Written by Tristan (aged 12)
Tonle Sap is a largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia and is replenished during the wet season. Tonle Sap’s name is derived from Khmer, tonle meaning large river and Sap meaning fresh, not salty. The lake is connected to the Tonle Sap River which joins to the Mekong River. Interestingly fishing is not allowed during the wet season, to allow the fish to breed, but when the lake starts emptying into the Mekong during the dry season, the fishermen are allowed to fish again. A majority of the 400 000 tons of freshwater fish caught each year comes from the Tonley Sap Lake. Likewise when the dry season starts is when the farmers surrounding the lake plant their rice. As the quantity of rice produced is dependent on the rainfall, there are many festivals and celebrations to honor the gods in the hope of good rainfall.
The river feeds the lake between May or June to October or November, during the annual monsoon. When the lake has reached its peak and the monsoon season is over, it is also the time that the Mekong River is at its lowest. This causes a reversal in the river flow system, resulting in the water draining from the lake through the Tonle Sap River and refilling the Mekong River. So basically the river flows from the Mekong to the Lake for 6 months and then from the Lake to the Mekong for six months.
We were collected from our hotel bright and early at 5.30 am to board a boat on the Tonle Sap Lake. Unfortunately fairly early on it was obvious the boat had some serious problems. So we floated on the lake until a replacement boat arrived.
We visited some of the floating villages on the lake. Approximately 1 000 people live permanently on the lake and 90% of them are Vietnamese and the remainder are Cham communities.
At one of the floating villages we went to we were taken on a smaller boat to go bird watching. There were great egrets that are easily recognizable with their white feathers and hooked neck. We also saw black birds with beady eyes, yellow billed birds, yellow footed birds and brown pelicans.