Tonle Sap Lake is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and it’s home to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. In and around the lake, there are a variety of wildlife species that helped to sustain and grow the ancient Khmer civilization. It’s also known for its unique local communities and floating villages.
The massive lake in Siem Reap is 250 kilometers long and 100 kilometers wide at its widest point, giving it the appearance of an inland ocean because it is impossible to see the opposite shore from ground level. Surprisingly, it’s quite shallow, only reaching a maximum depth of 10 meters.
What is the best time to visit
Tonle Sap Lake is better visited during the rainy season (June to October). The Tonle Sap River reverses its flow as a result of the Mekong’s water, which, when mixed with the excess water from upstream, allows the lake to rise to five times its original size during the dry season. The plains and trees that surround it flood, resulting in a complex and fertile ecosystem. It’s also when boat tours to Tonle Sap’s several floating villages can be arranged. From December to April is the perfect time to visit the bird sanctuaries.
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The Floating Villages in Siem Reap
1. Chong Khneas
Chong Khneas is the nearest and most open floating village on the lake’s edge to Siem Reap. Boat tours of Chong Khneas are available all day from the Chong Khneas boat docks if you want a pretty short and simple look at the Tonle Sap. It provides a lovely scene with homes, restaurants, and schools bobbing on the water during the rainy season.
2. Kampong Phluk
Kampong Phluk is one of Tonle Sap Lake’s most famous floating villages. Since the houses are constructed on tall stilts, it isn’t exactly a ‘floating village.’ The village is high and dry during the dry season, with tall stilted houses lining the road. These stilts are underwater while the water level is high. You can also take boat trips into the flooded forest from here.
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3. Kampong Khleang
Since it is far from Siem Reap, it takes about 2 hours to get here by boat from the Phnom Krom boat landing. There is a floating village on the outside and a stilted village on the inside. Kampong Khleang has the largest population of all of the Tonle Sap Lake settlements, and due to its remote location, it attracts relatively few visitors. You also can reach there by Tuk-tuk or private vehicle and enjoy the rural life of Siem Reap countryside.
Mechrey is a small floating village in Tonle Sap, and it is the starting point for Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve birdwatching tours at Prek Toal. Many threatened birds use this area as a breeding ground. A biosphere knowledge center and a water hyacinth weaving center are also available.