Cambodia's Great Lake, the Boeung Tonle Sap (Tonle Sap Lake,) is the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia - a huge dumbbell-shaped body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 km2. During the dry half of the year the Lake shrinks to as small as 2500 km2, draining into the Tonle Sap River, which meanders southeast, eventually merging with the Mekong River at the 'chaktomuk' confluence of rivers opposite Phnom Penh. But during the wet season a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the river to reverse direction, filling the lake instead of draining it. The engine of this phenomenon is the Mekong River, which becomes bloated with snow melt and runoff from the monsoon rains in the wet season. The swollen Mekong backs up into the Tonle Sap River at the point where the rivers meet at the 'chaktomuk' confluence, forcing the waters of the Tonle Sap River back upriver into the lake. The inflow expands the surface area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100 varieties of waterbirds including several threatened and endangered species, over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Lake is also an important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia. In harmony with the specialized ecosystems, the human occupations at the edges of the lake is similarly distinctive - floating villages, towering stilted houses, huge fish traps, and an economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters.
The lake sits only about 15 km south of Siem Reap town. If you take the ferry between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will cross the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. There are several ways to see the culture and wildlife of the lake area depending on the amount of time you have and your interest.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary : The 'bird sanctuary' at the Prek Toal core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve has been called "the single most important breeding ground in Southeast Asia for globally threatened large waterbirds." The Biosphere covers 31,282 hectares at the northwest tip of the Tonle Sap Lake and plays host to species including Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species. Of the three Biosphere core areas on the Tonle Sap Lake, Prek Toal is the most accessible from Siem Reap and the most popular with birdwatchers. The best time of year for viewing is the dry season when flocks of migratory birds congregate at Prek Toal. As the dry season progresses and the water recedes, the number of birds increases but the travel to some of the more important viewing areas becomes more difficult.
Most people arrange a trip to Prek Toal through their guesthouse or a tour operator. To do it yourself, take a moto or taxi from Siem Reap to the Phnom Krom/Chong Khneas boat dock. Arrange a boat to the Prek Toal Environmental Research Station (starting at $75$ return,) and then from the Research Station a $5 entrance fee and $15-$25 for a guided boat tour of the sanctuary. The Research Station has information on the area's flora and fauna. There are also basic overnight accommodations at the Research Station if you want to stay the night to take full advantage of the sunset and early morning viewing hours.
Kampong Khleang: is located northern edge of the fresh water lake.It is 53km from the city. This trip can be combined with Beng Melea, 12th century temple. The whole community has some five thousand stilted houses built on the shore and by the side of the river. In dry season, we see all houses are about 10 meters above the ground. There are 20,000 people living in those houses. They build them so close to each other, which make them look really good by real eyes and never want to miss to take to photos since it is the first time to visit.during the monsoon season, the water rises up sometimes of the year to the floor of their houses. Boat ride during the dry season and rainy season is totally different. To see everything, boat ride will take 2 hours to see the villages, schools, market boats, floating houses.
Kampong Phluk: is one of the lake site attractions which on the other part of Tonle Sap. It is situated 20 km from Siem Reap city. The trip to this place can be combined with Roulos Group: Bakong, Lolei, and Preah Ko. Kampong Phluk means Harbour of the Tusks. The journey to visit Kampong Pluk will be visiting stilted houses, school children, fishermen and some activities of their fishing. Above all, Kampong Pluk has its unique flooded forests where you can not find anywhere else in Cambodia.
Also, if somebody wants to donate something to the poor primary school, you can buy something like books, or other school materials from the city to those things to them. nnected by avenues of water from which individuals or boats full to the brim paddle their way between one another. Most people make their living from fishing here, and the scenery is beautiful.
Chong Kneas: is on the south of Siem Reap city. It is situated some 14 km from Siem Reap city. Chong Kneas is where the boat docks arrive from Battambong and Phnom Penh. It is one of four tourist attractions in Siem Reap. It is has thousand of boats waiting for tourists. This is a bit touristy but visitors are not going to see the floating villages by the same boats. They will hire private boat which only take them to see the floating houses. Life of those people relies on fishing. Trip to this place will see fish farm of the most fresh water fish that the fishermen raise, crocodiles farm, snakes carried by children, many kinds of fishing traps made of bamboos, Vietnamese village, Khmere or Cambodian village. These two villages are separate. Other than that, you also see the hammocks made of water hyacinth.
Cambodian Cultural village: is located on national 6 to the airport. This place is one tourist attraction. It is set up for those tourists who cannot have a lot of time to understand about the way of living of those tribal people. In there, it has collection of villages such as Wax Museum, Millionaire House, Souvenirs,Cham Village, Chinese Village, Kroeng Village, Cambodian Immigrants to Oversea Village, Khmer Village, Miniatures, Phnorng Village, Surin Village,
The Other Sightseeing and activities :
There are lots of other things to see and do around Siem Reap. Following are descriptions