Prek Toal Sanctuary

The Best Eco Tourism At Prek Toal Sanctuary Cambodia

Prek Toal Sanctuary

Prek Toal Sanctuary

Cambodia has some extraordinary wildlife reserves; Prek Toal Sanctuary is one such place. Located in Battambang province in Cambodia’s Northwest, it is a wildlife sanctuary located within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere, one of three areas around the Tonlé Sap lake, is dedicated to the preservation of fauna and flora of Cambodia’s rich and diverse environment in this stunning sanctuary.

The Prek Toal Sanctuary consists of seasonally inundated freshwater swamp forest with high botanical diversity. Short tree shrub makes up most of the landscape. Forming a dense under story with scattered large trees, which form the vital nesting ground for large water birds.

It is unmatched throughout Southeast Asia for the diversity of populations of endangered water birds it supports through the dry season. Access to the sanctuary is by boat.

The numbers of birds and fish have risen due to authorities clamping down on poaching such as stopping the theft of eggs and illegal fishing. These initiatives as well as other moves by authorities and locals are benefitting other fauna and flora as well. The locals are also beginning to reap the benefits of protecting their environment.

Director of Battambang’s Department of Environment Kort Boran said that this is due to tightening of laws on wildlife protection and a change in people’s behaviour. For example; nest monitoring revealed that 20 percent more foul have been hatched and 10 percent more birds are nesting in the wildlife sanctuary.

This is an area where not so long ago local communities didn’t particularly pay much attention to the environment, now it is a different story. Another indicator of the success of preservation programs has seen a 30 percent increase in its bird population alone in recent times.

You can virtually visit the sanctuary if you want to experience a guided tour.

Conservation Areas

This and other conservation areas are drawing an increasing number of visitors who want to experience Cambodia’s natural environment. In particular, the enormous variety of birds, mammals, and other wildlife and plants.

Kort also said that the authorities often tell the people to help protect Cambodia’s endangered birds by not killing them.  By no longer poaching they will make the area more attractive for visitors and locals can earn money from tourism.  They seem to embrace the conservation of birds now that they know of its importance.

The area has rare birds like Spot-billed Pelican, Black-headed Ibis, Heron and Masked Finfoot. And, that’s not all. Visit the Chong Khneas crocodile farm, cruise across Tonle Sap and spot ibis, storks, and pelicans including the huge lesser and greater adjutant storks, the milky stork and the spot-billed pelican. Even the uninitiated will be impressed, as these birds have huge wingspans and build enormous nests. There are also Cormorants and Egrets nesting, socialising and feeding. In all, more than 150 species of birds have been sighted here.

Flood Water

The flooded freshwater forest environment of the sanctuary is a precious natural habitat for a number of endangered birds and is considered the most significant breeding ground for threatened waterbird species in all of Southeast Asia.

Large flocks of cormorants, storks and pelicans are almost guaranteed from January to May, along with herons, egrets and terns. The world-famous sanctuary harbours seven species of water birds of global significance: Spot billed Pelican, Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black headed Ibis, and Oriental Darter. There is a globally significant population of Grey-headed Fish Eagles and the secretive Masked Finfoot. Other highlights include three different types of Kingfisher, Bitterns and at least four fish eagles. Some of these birds are also endangered.

A visit to the sanctuary can include a Cambodian-style lunch at a floating restaurant. Trips to the sanctuary also bring you up close and personal with the fascinating floating village of Prek Toal, a much more rewarding destination. While exploring the sanctuary and surrounds, the unique opportunity to see authentic floating fishing villages and watch the friendly fishing families go about their day.

Cambodian Wildlife

There are also crocodiles, snakes, and catfish at the Chong Khneas Crocodile and Fish farm. Travel by boat and pass stilted houses, flooded forests, and floating markets.

The best time to visit is during the peak season between December to early February when the concentration of birds is highest. As water starts to dry up elsewhere, the birds congregate here. The birds remain beyond February, but the sanctuary becomes virtually inaccessible due to low water levels. It is also possible to visit from September, but the bird numbers may be lower. The best time to see birds is early morning or late afternoon and this means an early start or an overnighter at Prek Toal’s environment office, where there is very basic accommodation.

Getting to the sanctuary under your own steam requires a 20-minute motorcycle or taxi ride to the floating village of Chong Kneas then a boat to the environment office. From here, a small boat will take you into the sanctuary, which takes about one hour. A boat trip to Prek Toal takes about two hours from Chong Kneas boat dock.

An overnight stay can also be arranged in a floating house in the village allowing the visitor to be in the core reserve for dawn.

You can also be part of this exciting experience by becoming an eco-volunteer.

Eco-volunteering

Try your hand at some environmentally friendly projects.

Asian Elephant Projects

Sustainable Cambodia

http://www.sustainablecambodia.org/page.asp?p=28

Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary

http://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.org/volunteer.html

Sea Turtle Conservancy

https://conserveturtles.org/jaguar-eco-volunteer-program/

Osoam Cardamom Community Centre

https://osoamccc.weebly.com/

cycling in Cambodia

An Awesome Adventure – Traveling from Phnom Penh to Battambang

Best Awesome Adventure - Traveling from Phnom Penh to Battambang

Phnom Penh to Battambang

Cyclebodia takes you on a journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang via Kampong Chhnang.

