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Tonle Sap Lake

As far as South East Asian destinations are concerned, oceans and rivers are available in abundance in this region. The most important river in this region is the Mekong and the famous delta it forms is the world-renowned place to visit. If you wish to witness its beauty, a visit to Cambodia is a must. Cambodia houses the most talked about place, the Tonle Sap Lake that alters its volume annually following a specific cycle.

Boat on Tonle Sap Lake
Take a Boat on Tonle Sap Lake

If you are a nature-lover and wish to explore its splendors, a cruise along the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest Southeast Asian freshwater lake, would be a smart idea. Read on to know more about the place and the details required to plan a trip to this amazing lake.

The Flood Cycle

Situated in the lower Mekong basin, the Tonle Sap Lake is a part of the Tonle Sap River, which is again a part of the Mekong River. Every year an influx of freshwater flows through The Mekong making it swell in volume by ten times of its original size, during June to September.  

The additional water flows through the Tonle Sap River, and the flow of the river gets alternated. This, the additional water received through the rains and the melted snow, flows into the Tonle Sap Lake which like a bowl, gets spilled with water assuming a colossal volume. When the rains subside, gradually, the regular flow of the rivers is restored and the lake recedes to its original size.

Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap Lake

Popular Floating Vicarages on the Lake

Chong Khneas

Tonle Sap Lake is a UNESCO biosphere reserve where several floating villages thrive. Their livelihood and survival depend on the flow of the Mekong River that fills the bounty of this lake annually.  Chong Khneas is one of the most visited floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake and remains crowded with tourists during the wet season. You can stop by the souvenir shops and snack corners to get some rest and enjoy the spirit of the place.

•  Entry Fee: The entry fee for a single person is $21 which is inclusive of the boat ride through the floating villages. If you are traveling in a group, the free becomes $20.
•  Place of interest: Gecko Environment Center

Kampong Khleang

If you are willing to taste the beauty of the lake in solitude, Kampong Khleang is probably the best destination for you. It is situated a little away from Phnom Krom boat landing and it takes almost 2 hours from there to reach here. Surely, the number of tourists received by this place is considerably low owing to its distant location and this is what makes it one of the best places to visit during your Tonle Sap Lake cruise.

•  What to see: The stilted inner village and the outer floating village
•  How to reach: Take a boat from Chong Khneas dock to reach Kampong Khleang in 2.5 hours. You can also travel via route 6 from Siem Reap to reach Dock Domdek and avail a ferry service from to reach Kampong Khleang finally. However, during the dry seasons, boats do not sail up to the main village as the lake runs dry.

Kampong Khleang
Kampong Khleang

Prek Toal
Prek Toal

Prek Toal

Prek Toal is a wonderful village with a hospital, school, shops, restaurants, and even a pagoda. It is one of the most-visited floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake, which accommodates a flooded forest area behind it. This forest area is the abode for many species of birds, which makes it one of the best bird sanctuaries of South East Asia.

•  Entry Fee: The entry fee is $25 per head for two persons and $20 per head for a group of three persons and more.
•  Where to stay: If you wish to spend some more quality time at this sanctuary, the research station offers basic accommodation facilities as well.

Best time to visit: Monsoon is the best time to visit this lake. But avoid the mid-monsoon seasons as your plans might get jeopardized due to heavy showers.

The option of cruising: You can opt for a day tour, sunset cruise, canoe cruise, etc.

How to reach Tonle Sap Lake?

The Lake is situated 15 km (9.3 miles) south of Siem Reap. Regular ferry services connect Siem Reap with Phnom Penh, which takes around 6 hours. The lake comes on the way and you can opt for an exclusive Tonle River cruise after reaching the river mouth or the lake.

A ferry ride to the mouth of the lake would set you back by $18 – 25 USD per ticket. It is recommended to buy the tickets at least a day in advance. You can get the tickets either at the ferry offices or from travel agencies and hotels. The ferry departs from the Chong Khneas dock at Siem Reap and you should get there by 7 AM to not miss the ferry ride.  

Tonle Sap Lake is one of the major attractions near Siem Reap, especially during the wet seasons when the water of the Mekong fills the lake. Besides taking cruises through the lake, you can also take note of the means of livelihood and the methods of fishing practiced by the local people here.

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