Explore Cambodian wildlife and eco-systems at Prek Toal Wildlife Sanctuary
The Floating Village of Prek Toal is a fantastic base to explore the famous Prek Toal wildlife sanctuary. Come and spot an abundance of wetland birds is this conservation centre and learn about this unique habitat for them. Some of the most endangered birds in Cambodia, such as Storks, ibises and Adjutants in their natural habitat of the wetlands and floating forest that make up this fascinating nature reserve.
The Prek Toal community tourism project was established to help give members of the local community some experience and additional income through sustainable tourism. Since the project started, it has hosted a steady stream of travellers visiting the bird sanctuary, and offers then a place to relax and watch boats go by.
Prek Toal is a bird sanctuary and Ramsar site located within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve, at the north-west corner of the Tonlé Sap. It is a popular area for ecotourism and birdwatching given the area’s rich biodiversity and rare waterbirds, particularly abundant during the dry season. There are several organisations and projects operating in the area, so plenty to do and choose from.
In the future, the tourism committee would like to increase the numbers of tourists that come and choose to support sustainable tourism in Prek Toal. They hope to get some training for the staff that host tourists in order to give staff more skills in hospitality.
Prek Toal is one of three biospheres on the Tonlé Sap lake, and this stunning bird sanctuary makes it the most worthwhile and straightforward of the three to visit. It’s an ornithologist’s fantasy, with a significant number of rare breeds gathered in one small area, including the huge lesser and greater adjutant storks, the milky stork and the spot-billed pelican. Even the uninitiated will be impressed, as these birds have a huge wingspan and build enormous nests.
Several ecotourism companies in Siem Reap arrange trips out to Prek Toal. Tours include transport, entrance fees, guides, breakfast, lunch and water. Binoculars are available on request, plus the Sam Veasna Center has spotting scopes that they set up at observation towers within the park. All three outfits can arrange overnight trips for serious enthusiasts. Day trips include a hotel pick-up at around 6am and a return by nightfall.
In addition, you can travel to the area on your own, please see information in the transport section about how to here here, to explore the area at your own pace… spending more time within the floating villages and learning about the lives of people living at the Tonle Sap lake.
Homestay in the floating village
Stay in one of the colourful floating houses in Prek Toal. If you are used to traditional Khmer houses, you might surprised as int he floating village space is at premium. Floating village house are small, usually one room, with lean-to bathrooms with Khmer style toilets and bucket showers.
Each person will have a mattress, pillow and mosquito net, the houses are fan only. These homestays are not suitable for small children. They also require you to be able to climb in and out of boats easily.
One of the advantages to staying in a homestay before your trip into the nature reserve is that you will be able to get there much faster, and be on site for dawn, when some of the birds are at their most active.
Trips to the sanctuary also bring you up close and personal with the fascinating floating village of Prek Toal – a much more rewarding destination than over-touristed, scam-ridden Chong Kneas closer to Siem Reap. Part of your entrance to the sanctuary goes towards educating children and villagers about the importance of the birds and the unique flooded-forest environment.
Going birdwatching in Prek Toal is not to be missed! There are several tour companies that will take you out to the nature reserve to observe some of the most endangered birds in Cambodia, and South East Asia. We recommend that you arrange a birdspotting tour before you arrive at your homestay, however your homestay can liaise with your tour company to ensure you are picked up smoothly and have everything you need for your day or half day of birdwatching.
You will arrange transport with your homestay. It takes about an hour on the water to reach Prek Toal and the only way to get there is by private boat. As well as your journey through the quiet channels of the lake to reach Prek Toal, your driver can also take you on a short boat trip through the village itself so you can get glimpse of life in this fascinating floating village.
Prek Toal can be difficult to reach without a tour operator. The closest town is Siem Reap.
During rainy season – this is the best option
- From there take a 20-minute moto (US$3 or so) or taxi (US$15 one way) ride to the floating village of Chong Kneas on Tonle Sap. From there take a boat to the Prek Toal environment office (around US$55 return, one hour each way). From here, a small boat (US$30 including a park guide) will take you into the sanctuary, which is about one hour beyond. if you plan to visit the Bird sanctuary, please be aware that you need to pay US$30 for the boat that will take you around the sanctuary.
During dry season we recommencement this option
- Prek Toal is accessible all year, however, when it is very dry and the water levels are low, it can be a bit of a bumpy ride. You will need to arrange a boat trip when you book your homestay. However, it is likely you will be picked up by boat from the hamley of Meicherey. From Siem Reap, you can take a tuk tuk to Meicherey for roughly $12-13. Meicherey is a small river port, so it is likely you will be able to find a tuk tuk easily when you return too.
On the whole, we would recommend that you discuss transport options with your birdwatching tour, as it is likely they will be able to put together a custom itinerary for you which includes taking you to your homestay.
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