Tonle Sap

Tonle Sap

The Tonle Sap, also called "Great Lake", is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. It is located almost in the middle of Cambodia. Siem Reap is only 15 km to the north of it. Siem Reap is a perfect location to organize boat trips to villages and bird sanctuaries along the shores of the Great Lake, that at Prek Toal being the most famous one.
Tonle Sap Overview
Tonle Sap is the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and covers an area of 2600 km² in the dry season to completely dominate the map of Cambodia.
It is located about 17 km from Siem Reap and a great attraction on the Cambodia travel packages for tourists interested in seeing communities of floating villages that vary from the houses raised up on stilts (up to 10 meters) and boat houses.

The lake with his murky brown water is home to a variety of fish, mangrove trees, and has crocodile farms in the local area.
Tonle Sap History
In 1997 the lake was designated as a protected area under UNESCO's Man and Biosphere program.
Tonle Sap climate and best time to visit

The preferred time for travelers on the Cambodian tour packages to visit the lake is March or April. A reason to visit during this time is because the lake can start to shrink in size, which leads to the inhabitants moving further towards the center of the lake. When the people living on the lake are closer to each other it is easier to get a real glimpse of daily life that takes place in the floating village.
During the wet season (May to October) life on the lake can change drastically with an increase in the water level and high waves which lead to the locals moving their homes closer to land, this means the tourists have a lot less of the floating village to see and explore.

Tonle Sap Transportation
The Tonle Sap Lake it is easily reached on a river journey from Battambang and Phnom Penh, and docking at Chong Khneas which is about 12 km from Siem Reap. A two-hour tour of the lake and floating village, leaving from Chong Khneas can cost in the region of $20-$25.
Things to do and see in Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap Floating Villages

There are actually several so-called floating villages located on, and around the Tonle Sap Lake (Boeung Tonle Sap) and they are all somewhat different. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest feature of the map of Cambodia and is an important natural resource in terms of fishing and wetlands. In the rainy season, the Mekong River backs up into the lake, and it swells to more than 5 times its size in the dry season, flooding the surrounding forests and plains.

Chong Khneas floating village

The floating village nearest to Siem Reap, it is the one most visited by tourists. In the wet season, it really is a floating village, with houses, shops, schools, etc. all bobbing on the water. Even though it is somewhat ‘touristy’, it is still interesting, and worth seeing. Stops usually include a souvenir and snack shop, and the Gecko Environment Center.
Kampong Phluk
floating Village

Kampong Phluk is a cluster of three villages of stilted houses built within the floodplain 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 houses. In the wet season when the water level rises, 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 on 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. The area can be reached by boat from the Chong Khneas or by road. Make arrangements through your guesthouse tour operator, or charter a boat at the Chong Khneas docks.
Tonle Sap Travel Tips
Tonle Sap Lake is the recommended destination in Cambodia tour package. There are a lot of scams out on the lake. You will pay $15 -$30 US per person for a 45 min - 1.5 hour boat ride. You will wonder why they only take one group out per boat, even if you are alone, but this is to make the scam easier.

You will be told sob stories about orphans and poor children and then they will try to get more money from you. They will ask you to take a smaller boat to the floating villages (at an additional $15 per person, or buy rice for the orphanage.

Here, they will high pressure you to buy 1 or 2 bags of rice for $50-$60 US each, which will later be sold back to the store. Perhaps, you will be taken to an "orphanage" where they will ask you for a donation. These kids are not really orphans. Last but not least, the boat guide will ask you for a tip at the end of the trip.
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