Aquatic Adventures, Asia, Family Travel

Kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino

March 7, 2017

After exploring the temples in Angkor Park and the touristic city of Siam Reap, we planned to see more of Cambodia on a day trip with Smiling Albino – a destination management company specializing in customizable and unique experiences throughout Southeast Asia. Smiling Albino’s sample adventures from Siem Reap include cycling, hiking, and kayaking. We love the water and booked a day of kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino.

Family kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling AlbinoTonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake, is in the centre of Cambodia and approximately 30 minutes by car from Siam Reap. The size of Tonle Sap Lake changes with the season – during the rainy season (June to October), the lake fills with water from the Mekong River and expands to a size of about 10,000 square kilometres (km). During the dry season (November to May), Tonle Sap shrinks to around 3,000 square km because water flows back into the Mekong River. This water level fluctuation is a natural phenomenon and impacts lifestyle on and around Tonle Sap. Locals construct houses on multi-story stilts to accommodate changing water levels, and floating villages relocate throughout the year as the lake contracts and expands.

Float home kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling AlbinoKayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino

We met our Smiling Albino guide and driver at our hotel, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, and travelled about 30 minutes to a river bank marina for a boat ride into Tonle Sap. From here we launched inflatable double kayaks and paddled through floating villages, fishing communities, and flooded forests.

Kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino

We drifted amongst colourful blue-tailed bee-eating birds perched on branches, smiled for curious locals who wanted to take our picture and manoeuvred through tree trunks and branches rising from the water.

Blue tailed bee eater Tonle Sap Lake

Kayaking-Tonle-Sap-Lake-Smiling-Albino-Forest

Kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino was a highlight of our almost month long trip through Southeast Asia. Out on the water, we experienced Cambodia’s natural environment, learnt about rural life where locals raise animals (chickens, pigs, and fish) in floating cages, and children row ancient vessels to their floating school.

school kids kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling AlbinoTravel Tips – Kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake with Smiling Albino

  • You can contact Smiling Albino via email at info@smilingalbino.com or by telephone in the Bangkok Office (GMT +7) +66-2-107-2542. Visit the Smiling Albino website for more information about ultra luxury adventures and day trips in Southeast Asia.

We were guests of Smiling Albino when we kayaked on Tonle Sap Lake.  As always, if I don’t enjoy an experience, I won’t recommend it.

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17 Comments

  • Reply Janice March 8, 2017 at 9:21 am

    What an interesting look into the lives of the people of Cambodia.
    It makes me realize of all the luxuries I have each day.
    Thanks, loved it.❤

  • Reply Bilyana | OwlOverTheWorld April 8, 2017 at 10:52 am

    This seems like a great idea for a day trip and awesome experience. Aside of that I am interested if you can share something more about the life of the people there.

  • Reply danik April 8, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Oh wow, I would so love to try kayaking around here. Great way to tone up the arms and explore at the same time. 🙂

  • Reply Eric || The Bucket List Project April 8, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Now I would have never thought about kayaking in Cambodia! Taking a flat boat trip yes, but why not kayak it through those beautiful areas.

  • Reply Eva Sturm of Travel Responsibly April 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Wow, what an adventure! I had trouble kayaking even in a pool not to mention in the lake. Your kids are really brave!

  • Reply Anne April 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    This looks like a much better way to visit the lake than what we did. We grabbed a tuck tuck and went to the port and negotiated a little boat to take us out. I’m pretty sure it was a scam from start to finish as we were encouraged to buy sacks of hugely over priced noodles and rice for the ‘orphanage’ I would much prefer to do it this way but they wanted an extra $20 each from us for a little kayak expedition

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily April 11, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      I saw people riding the tuk tuks out to the lake. At least you were able to see it! We had a similar experience in Laos where we we were encouraged to buy local crafts at a small village on the way back from Kuang Si Falls – it was a scam. The crafts were clearly mass produced in a factory and I am pretty sure it wasn’t in Laos.

  • Reply Lois Alter Mark April 8, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    This looks like an amazing experience. My son and his girlfriend were recently in Cambodia, and would have loved to do this.

  • Reply Punita Malhotra April 9, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Kayaking is such a relaxing, peaceful way to spend a few hours on water. The lapping of the waves and the slow pace of movement is enough to lull you into sleep. We tried it near Phuket and loved it.

  • Reply Tami April 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    A kayak excursion on Tonye Sap Lake sounds so interesting. More than just the natural scenery, it would also be a great leasson on Cambodian culture as well — what a unique lifestyle, tying your home to the ebb and flow of a lake!

  • Reply Siddharth and Shruti April 11, 2017 at 5:08 am

    We have never tried Kayaking but we really want to! Do you recommend this for beginners? Looks really interesting. The bird looks so colourful and beautiful. Sounds like a very relaxing experience.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily April 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      The kayaking was very relaxing. My youngest son is not an experienced paddler and he enjoyed exploring Tonle Sap by kayak.

  • Reply Nisha April 11, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    I guess this is a great way of seeing the floating village . While we did not go kayaking, we went on a low boat to experience the lake which increases its size 6 times during rainy season. Hence the floating houses. Fixed houses along the banks would be completely flooded.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily April 11, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you, Nisha. Exploring by kayak is an excellent way to see Tonle Sap. We floated amongst the birds, paddled through flooded forests, and learnt about life in rural Cambodia. The low boat sounds interesting. What time of year did you visit?

  • Reply Jen Joslin April 11, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    This looks like a fantastic way to see the Tonle Sap Lake and experience life on the water! We hadn’t heard of Smiling Albino, so we’ll have to check them out next time we go to Siem Reap. Thanks for sharing about your experience!

  • Reply Megan Jerrard April 13, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Sounds like an incredible experience, I had no idea that Tonle Sap Lake was Asia’s largest – we’re huge bird nerds – your photo of the blue-tailed bee-eating bird is beautiful 🙂

  • Reply LuxeTravelFamily April 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you, Megan. I think you would really enjoy Tonle Sap. Our Smiling Albino guide mentioned the nearby Prek Toal bird sanctuary – home to many birds of global significance.

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