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Tonle Sap Lake

The Tonlé Sap is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia.

The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.

The Tonlé Sap Lake is linked to the sea via the Tonlé Sap River, which converges with the massive Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Tonlé comes from the Greek word “thalassa,” which means sea. The Tonlé Sap is comparable to sea, except that it is closed off and contains freshwater. Water has always been an important resource for Cambodia, as it is the origin of its creation. According to legend, the Khmer people were colonized in the first centuries by peaceful neighbors from India, and the combination of the two cultures eventually formed the kingdom of Cambodia.Researches have found drawings of fish etched on temple walls in such elaborate details that they could be classified as well as etchings of men with nets. To further highlight the importance of water, Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, was built at the convergence of the Tonlé Sap River and the Mekong River. Still today, the harbor resembles the descriptions recorded by first explorers, and a boat adventure from Phnom Penh is reported to be the best way to explore the river and experience Cambodian culture.

Tonle Sap Lake Tonle Sap Lake