- Zen saying
Tonlé Sap is one of Cambodia's most famous Siem Reap attractions and natural masterpieces of Cambodia - known by locals as the 'Great Lake'. And it's true, it's the biggest lake in Southeast Asia and by far one of the most interesting of its kind for the following reasons. The actual area of the lake varies dramatically, depending on the seasons. In other words, during the Cambodian dry season the lake forms an expanse covering roughly 2700 square kilometers and is 1 meter deep throughout - an impressive sight. During this time the lake drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, at the height of the Cambodian wet season, the lake grows almost sixfold, increasing it's area to a huge 16000 square meters. These changes are caused by intense rainfall and huge changes in water volume in the river, and then subsequent 'drying out' during the dry season, which in turn causes an entire reversal in water flow with the water from the river being pushed back into the lake. In November Cambodians celebrate one of the two annual changes in water flow with the Bon Om Teuk water festival, celebrated with boat races along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh and festivities in the Angkor Temples.
The Tonlé Sap is a national treasure for Cambodians. It has provided them with natural resources and industry for centuries. 75% of the country's freshwater catch is from the Tonle Sap, and fishing communities have existed for as long as there has been fresh fish in the lake. The lake provides water to nearby communities, and assists in providing nutrients for billions of crops in the surrounding countryside. The lake is a beautiful sight, and a haven for photographers, especially at sunset. There are huge communities who have adapted their way of life to living out on the lake, living in floating villages and working hand in hand with nature.
It's free to see the lake, but we'd encourage any visits to initiatives set up by the local communities in the way of cafes, restaurants etc
The lake is great to visit at any time of the day. Sunrise and sunset are both particularly beautiful if you pick the right spot. We'd recommend a half day to see all the main points of interest.
The Tonle Sap lake's water levels vary hugely, and visiting is best from July to February
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