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Village at Tonle Sap Lake  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Cambodia > Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap Lake Travel Guide

  
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    The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

    The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake. or most of the year the lake is fairly small, around one meter deep and with an area of 2,700 square km.

    The best time to visit is the dry season, when the water level falls and the birds are concentrated in a comparatively small area.

    During the monsoon season, however, the Tonlé Sap river, which connects the lake with the Mekong river, reverses its flow. Water is pushed up from the Mekong into the lake, increasing its area to 16,000 square km and its depth to up to nine meters, flooding nearby fields and forests. The floodplain provides a great breeding ground for fish.

    The pulsing system with its large floodplain, rich biodiversity, and high annual sediment and nutrient fluxes from Mekong makes the Tonlé Sap one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world, supporting over three million people and providing over 75% of Cambodia's annual inland fish catch and 60% of Cambodians' protein intake. At the end of the rainy season, the flow reverses and the fish are carried downriver.

    Flora and Fauna

    There is a bird sanctuary at Prek Toal not too far from Battambang. Species include the extraordinary masked finfoot.

    There are huge giant catfish here with record of specimens up to 650 pounds. This endangered speices is confined the Mekong and surrounding rivers and lakes.

    A large crocodile farming industry thrives on and around Tonle Sap. The main species is the Siamese crocodile, critically endangered in the wild. The lake also provides a habitat for 13 different species of turtle.

    How to get to Tonle Sap Lake

    The boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap goes through the lake and the express service takes around five hours.

    




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