When you want to have a break and escape the
temples you can visit Tonlé Sap Lake (Boeung Tonle Sap) and the
floating villages in Siem Reap. Tonlé Sap is the biggest freshwater
lake in South East Asia.
Tonlé Sap is crucial for the living of the
Cambodians. The size of the lake depends on the season. During
raining season (May-Oct) the Mekong river rises quickly and the
water is poured into the Tonlé Sap lake. The depth of the lake can
increase form the normal level 2m to 10m. At the end of the raining
season (end of Oct) the level of the Mekong river starts to
decrease and the current changes. Tonlé Sap flows the water back
into the Mekong river and the lake will get back to its normal
form. The lake helps to prevent the Mekong to overflow but
depending on the raining season it isn't always sufficient. The
Mekong river in Siem Reap tends to overflow atleast once a year.
During dry season when the lake returns to it normal size fertile
banks appear which are ideal for the grow of rice. Tonlé Sap is
also one of the richest fishing lakes in the world. They say that
Tonlé Sap can produce 10 ton fish per square kilometer and foresees
3/4 of the fish production in Cambodia. This is also the reason
that when you visit it you will see many families with nets and
baskets to catch the fish. The fishing season runs from February
till May. The Tonlé Sap unique eco-system is protected by UNESCO
There are three floating villages near Siem Reap which are worth
You can find the Chong Khneas floating village
at the foot of Phnom Krom. This is the most
popular floating village as it is the easiest one to access. The
best time to visit it is in the early morning or the late afternoon
because of the sunlight and it can be combine with the sunset at
Phnom Krom. You will spend around 2 hours on the lake. The people
living in the floating village are Khmer but most of them are
Vietnamese. You have floating markets, schools, clinic and churches
in these villages. Even gasstations are foreseen.
The boat trip includes two stops. The first one is a very
touristic souvenir shop. It should be normally a fish exhibition
but not really many fish to watch. The other stop is the
Centre (jinja.aspara.org/gecko/, 8h30 -
17h00) which is an information centre about the Tonlé Sap lake
and displays the lving of the people in the floating
They will also ask if you want to visit the floating school but
please be aware that they will first lead you to a shop to buy
school supplies which they expect you to donate to the children of
the school. Also it can be that at the moment of your visit no
children are present at the school.
You can get a tuk tuk from Siem Reap to bring to the boat dock.
It is around 15 km and the trip will take you around 20 minutes.
Most of them will charge you around 4 or 5 dollars one way. A
motodop will charge you around 1.5 to 2 dollars one way.
Previously you could ask a local fisherman to take you around in
his boat on the lake but now the road and boats are in charge of a
Korean Company. They will ask 20 dollars per person to visit the
floating village. The local police is also around as security and
they will stop you if you try to enter without a ticket of the
company. If you book this trip in a travel agency you can get a
deal of around 18 dollars which includes the tuk tuk.
Kompong Phluk (pronounced Kampong Phluk,
Kampong means "village with pier" in Cambodian) doesn't see that
many tourists as Chong Khneas but is definitly worth visiting. It
exists out of three villages and is located 16 km away from Siem
Reap. Most of the people living here are Khmer. The houses are
built on stilts of around 6 or 7 meters high. Here you have the
flooded forest which acts like a real mangrove. During dry season
the trees and the houses rise above the water and give a special
and memorable view to the villages. The people live primary of the
You can visit Kompong Phluk by taking a boat at the floating
village Chong Kneas. Here you can arrange a boat for about 30
dollars (go and back). They will show you arround for 1 hour. You
can also get there by road. Take the road to Roluos village (just
off Route 6). A motodop or tuk tuk can bring you there for around 5
dollars. Than you will have to take a boat through the flooded
forest. For this they will charge you around 7 dollars. The road is
much better than before so more easily to access. Depending on the
season, the time on the road or boat can be different.
If you don't want to arrange this trip yourself you can also ask
your guesthouse or hotel to make the arrangements for you. Also the
many tour operators in Siem Reap will be happy to help you.
Kompong Khleang (pronounced Kampong Khleang) is
one of the the largest communities living on the lake. They live as
all the other floating villages mainly of the fish and the flooded
forest. It is more a town and is located 35 km out of Siem Reap.
Not many tourists make the trip to Kompong Khleang but the once
that do are amazed by the forest and the houses on the very high
stilts. The stilts can be around 10 meters high. It is really
unbelievable that during the wet season the water rises to only a
few meters from the houses.
You can reach this town by taking a boat at the floating village
Chong Khneas. Also here you can get there by road. You can drive to
Damdek on National Route 6 and take a boat there. During dry season
it is better to go by road because it can be that the boats can't
reach the main villages.
You can ask your guesthouse or hotel to help you make
arrangement to visit this floating village. Not many travel
agencies offer this tour but you can check and get some information
with adventures tour operators.
On the Tonlé Sap lake Prek Toal
Bird Sanctuary is one of three biospheres and is the one
which is the aesiest access via Siem Reap. It is the ideal place
for birdwatchers. You have a high range of special breeds in a
small area. You will be able to watch rare species like the
spot-billed Pelican and the huge Lesser. The best time the visit
the bird santuary is during the dry season. The water is drying up
and the birds will gather at a few places which makes it easier to
watch them. All birdwatchers know that the best time to see the
birds is the early morning or late afternoon.
You can visit the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary by yourself but it
will ask a lot of efforts. First you will have to take a moto, tuk
tuk or taxi to the boat dock of Chong Khneas. Then you will have to
charter a boat there to take you to the Prek Toal Environmental
Research Station. They will charge you around 40-50 dollars (go and
back). It will take around 1 hour to get there. Next you will have
to pay an entrance fee of 20 dollars and 30 dollars if you want
boat with a guide. For this price you will be able to visit the
bird sanctuary for 1 hour. There is also the possibility to stay
Osmose (www.osmosetonlesap.net) is a non-profit
organisation that offers tours to the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.
They want to promote responsible tourism in Siem Reap. You can book
a trip for one day or can ask to stay overnight. Prices start at 55
dollars per person but can change depending on the amount of people
wanted to visit and on the tour you choose. You can find more
information on their website.
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