When you start early Phnom Penh is quiet: not much traffic, the city is waking up, and an army of street sweepers come into play. Lots of Phnom Penhers like to exercise in the cool of early morning: joggers, walkers and other cyclists.

By the time the sun rises you are out of town and on the open road, ready to take on whatever is thrown your way. The ride to Battambang will take you along the south-western side of the Ton Le Sap.

cycling in Cambodia

The Road to Kampong Chhnang

Getting out of Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is best achieved with a 5am start. Eventually, you hit National Highway 5, and this is the road you use to get to Battambang. The road is reasonably good for the most part (by Cambodian standards). However, on the outskirts of the capital there are some rough patches prone to flooding. If you are on a mountain bike, then you glide through these obstacles. We suggest you do not cycle or drive through flooded potholes for obvious reasons – they might be deeper than you think.

To begin with, riding up Monivong road takes you past the Chrouy Changva Bridge and along the Ton Le Sap River. This part of town has a Muslim flavour. You cycle past Mosques and Masjids with bearded men wearing kufis and thobes while many of the women wear hijabs and abayas. Another fascinating side of Cambodia.

After awhile you pass the second Ton Le Sap bridge.

About 40kms out of town you see Oudong on your left. It is easy to spot as the remnants of the former centre of power are perched on one of the few mountains in the area. Oudong was the royal residence and Cambodia’s capital for more than 250 years until 1866. It is also known as the “City of Past Kings”. You could stop here and look around, but it is better to visit Oudong on a day trip from Phnom Penh.

After Oudong the ride takes you through some twists and turns before you arrive in Kampong Chhnang. The journey from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is light on traffic and the hazards it presents. There are plenty of places to take a break and top up on water. As usual the inquisitive locals will want to know what you’re up to and smile with disbelief.

Kampong Chhnang

By now, you are in one of the central provinces of Cambodia, and its capital is, what else, Kampong Chhnang. It is amazing how tidy the town is. Most Cambodian towns are dusty and littered but not this one. As you ride in there are several guesthouses to choose from but continue to the centre of town which is nearer the Ton Le Sap.

Kampong Chhnang is about 100 kilometres from Phnom Penh. It is next to the Ton Le Sap. The town’s name literally means Clay Pot Port.

Take a ride to the bustling dock on the Tonlé Sap River. This is the jumping-off point for boat rides to floating villages. Ferrys leave here and ply the lake to the other side or further afield. Near the port are many Chinese shops. There is also a large Vietnamese community.

Outside of town you can visit the areas where the area’s distinctive pottery is crafted underneath stilted homes.

Kampong Chhnang Province

 Kampong Chhnang Province centuries ago was a main trading route between China and India. The Kampong Chhnang museum has the archaeological record of its history.

There is a Khmer Rouge-era airbase in the area. This base was built, but not completed, to handle Chinese aircraft. During its construction there were many Chinese advisors overseeing the works.

The military airport was the product of forced labour under the Khmer Rouge. Construction on this military airbase began in 1977, but it was abandoned in 1979 when Vietnamese forces invaded and occupied Cambodia.

Though never used for any actual aviation, the land holds several abandoned roadways leading to old buildings, water tanks, and the huge airstrips themselves.

There is also a guard posted at the runway. Typically, visitors have to pay a “fee” to look around.

Kampong Chhnang to Pursat

The next stage is another 100 or so kilometres from Kampong Chhnang to Pursat. This town is also the gateway to the Cardoman Mountains and beyond.

Pursat is located between the Tonle Sap and the northern end of the Cardamom Mountains. The Pursat River bisects the province, running from the Cardamoms in the west to the Tonle Sap in the east.

First impressions of Pursat is another dusty Khmer town. However, it is home to Wat Bakan, considered to be among the oldest active pagodas in Cambodia and revered as one of the most holy sites of Cambodian Buddhism. The province also hosts the annual River Run Race, an event for men and women, including those in wheelchairs, has five- and ten-kilometre races that follow the path of the Pursat River. Since its inaugural race in 2007, the event has grown to the second largest of its kind in Cambodia.

Pursat to Battambang

The Pursat to Battambang road is unusually quiet in the early morning. There is an odd line of street lights lining the road as you leave town. They seem to go on forever. Once past them, there are rice fields on either side of you for the next 100 kilometres or so.

The ride to Battambang, or city of the lost stick, is quite uneventful. However, when you enter city you first encounter the Battambang statue. A short ride from this and you are in the city centre.

Battambang is the leading rice-producing province of the country. It was also part of Thailand for some time before the French ceded it in 1907, and French Colonial architecture is a notable aspect of the city and an excellent opportunity for picture taking.

The city is situated on the Sangkae River. This is a small river that winds its way through Battambang Province to the Ton Le Sap. Battambang has several Angkorian temples in the area, and it is definitely worth staying in the town for several days.

