The Tonlé Sap is the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is one of the world’s most varied and productive ecosystems. The lake’s size, length and water volume varies considerably over the course of a year from an area of around 2500 km2 and a length of 160 km at the end of the dry season in late April to an area of up to 16000 km2 and a length of 250 km at the Mekong maximum and the peak of the southwest monsoon in September and early October. The attached Tonlé Sap River is 120 km long and connects the lake to the Mekong River.
I had booked the boat tour at my hostel. I might have found a cheaper option in town, but I couldn’t bother looking around for hours and the price of $24 was still okish. In a hotel you would pay a lot more. There was also an option to go to Siam Reap by bus from Battambang. That was a lot cheaper and also shorter. Especially at this time of the year since due to the low water level the boat couldn’t go very fast. The bus took 3-4 hours, the boat up to 8-9 hours. But the journey is the reward! The transfer to the boat was included. I got picked up by a tucktuck which got me to an already overloaded pick up and that got us to the boat. The boat was packed with 18 tourists, our luggage, a lot of parcels, bags, sacks and stuff that had to be delivered to one of the many floating villages and a few locals catching a ride to their village. We had one stop on the way to use a toilet and get some snacks.
Otherwise we were driving through only stopping on the river to deliver things, take locals on board or letting them off.
In total we had 7 hours, so quite good for this time of the year (end of March). The end point of the boat tour was unfortunately about 15 km outside of Siam Reap. So we had to take another expensive tuktuk to get to town. In my opinion it is absolutely worth it to take the longer and more expensive option and go by boat. It is not the most comfortable trip, but you get to see a lot. It is beautiful and very interesting to see how people live on and next to the river and how their whole life is all focused on the water. I would do it again!