Here the Khmer empire found it the capital on the bank of extraordinary source of food. Just like the river Nile which created Egypt; the remarkable Tonle Sap Lake created the glorious ancient Angkor.
The trip to Tonle Sap Lake is interesting and worth as you could see lifestyle of Cambodian people living on water, and even the fish farm, crocodile farm, market, school and church are all floating.
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Its location, which is almost in the middle of Cambodia, is 15km to the south of Siem Reap city, and it takes us 30-40mins to drive there.
There are five provinces bordering Tonle Sap Lake (show the map). They are Siem Reap, Battambang, Pusat, Kampong Cham, and Kampong Thom. One million Cambodian people totally depend on this lake in living. 90% of those people have houses constructed in the lake and 10% live in 170 floating villages.
Depending on the flood level of the Mekong River, Tole Sap Lake fills from the river for 6 month and also empties into the river for 6 months every year. During the dry season which is from November , this lake is getting smaller and smaller until it covers an area of only 2,500 km2 (1,000 square miles) with 2m deep in April, but in the rainy season which is from May, the lake keeps increasing to over 13,000km2 (5,000 square miles) with 14m deep in October.
The pumping in and out of water which is the heart of Cambodia maintains a rich level of nutrients enabling the lake to rank the 4th largest source of fresh water fish in the world after India, Bangladesh, and China. Tonle Sap Lake is an abundant natural resource for Cambodia. About 60% of Cambodian population depends on this lake in living because it provides fish, fresh water, and fertile land for growing crops.
According to the fish department, there are over 300 differentspices of fish living in Tonle Sap Lake. Some fish grow to 200kg, but today those types of fish are in danger and almost extinct. Fishermen can catch at least10 tons of fish per skm of this lake.
Tonle Sap used to have a lot of fresh water dolphins, but about 2000 of them were killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers to take fat to make fuel to run fishing motorboats. Today about 100 of them remain, and they’re living in the canyons in the Mekong River in Kratie City, being preserved by Japanese government funds. To protect this lake from over fishing; the Cambodian government has a strict regulation and not allow people fish during the laying egg season which lasts for three months from August to October. During this closing season, only fishing for family living is allowed.
Beside fish, Tole Sap also has many animals and water birds. The bird sanctuary at Preak Toul is famous for birds.
The fact that causes this lake rich of fish is because it comprises unusual natural system of water level between the rainy and the dry season. during the rainy season from May to October, the winter snow in Himalaya Mountain melts and vast quality of water flows south toward the South China Sea by the Mekong which is one of the world largest river, but when its deluge hits the shallow delta at the mouth of the Mekong, they cannot all escape to the sea. And so the river backs up into Tole Sap Lake, which brings its 30% of water to fill up this giant lake while other 70% moves toward to the sea. Then makes this lake flooded and enlarges its size four months each year, drowning the whole forest of trees in process. Drowning great forest as it expands, the leaves of tree provide vast quality of food and spawning ground for the fish population. When the water rises up, fish move themselves to spawn in
Why rich of fish:
the sunken forest at the lake shore, and when the river recedes, one fish brings thousand of baby fish. From November to April of the dry season, the lake recedes and reverses to the Mekong River and all the fish go back to the lake, and then fishermen are happy to catch them. as the lake gradually grows and shrinks the people can use the new wet lake bottom to plant new rice as well.