Tonle Sap is one of Southeast Asia’s most unique ecological wonders. The shape-shifting lake swells and evaporates with the seasons, which gives rise to one of Cambodia’s most fascinating natural sights. During wet season, it’s the largest lake in the region – expanding to approximately 15,000 square-kilometres. During this time, the Mekong River becomes so powerful that it reverses the flow of the Tonle Sap River, causing surplus rain water to surge into Tonle Sap Lake. This creates a vast natural reservoir where stilted homes rise above the pulse of the lake – which is perhaps one of Cambodia’s most fascinating cultural experiences.
Because of Tonle Sap’s unique ecosystem, the are is a great place for bird watching. For a great chance to spot rare and exotic birds and other wildlife, head to Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.
Likewise, Tonle Sap is dotted with fascinating floating communities that can be accessed by boat during wet season. The most famous of these is Kompong Phluk Village. This community of some 3,000 Khmer people have inhabited unique stilted and floating homes in this area for centuries.
How to get there:
By Boat: The ferry from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap travels up the Tonle Sap River and travels straight across the lake. It is a good way of viewing the Tonle Sap in a hurry.
The ferry between Battambang and Siem Reap crosses the north western corner of the Tonle Sap. Although a sizeable portion of the journey is spent along the Sangke River, it is considered by many to be the best boat trip in Cambodia.
The Tonle Sap and its many floating villages can be accessed from Siem Reap, Kompong Phluk, Kompong Khleang, Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang, Kompong Luong, and Battambang. At all these locations on the lake, it’s possible to rent boat and driver.