Cyclebodia Destinations

If you have enjoyed this Cambodian cycling adventure there are plenty of other Cambodian destinations to keep you busy and fit.  Try Anlong Veng or Kampong Cham or Ratanakiri and never missing our on Angkor Wat.

Phnom Penh to Battambang

Have you a story while traveling from Phnom Penh to Battambang. Train, boats, cars or cycling. We would love to share them or turn them into an article we can share with others.

tonle sap lake

Tonle Sap Lake The Largest Freshwater Lake in Asia

tonle sap lake

Tonle Sap Lake

As a traveler to Cambodia you are going to visit either the Tonle Sap lake or the Tonle Sap river. This blog is no academic thesis – this has useful and interesting information for all types of traveler. There is also the Tonle Bati to visit.

Many visitors to Cambodia think it is all about Angor Wat and the killing fields. The Tonle Sap Lake brings you into contact with Cambodian nature and local culture.

Tonle Sap lake is to Cambodia what the Lake District is to England or the Great Lakes are to North America.  

However, the Tonle Sap Lake is often overlooked for the simple reason it is fishermen living a subsistence lifestyle. It gives no apparent kudos for visiting. However, we know you will be glad you visited the biggest freshwater lake in Asia. If your visiting pub street in Siem Reap you are only a hop, skip, and a jump from the lake.

Lake (Not fake) Facts

Hopefully we can make the Tonle Sap Lake Facts a bit more than a list of figures. We want you get an idea of the awesomeness of must see destination in Cambodia.

Tonle Sap Facts

  1. In the dry season it is approximately 2,500 square kilometers. However, in the rainy season this increase to a whopping 16,000 square kilometers. 
  2. The lake has about 1 cubic kilometer of water in dry season which rises to 80 cubic kilometers in the Cambodian wet season.
  3. Its probably not suitable for you swim in it. Even if you see the locals splashing about – stick to your swimming pool. The lake might just have a Siamese croc close by.
  4. There are more than 300 species of freshwater fish; however, a fishing holiday is probably not worth the bait. Although there are some truly huge catfish hiding in this vast lake.
  5. If you are a twitcher you will find over 100 local birds. November to April concentrates birds into a smaller area making them easier to spot.
  6. There are no bars or restaurants of worth on the Tonle Sap Lake. Take sustenance with you.

If you are looking for more Tonle Sap facts then head over to wiki

Floating Village

The biggest Tonle Sap Fishing Village is Chong Khneas. If you want a taste of village life this is where to head for. Most of the villagers are living a subsistence lifestyle so don’t expect too much in the way of luxuries.

Watch out for scams. Poor people will take desperate measure and there are con artists. You might be asked to buy milk or rice for an orphanage or school. Generally, this is sold back to the shop so that the “seller” can use the cash for other purposes.

The Floating Village Siem Reap is only 15 km or a dusty hour’s ride from the main city. There is not much to see on the road to the Tonle; however, fun can be had. Take a picnic and a few drinks and stop along the way. It’s a great way to meet some locals. Sharing food and drinks with locals is much appreciated.

Generally, it is better to book a Tonle Sap Floating Village tour from a respectable Siem Reap tour agency. This will ensure a great day out with some pertinent advice.

Tonle Sap Fishing Village

If you want to visit somewhere with less of a tourist feel. A more authentic visit would be Kompong Khleang. This is the Tonle Sap fishing village, where the adventurous traveller will head for. It is less travelled as it has less to offer a visitor.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

The main city connected to the Tonle Sap Lake is Siem Reap.  As opposed to the Tonle Sap River which is connected to the Capital. You can make your way to Siem Reap via boat from Phnom Penh or Battambang – or vice versa.

You should become aware of Siem Reap as it is your jump off point for temple hopping around the Angkor complex. Many people are only aware of Phnom Penh, The Killing Fields and Angkor Wat. Make this a destination for your Cambodian experience.

Tonle Sap Fish

Fishing in the Tonle Sap is becoming increasingly difficult. With fish stocks reducing and fish becoming smaller it is almost impossible for fishermen to make a decent living. Much of the fish reduction is due to overfishing to feed tourists – YOU.

A visit to a Siem Reap night market or restaurant will confirm this by the size of the fish.

Our charity aims to help subsistence farmers in Krong Battambang with fish farming. Bringing in useful revenue, feeding their families and giving some relief to the Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap River Boat

What a great way to spend a day or go to Phnom Penh. The boats obviously got on the Tonle Sap River. An unusual river as it flows both ways depending on the season.

Some tour boats plying the trade between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh will transport you by vehicle to more suitable landing areas. This is to avoid long and tiresome journeys on the Tonle Sap Lake with little to see.

Siem Reap to Battambang

In addition to Phnom Penh, you can head to Battambang by boat. It’s a long journey – be prepared. Book your tickets via a recognized tour operator. An alternative is driving to Battambang which can be completed in a few hours. By boat, you should put aside 5-6 hours. Indeed, set aside a whole day.

Volunteering on the Lake

There are many ways that you can volunteer on the lake. Teaching, medical and conservation to name a few.

You can help our charity in Battambang and give the fish on the Tonle Sap some relief.