The giant Tonle Sap lake region is probably one of the better known areas of Cambodia, if only because of its proximity to the temples of Angkor.
Most people who visit Angkor, however, may only take a 2-hour “tourist” boat trip to the floating villages along the lakeshore, thereby missing the chance to appreciate what is perhaps one of the most unusual and diverse ecosystems in the world.
Where else can you find a river that reverses its direction twice a year, causing a lake to quadruple in size between the dry and wet season? This amazing phenomenon is caused by the pressure of the mighty Mekong, the “mother of South East Asia”, which meets the Tonle Sap river at Phnom Penh, and during the rainy season reaches such a force that it flows back up the Tonle Sap and floods the lake.
The result is a landscape that varies significantly on a monthly (sometimes weekly) basis – and when the river starts flowing downhill again, the flooded forest around the water’s edge becomes a haven for rare fishing birds – ibis, pelican and storks – attracted by the fish spawning in the roots of the trees.
Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in October 1997, this unique and fascinating area is preserved by working in harmony with the people who live there, linking conservation, ecotourism and environmental education.
images: Cambodia – Tonle Sap River by ecperez & ‘Against the Current’ Cambodia, Kampong Kleng, Family Boat by Wanderingtheworld via Flickr