Best Floating Villages cruises in Cambodia is with Tara Riverboat
How it all started
Like many travelers i first came to Cambodia primarily to see the wonderful temples of Angkor Wat, they are truly amazing, never would i have imagined just how many of these great temples there is , thinking a week would be enough time, i quickly realized i would need a month just to scratch the surface, One of the many things that i learnt about the building of these huge temples where that the huge limestone blocks that make up the temples where cut out of the sacred Mountain of Phnom Kulen (Kulen Mountain) and floated down on large rafts, via the rivers, canals and lakes,(Now these blocks weighing over 1.5 tons each and they estimate between 5 to 10 millions of them) so I just had to visit the Tonle Sap lake, what i found out there was truly amazing, rivers and flooded forests together with fishing villages, the sights was simply awesome and was blown away with how the local villages have adapted to the constant changing water levels of this great lake, Most of these floating villages are only accessible via boats as no roads exist with the locals building floating homes and homes also in some villages on stilts some 10 mts high, the fishing villages where something i had never seen before, it was fascinating to see how the locals had adapted to the ever changing water levels of this Great lake, the lake is quite unique in the world as it flows 2 ways, filling up from south to north in the wet season from the Mekong River (Mekong River starts way up high in the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet), and then flowing south in the dry season.(not to mention its also huge) its the largest fresh water lake in the whole of South East Asia, and one of the richest fresh water fishing lakes in the world, as per fish volume, and with fish comes huge rare water-birds, the world famous Prek Toal bird sanctuary and reserve is only a short distance over the lake, the entry into the Biosphere can be seen from the Queen Tara Riverboat.
One of the problems however i encountered, was the high boat fees and so called community taxes i was asked to pay, not only at the local floating villages but also other villages around the lake, none of the prices of these are displayed,(later i learnt None of the community gets these so called taxes) so it really is up to the people operating the boat association, how much they think they can get away with charging folks, than as we were on the lake the boat guide?(not really a guide, but a guy that speaks some English, there to rip you off). the other problem was, they did not take me where i wanted to go, it is all about taking you to places that pay them a commission (silly souvenir shops, that charge you 3x the price of the same items in town then the hard sell starts, or their friend's business for extra cash. anyway i was very interested in exploring the rivers and lake more but with someone that was NOT out to rip me off, that is when on return to port area, i got chatting with a small boat owner, that agreed to take me out in his boat,(for a fair price) and we had a fantastic time, well that was 20 years ago now, i fell in love with Cambodia, the lake and the local villages, and decided to start a boat tour business with zero scams and clearly defined Guaranteed low prices, and the local guy i went out with?, Well we have worked together for the past 20 years. The first boat we restored was the Tara Riverboat, she is now 96 years old, and started life as a Cargo vessel, of course when I found her she was half sunk, and stuck in mud (on a 45 degree angle) in a swampy section of the lake, she had been abandoned and left to the elements, so we had a lot of work to do on her, employing 16 locals from the floating village, and taking many months, we finally re-floated and then restored her.(i must say it was an absolute pleasure working hand in hand with the villages on this project) As i was teaching them how to re-float and restore the old vessel, they were teaching me the Khmer Language. a win/win situation for sure.
I was also impressed with the locals "can do attitude" and there willingness to learn new skills, The new look Tara Riverboat looked awesome, and soon we were welcoming guests from leading hotels and travel agents in Siem Reap, The hotel owners and managers where very impressed with how we would look after their guests from start to finish,(as one leading 5 star hotel manager in Siem Reap told me) Our guests always come back from your cruisers in a happy mood. Another reason most travel agents and guesthouses/hotels send their guests via Tara Riverboat tours, is their guests do not have to wait in line for more guests to arrive, as going via the public boats guests have to wait till the boats get full or a certain number to depart, this causes many delays along with frustrations,(we however never wait as we have our own private boats that are waiting for our guests). So soon we were on the lookout for more boats. not to build new boats, but to recycle, restore older boats, some of our boats used to be cargo boats, sand dredges, Navy and fishing boats, we also recycle as much as possible, for example, most of our fixtures and fittings on our boats are from recycled items and materials. We all stand together to fight pollution of the Tonle Sap Lake and River systems (having programs in place and education is just a start). Note short video on climate changes and Tara Riverboat (CNA) in our video section... My aim was to employ as many local villages as possible in a sustainable environment whilst learning new skills and having a fun and stable place to work. Quite simply we wanted to create the best floating villages tours and later lake and village homestays in Cambodia.
Over the years we have restored many old boats in Cambodia and have given them a new lease on life, some of these vessels where ex sand dredges(That had lost their Licenses and where not operating), One was an ex-Navy patrol (Gun) boat,(from 1963 Vietnam war with America) another one was owned by the Royal Family,(French built for the Prince of Cambodia in 1985) i found abandoned on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. So we prefer to restore older boats than build new ones,(recycling the old is more sustainable) whilst also creating more jobs for the locals, we now have 8 boats in a lot of the floating villages and also Phnom Penh, (we also now employ 67 staff) all the boats are staffed by locals and many of the staff also live on the boats, all our staff are multi-skilled and apart from their primary job (task) they are also involved in learning new skills.
We are also very proud of the fact that the staff see a great future in working and learning with Tara Riverboat, some have been with me from the very start. 20 years now, our Tara Apprentice Program, gives local villages both men and ladies the opportunity to develop skills in all types of boat building, maintenance, and repairs, we are also constantly looking for more old disused riverboats to restore and put into service, thus creating more sustainable local jobs and training opportunities.
