Tonlé Sap Lake

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Tonlé Sap Lake
Tonlé Sap Lake

The Tonlé Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During the dry season the lake drains into the Tonle Sap River which flows into the Mekong River. But in the rainy season (June to October), the huge amount of water in the Mekong causes the Tonlé Sap River to reverse its flow.

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The combination of water flowing into the lake, and the backup of the Tonle Sap River swells the lake to 5-times its size in the dry season. This increase in size floods the surrounding floodplain and forests, creating an incredibly diverse and rich eco-system.

Tonle Sap Floating Villages

Tonlé Sap village
Tonlé Sap village

There are actually several so-called floating villages located on, and around the Tonle Sap Lake (Boeung Tonle Sap) and they are all somewhat different. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest feature of the map of Cambodia, and is an important natural resource in terms of fishing and wetlands.

In the rainy season, the Mekong River backs up into the lake, and it swells to more than 5 times its size in the dry season, flooding the surrounding forests and plains. Of course the best time to visit ‘floating villages’ is during the wet season when the water is high. You can try a ‘do-it-yourself’ tour, but it can be a hassle, and there are stories of people having problems trying to do it themselves. The four main ‘floating’ villages are listed below.

The best time to go

The best time to see the lake is when the water level is high, and floating villages are truly floating, and trips to the flooded forest and wildlife reserves are interesting. Trips to the bird sanctuaries are best from December to April.

The best time to come is from December to April
The best time to come is from December to April

In the dry season, the lake becomes very shallow, and large boats sit on the bottom of the lake. During this time, villages on stilts are left high and dry, and floating villages move out onto the lake. Also, forests are dried up, and some bird sanctuaries cannot be reached