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.

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