Tonle Sap is the largest natural lake in Southeast Asia, increasing in area by up to 25% annually as the floodwaters of the Mekong River cause the Tonle Sap river to flow backwards and fill the lake. Situated at the western end of the great lake is the largest waterbird colony in Southeast Asia.
It is an astonishing site to visit. Prek Toal is globally important for eight species of bird; Spot-billed Pelican, Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Oriental Darter and Grey-headed Fish-Eagle. Thousands of commoner waterbirds also breed here, and over 150 species have been recorded. The colony is at its busiest between December and April, but most species can be found throughout the year.
We will take you into the flooded forest to the core area of the breeding colony where observation towers give great views at treetop height. Binoculars can be provided for the trip.
Having visited the colony, lunch will be taken in the floating village of Prek Toal itself. All buildings in the village are constructed on a mat of bamboo, so the whole villages rises and falls with the lake. We tour this fascinating village and we travel to and from the bird sanctuary.
WHEN TO GO
November to March, though the best time is between December and February. Water levels can change from day to day meaning access to the core reserve shifts.
The tour is led by the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation
The world famous sanctuary harbours seven species of water birds of global significance: Spot billed Pelican, Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black headed Ibis, Oriental Darter, there is a globally significant population of Grey-headed Fish Eagles and the secretive Masked Finfoot was spotted on an SVC trip in March 2011, over 150 species have been recorded in the reserve.
The Prek Toal area consists of seasonally inundated freshwater swamp forest with a high botanical diversity. Short tree shrub makes up most of the landscape, forming a dense under story with scattered large trees, which form the vital nesting ground for large water birds. Prek Toal is unmatched throughout South East Asia for the number and populations of endangered water birds it supports through the dry season. Large flocks of cormorants, storks and pelicans are almost guaranteed from January to May, along with herons, egrets and terns.
Prek Toal can be visited as a day trip from Siem Reap. The village is about an hour’s boat ride from where visitors embark from Siem Reap. A day trip from Siem Reap involves an early morning pick up from your hotel around 5am with breakfast on route, ensuring that you in the reserve around 8am usually returning to Prek Toal Village for an early lunch in the village. After lunch we organise an optional paddle boat tour of the floating village which if not seen before is a unique experience.
An overnight stay in the Environmental Research Station or floating house can be arranged in the village allowing the visitor to be in the core reserve for dawn.
Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Spot-billed Pelican
Silvered Langur, Long-tailed Macaque, Smooth-coated Otter, Hairy-nosed Otter
Cormorants and darters begin breeding in October, pelican numbers peak in December or January and storks peak in February. By late March often the only water remaining is along three narrow streams which are thronged with birds until late May when water levels begin to rise. Most birds depart Prek Toal during the rainy season (June-September), although Masked Finfoot is occasionally seen in August.