Providing much to discover, Tonle Sap River and Lake are amongst the key natural attractions in Cambodia and are well worth exploring on your visit.
What You Should Know
Spanning a length of over 100 km, the Tonle Sap River connects to the Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. The river and lake are vital for agriculture and fishing and were an important source of water even during the 12th century Khmer Empire. Today, Tonle Sap can be visited on tours from Siem Reap as well as Cambodia’s capital when staying at properties like Citadines Flatiron Phnom Penh.
Those venturing along this waterway from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh accommodation will come across charming ‘floating villages’ which have been built on the water; you will find everything from houses and schools to restaurants that float! You also get stilted villages with homes built on long stilts to keep them dry during the wet season. Popular villages to visit are Chong Kneas (floating village) and Kompong Phluk (stilted village).
Tonle Sap has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and supports an ecosystem with rich biodiversity. There are around 149 fish species here including Mekong giant catfish. It’s also a popular spot for birdwatching, especially at the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary; keep watch to spot painted storks, black-headed ibis, greater adjutants, grey-headed fishing eagles and more.
Best Times to Visit
The ideal time to explore the lake is from June to October; this coincides with the rainy season when the lake becomes much larger, partly due to the flow of the Tonle Sap River being reversed by the water from the Mekong River. While this period is ideal for heading to floating villages, keep in mind for visiting bird sanctuaries like the one at Prek Toal, the optimal time is from December to April.