over 500 species of fish are reported in the Mekong river system, which includes the Tonle Sap Lake. The Fishery Law from 1987 protects flooded forest around the lake, so clearance and cutting is prohibited. The lake was listed as a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in October 1997.
There are three core areas in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve: Prek Toal (approximately 31,282 ha) in Battambang Province and the other two Moat Khla-Boeng Chhmar lake (approximately 32,969 ha) and Stoeng Sen river (6,586 ha) in Kampong Thom province. At Prek Toal you find waterfowls and relatively intact flooded forest. You can discover Painted Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser Adjutant and Black-headed Ibis. Highly endangered Grater Adjutant and Milky Stork were also observed, as well as White-winged Duck. Access to the area is only available by boats, that take one hour from Chong Kneas and 4 hours on average from Battambang via Sangke river on speedboat.

Picture by sharon.schneider

The flood of Mekong in rainy season, starting from June, reverses the outflow of the lake water pouring large amount of water through Tonle Sap river into the lake. The annual inflow from Mekong and the flows of rainwater from the many streams in the lake surroundings contribute to the rise of the lake water from less than one metre depth on average in dry season to 8-10 metres in wet season. At peak flood (September-October) only tree top and tall buildings including the floating houses are sighted.

Picture by cramsay23
Houseboat with garden

Between March and May the water retreats and leaves many small isolated deep pools of water. At this time, the mash and swamp which appears by the lakeshore at the fringe of flooded forest serve as feeding grounds for large colonies of waterbirds.
This all has been docoumented in a Unesco Report by Mam Kosal.

Picture by pinreader
Sunset over Tonle Sap

Picture by Marshall Segal

Picture by dee_
Sun down over Tonle Sap, seen from Phnom Krom

Chong Khneas: Vietnamese floating village, where the speedboats to Phnom Penh and Battambang dock. As notes, you can learn quite a bit about the ecology of the lake at Gecko Environment Centre. Learn about the Tonle Sap, the Mekong and the way fishing communities live on the lake. But: "Avoid the 1 1/2-hour tours out of the boat ferry jetty Chon Khneas", recommends Frommer's.

Preak Toal Bird Sanctuary: West of Chong Khneas. A very special two-day-tour with canoes and overnight at a homestay on a floating house is offered by Terre Cambodge.

Picture by Peter Nijenhuis
The Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), a bird in the stork family.

Picture by All Points East (The South East Asia Specialists) Where you go shopping

Picture by Tajai
How you move on in Preak Toal

Picture by fotofreund
Temple on stilts on Sangker River

Picture by Tajai

Picture by Tajai
At a womens cooperative, where handicrafts woven out of water hyacinth stems are sold. The cooperatives name is Saray. Much of the work is performed on the specially constructed Saray Platform in Prek Toal. This was built to allow the women to create some of the larger mats, which can be seen in hotels such as the Amansara Hotel in Siem Reap. It is also the principal selling point for the products for tourists who come to Prek Toal or are passing through on the way to or from Battambang. Read the background on

Picture by Tajai
Looking out from the school

Waterway in the wetlands of Preak Toal

Kompong Phluk Floating Village: 25 kilometers east of Chong Khneas. The flooded forest is at its best for about four months, from August to November. Read more on

Picture by synnvang

Picture by gregw66

Me Chrey Floating Village:
Picture by Peter Nijenhuis

Picture by Peter Nijenhuis
Cham people living in Me Chrey

Kompong Khleang Floating Village: A Khmer Village with more than 10 000 inhabitants. Many houses are built on stilts up to 10 meters up. Read more on The village can be reached by boat from the Chong Khneas dock, this takes about two and a half hours. Or you drive to Domdek on Route 6 (one and a half hour) and then take a boat for another hour. Alex in Wanderland shows, what she discovered here. Another experience is described by angkor wat tuk tuk. See also the video by robokeefe.

Picture by Brandon Shigeta

Learn more about the world on and around Tonle Sap Lake:
Exploring the Mekong’s Uncertain Future: Jeff Oppermann, a senior freshwater scientist for The Nature Conservancy, reports about a 1,500-mile journey down the river on
The Floating World of The Tonle Sap
Rare Wings over Cambodia
Cambodias Snake Slaughter
Facing up the Environment: Worries about pollution and dams along the Mekong River.

Tours from Siem Reap:
Osmose: Visit to the traditional floating village of Prek Toal and to the Osmose Projects. Also homestay at Prek Toal.
Sam Veasna Center: Birding Experiences in Cambodia
Tara River Boat: Tours on Tonle Sap Lake.
Terre Cambodge: Tours from Siem Reap.
Beyond Unique Escapes: Tours to Kompong Phluk, Mechrey Floating Village and Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.
Angkor Taxi Service: TukTuks, Cars and Vans with driver and tours.

Recommended tour guides:
Cambodia Tours

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