Established in 1999 with the sponsorship of an NGO named Osmose, the Prek Toal is an aquatic bird sanctuary town. Visitors may go there on organized trips to observe and learn about birds by qualified Sam Veasna Center (SVC) bird experts and Wildlife-Conservation Society (WCS) rangers. You can also take advantage of paddle-boat trips through the floating villages to experience fish and crocodile growing farms, among many other fascinating attractions. The Environmental Research Laboratory also offers the option of staying overnight. Keep reading to learn more about the amazing Prek Toal.
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Bird Watching at Prek Toal Village
Prek Toal: An Overview
Prek Toal in Battambang is situated at the convergence of Tonle-Sap Lake and Sangker River. It is a preserved eco-system known to be the single but most significant breeding landmark for worldwide endangered large waterbirds in South-East Asia. This location has been a premier ornithologist fantasy throughout the months of January to June. Species such as pelicans, flocks of migratory birds, ibises, adjutants, cormorants and much more come to settle in the submerged forest around the area. More than 120 vibrant species of aquatic and woodland birds have been identified in the area, including 15 critically endangered birds such as the broader adjutant and disguised fin foot.
Prek Toal remains among 3 biospheres on Lake Tonlé Sap, rendering it as the most interesting and simple of the 3 to explore. It is the dream of an ornithologist, with a vast number of common breeds collected in a small region, including the massive smaller and larger adjutant storks, the spot-billed pelican, and the milky stork. Even the unenlightened people will be amazed, as these amazing birds have an immense wingspan and build massive nests.
Beyond that, the floating villages, handicraft river hyacinths, and crocodile breeding are also bound to appeal to your need for adventure. Visiting the village isn’t just a tourist’s dream, but also an environmentalist’s: by going there, you will be contributing to the conservation of colonies of water birds.
The Floating Villages
Beyond bird seeing, a group tourism venture has also been set up in the floating village in Prek Toal. But how did the floating village come to be?
Some hundred residents live in houseboats or blocks of flats from bamboo rafts on the river. Nearby there are floating markets, floating barbers, gas stations, and every other comfort of any town onshore, just in floating form. The only structures higher than 10 meters on stilts are the pagodas and hospitals, and even retreats for tourists.
In the history of the village, large-scale harvesting of eggs and chicks by villagers was a danger to the region, but this has halted since the launch of the community-tourism project. Consequently, the preservation of bird species on the island has also become a priority. So far, 7 species of birds have been saved from extinction.
Villagers in Prek Toal work in several different professions relating to tourism. Rangers, mission workers, boatmen, guides—these are common professions in the area. The production of seafood is another important sector. In Prek Toal, you can experience prahoc, a fermented thick fish paste, and dried and smoked fish.
When and How to Visit Prek Toal
One can enjoy the highest concentration of birds at Prek Toal during most of the peak tourist season throughout December to early February. The birds congregate here as water starts drying up elsewhere.
Visiting from September is also likely but the number of birds for you to look at maybe smaller. Still; in the early hours of the morning or deep in the afternoon, you can catch the birds on their way to and from their abodes. To do so, you might consider an early start, or an overnight stay, at Prek Toal’s environment office, where there is very simple accommodation for a single bed at US$ 15 and for a double bed at US$ 20.
Numerous Siem Reap ecotourism companies manage trips to Prek Toal along with the Sam Veasna Hub, Osmose, Cambodia Bird Guide Association (CBGA), and Prek-Toal Tours & Travel, owned by Prek Toal residents. There you’ll find accommodation, guided tours, refreshments, food and drinks. Binoculars are available upon request, and also the Sam-Veasna Center has telescopic lenses set up inside the park at elevation towers. To extreme adventurers, both outfits should plan overnight trips. Day trips also provide a pick-up point at the hotel at about 6 am and also return at nightfall.
Going to the sanctuary by yourself is also possible. You can take a 20-minute motorbike at the cost of US$ 3 or taxi at the cost of US$ 15 for a one-way trip to the floating community of Chong Kneas, and then a boat to the environmental office which will cost around US$ 60 back, one hour each way. From there, you’ll be brought by a small boat costing US$30 (including a tour guide) into the sanctuary, just over an hour later.
We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already started planning your visit to Prek Toal. Who wouldn’t want to experience entrancing bird watching and enchanting floating villages? And remember to carry sunscreen and hats, because the sun can get pretty bright down in Prek Toal.