The largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia, Cambodia’s Tonle Sap – the “Great Lake” – doubles in size with the monsoon rains each year. As the lake floods, huge schools of fish thrive, providing food for millions of Cambodians. To maximize the fishing opportunities, some families live in floating villages composed of rustic, often handmade houseboats — miles from the vast lake’s shores.
We spent two days visiting Conservation International’s research station, located next to a floating village of 20 or so families. By longboat, we photographed fishermen, toured communities and tagged along with local researchers as they collected data on the behaviors of endangered river otters.
At night, I fell asleep listening to the sounds of village life echoing across the water, including the unexpected loud snorts of pigs and clucking chatter of chickens. (Transported to the village by boat, live animals are kept on houseboat decks until they become food.)
At dawn, we watched the sun rise over Tonle Sap, a quietly beautiful experience.