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Prek Toal Ecotourism Site was established in 1999 under support from a NGO called Osmose. Prek Toal, Battambang is a protected eco-system regarded as the single most important breeding ground for globally threatened large waterbirds in South East Asia, and is located at the confluence of the Tonle Sap lake and the Sangker River, about halfway along the boat trip between Siem Reap and Battambang. The site is an ornithologists dream as every year from January to June, as the lake’s water level recedes, flocks of migratory storks, adjutants, pelicans, ibises, cormorants, and more come to nest in the surrounding flooded forest.
Prek Toal is a floating village with a bird sanctuary. Visitors can go on guided trips by trained SVC (Sam Veasna Center) bird guides and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) rangers to watch birds and learn about them. In addition to that, paddle boat tours through the floating village are being offered to see crocodile and fish rising farms and many more interesting things. There is also the special opportunity to stay overnight in the Environmental Research Station.
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.
Over 120 species of water and forest birds have been recorded, among which are 15 endangered species such as the greater adjutant and the masked finfoot. However, there is more to the experience than just bird watching, the floating village of Prek Toal has set up a community tourism project. Here you can learn about the lives of the people who lead an entirely aquatic existence.
Several hundred families live on the water in houseboats or houses built on bamboo rafts. Homes are served by floating shops, floating barbers, floating petrol stations, in fact all the amenities of any village on land, yet floating. The only buildings on stilts (more than 10m high) are the pagoda, the spirit house, and the school. In the past a threat to the area was large scale egg and chick collection by villages, however since the introduction of the community tourism project and the realisation that economically the birds are worth more alive this has stopped and 7 bird species have been saved from extinction.
Villagers are now employed as rangers, project staff, boatmen, and guides, homestays are also offered. Aside from tourism the economy of the village relies mainly on fish and you can witness prahoc (fermented fish paste) and tuk trey (fish sauce) processing, as well as fish being dried and smoked. Other activities include floating vegetable gardens, water hyacinth handicraft, and crocodile farming! Visiting Prek Toal is a truly wonderful personal experience, yet it is also a socially responsible experience as and you will be contributing to the protection of the waterbird colonies and the well-being of the local communities.