Lake Tonlé sap – Floating Villages

Traditional homes

Entering lake Tonlé sap it was obvious the monsoon season was well underway, Tonlé sap  now an inland sea. A  fine sunny day, spectacular reflections on the water. Our boat passed slowly and carefully through the community  of floating villages, so as not to make a ‘big wash’.


Thyang Primary School

Thyang Primary School – Tonlé sap.

Floating homes

We looked on in fascination as we passed the floating villages and inhabitants. Traditionally many of the homes made from bamboo and palm thatch, all built on top of 10 meter bamboo poles to allow for the increase in water depth in lake Tonlé sap during the monsoon season.The houses seem to be floating serenely on top of the silky waters of  the lake.


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Apart from homes we passed a school, restaurant, local shops, hospital and monastery, to all appearance floating on the surface of lake Tonlé sap, with the most amazing reflections.


Fishermen out in canoes fishing,  many houseboats, not many birds, a lone stork or pelican, bit hard to tell from a distance. The boat nosed its way through the sunken forest, trees and shrubs submerged by the rising waters of the lake.


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Obviously the boat captain knew his way across the lake through the sunken forest, the waterway not very obvious to an untrained eye. The captain’s offsider up front most of the time to keep a look out for any unexpected floating objects. Some of our tour group relaxed and made the most of the lake view from the top of the cruise boat.

Keeping a look-out - Lake Tonle Sap Cambodia

Keeping a look-out – Lake Tonle Sap

Floating villages - lake Tonle Sap

Relaxing on the boat – Lake Tonle Sap

Lake view from the top

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floating houses

Freshwater Lake

Tonlé sap  is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, home to one of the world’s richest source of freshwater fish. In a monsoon season the area of lake Tonlé sap  changes dramatically. This happens  when the  Tonlé sap river, which connects  the Tonlé sap lake to the Mekong river,  pushes water from the river into the lake reversing the flow of water.

Villagers get-together - Floating Village Lake Tonle Sap

Villagers get-together – Floating Village Lake Tonle Sap

The Lake an inland sea

The lake then becomes an inland sea, increasing its normal area from 2,700 square km in the dry season, to 16,000 square km in the monsoon season. There is an  increase in-depth from around one meter in the dry season, to around nine meters in-depth when the reverse flow of water occurs in  Tonlé sap. The flooding brings important nutrients to the enormous wetland area which in turn provides one of the most productive fisheries in the world.


The Fishermen of Lake Tonlé sap.

The fishermen of Lake Tonlé sap, mostly of Vietnamese descent have fished the waters of Tonlé sap for many, many years. The method they use to catch fish in the lake is very simple. They place a cone-shaped net in the water from their floating homes,houseboats or canoes and bring the net up again a  few minutes later, usually full of fish. They catch tons of fish in this manner in season. The fishermen of  lake Tonlé sap and their families primarily supply  most of the country’s  markets with fish. They keep a small quantity of fish for their own use, nothing is wasted. Fat waste from fish used to make soap for the families. Fish heads dried and sold for fertilizer. They also exchange fish for rice with the local rice-growing community.

Lunch on board provided by the hotel, fresh baguette with chosen fillings, cold drinks and sweet Pursat oranges. A very relaxing journey, plenty of interesting scenery.

Chop Siem Reap Lake Tonlé sap.

Lake Tonlé sap.

Headland Siem Reap

Siem Reap headland in sight, the water of the lake very choppy as we came in to land at the  wharf. On reaching land our first stop was a huge souvenir shop, very attractive items, however only so much you can carry  (actually I think our first stop was the ladies, although the cruise boat did have a toilet.) All the toilets clean and acceptable throughout our tour, if you’re wondering.

Lake Tonlé sap Wharf at Siem Reap

Wharf at Siem Reap

 Tonlé sap to Siem Reap

floodwaters’ Siem Reap

The outskirts of Siem Reap awash from heavy rain, pitiful to see the shop owners trying to prevent the swirling waters entering their stalls and shops. Water at least two foot deep in places, some owners sitting on their tables to keep their feet dry and looking thoroughly miserable. Who could blame them?  On a lighter side, one young mother was making the most of the flowing water using a Styrofoam box as a boat for her youngster.



At last –  Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor……

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