Getting to know Tonlé Sap Lake
Tonle Sap is a beautiful and unique natural wonder; for most of the year it is quite small, however, once rainy season begins, the river changes direction, flooding the lake and increasing its size ten times to transform into the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Due to this, the river is recognized as one of the lakes with the most number of fish in the world, and the sediments created by the annual floods make for fertile ground, perfect for agriculture.
It comes as no surprise that one of the regions greatest ancient civilizations grew near this lake; today, much of the country’s livelihood is still centered on its output. There are 360 floating villages on Tonle Sap, most of which can be reached on a day trip from Siem Reap. Aside from the floating villages, visitors are taken to quaint shops, temples, schools, and churches on the tour.
In the early part of June, the annual wet season begins as the water of the Mekong slowly rises until it is substantial enough to redirect part of its flow into the ocean and into the Tonle Sap River. By November, the water level rises so much that the Tonle Sap changes direction briefly! During this time each year, Cambodians commemorate Bon Om Dteuk or the ‘Water Festival’.
Siem Reap is the ideal base for a trip to Tonle Sap because it is just a few hours day trip. One of the main attractions of the area is Kampong Phluk, also known as the ‘flooded forest’. Easily squeezed into a morning day trip, travel by local boat and pass through the tree-tops of this flooded forest. Enjoy swimming or stay on the boat and eat local fish or fruits sold by the locals. Visitors can only go to Kampong Phrak between the months of August and February due to the water level.
Travelling on the Tonlé Sap
Traveling by boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a one of a kind experience, the best chance to get a slice of local life and observe Cambodian culture outside of the metropolises.