The Floating Villages of Tonle Sap

Cambodia’s topography can be simplified if one considers the country as a giant saucer. In its centre water collects into what is south east Asia’s biggest lake, Tonle Sap. During the monsoon season excess water from the Mekong river enlargens the lake diverting its outlet into a reverse flow into the lake. When the rains subside the waters begin to flow out of the lake and it’s then when the amazing variety of fish are caught in traps set out by fishermen who live in floating houses along its banks.

I’d noticed the immense spread of Tonle Sap when landing at Siem Reap airport and on our last afternoon in Cambodia we took a boat ride down a lake inlet to visit one of these floating villages.

Needless to say, there was a strong fishy smell permeating the settlement but I was immediately attracted by the idea of being able to have a truly moveable house which could fixed at any point by a series of stilts. The village was certainly picturesque and the inhabitants were very amenable towards us.

I only hope that that madcap ideas of damming parts of the lake for hydro electric schemes won’t go through, that its precious ecosystem will be safeguarded  for future generations and that the world’s biggest freshwater fish, the giant catfish, which grows in excess of ten feet in length will still be able to breed there.


I’m sure the siamese crocodile which we spotted on a lake farm will have a better chance of survival.


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