In 2010 we established our first ever Apprentice floating training school at the floating village (young girls and guys and not so young) can learn from our expert builders everything from welding, to boat building, repairs, maintenance, Ferro-Cementing, engine repairs and rebuilds, fiber-glassing, painting, we also teach our staff basic first aid, firefighting, swimming and much more.
None of these things would be possible without the good blessings of the Communities we work in. working together hand in hand for a better future.
We offer a range of half. full and multi day tours in Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh to choose from to explore the lakes, rivers, islands and floating villages to suit all needs starting from $24. Beautiful Ancient Khmer lake living community and authentic ways of life. Whether you choose to visit the floating villages, the quieter Kompong Phluk Village, flooded forest, Chong Khneas fishing villages, the little visited Kompong Khleang Village or the famous bird watching area of Prek Toal Biosphere Center you can be sure that the Tara Boat Company will offer you a memorable trip to these special places and look after you to ensure optimum enjoyment. We also have Home stays in most floating villages and flooded forest to select from, we offer the best solutions to cater for all tastes and desires. Our Guides are very friendly and look forward to meeting you soon.
The best way to see the floating villages in Cambodia is with the Tara Riverboat.Lonely Planets Guide Book.
No More to pay. No Scams and clearly defined low prices every day.
All our tours are the price advertised with no additional hidden costs or fees/taxes and include: - pick up and return from hotel/guesthouse in Air-Conditioned cars/mini vans or tuk tuks - all transfers - fully experienced local English Speaking Professional Tara Lake boat guides, safety conscious Tara boat Captains on our mini-Tara boats - all check point fees and taxes - meals and drinks. Please come to join us for one of our many different tours in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. (Private tours are also available and inquiries welcome) (we also now have nice home-stay places to stay in the floating villages) including on a 100-year-old Ex Cargo vessel.
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Why Use Tara Tours?
There are many reasons we feel we are unique in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh some of the reasons are listed below, however the main vision we have is to promote training, safety and best practice at all times, we inspire to think outside the box, we inspire our team to excel at everything they do, we feel this way will ensure a better life for all.
We support local families and Cambodian women directly, from the communities of the floating villages.
Please Note: We care for our guest's safety and well-being, and have increased our efforts of cleanliness mainly due to Covid 19
All common areas are cleaned more often, and hand sterilizer are available, all our boats are open air (not boxed in) so plenty of natural fresh air at all times. All our staff have been vaccinated fully included their boosters (Volunteered not mandatory).
1. Tara riverboat company owns all our own boats and equipment, we have boats that are licensed to go into the numerous rivers and lakes, this ensures not only can we control costs, but also control the quality, safety and thus welfare of all our guests. we also conduct tours of all the different floating villages and numerous flooded forests. (Please note, you will also save both time and money using our service, as booking through Tara Riverboats, we will give you the best lowest price available, first priority, No waiting for other guests to fill up the boats like other operators, (every tour has their own boats) We will never be beaten on price).
2. ALL OUR staff are full time long term committed employees, they share our joint passion for conducting the most professional and fun cruise tours possible.
3. All our staff are local friendly awesome people, and many were born in the villages you will tour giving an expert insight.
4. We are a responsible company and focus on education, training and sustainable tourism, always being respectful to the communities we work in. In fact we have set up many environmental projects (Our current project is to supply solar power to the homes on the floating village) www.kamworks.com through our educational and awareness programs, apprentice training programs and supporting local businesses and suppliers doing the same. www.khmersolar.com
Some 50% of the homes in the floating villages are without power and rely on car batteries for their most basic power, our excess power from our Queen Tara Riverboat (which is run on 100% solar) is used to charging some of these batteries, over time of course our aim is to supply a solar unit to all homes (floating villages) in need, one home, one village at a time.
5. We are a Certified Child-safe Business as part of the network working together with communities and NGOs to help protect children.
6. We conserve resources wherever possible, through, but not limited to recycling, fuel saving, sustainable development by way of engineering solutions, rather than burning of forests and other materials, e.g. Our boats are now converted to solar power replacing Fuel burning generator and all boats proudly using sustainable and environmentally friendly Biodiesel. we recycle and use sustainable products as much as we can, from bamboo cups,light fitting, furniture, fixtures and fittings, even our bar is made from bamboo which is a grass and not trees. beds made from bamboo,power saving LED lights and much much more.
7. The Tara Riverboat commits 100% of all profits into Giving back programs. Our commitment has and always will be that the Tara riverboat company, as a local company, sets aside 100% of all profits to be used in helping the local villages in sustainable resources, together with ensuring our staff are better educated, resourced and health and safety of our team, guests and villages we visit.
8. We are a small, specialized trusted company promoting best practice and the management and all staff are only focused on your enjoyment and safety. (Most leading hotels and travel agents recommend our boats and service) (Leading Educational institution , Lonely Plants, Getyourguide, Viator, Klook, Expedia) all recommend our tours and services.
9. We are a registered, licensed company fully compliant with travel insurance, advisory and safety guidelines, we have full public liability insurance, (covering every guest from hotel to hotel) we have the best safety record and take safety very seriously, all our staff have been fully vaccinated for covid 19 (there choose) and 90% have completed a senior first aid cert course.
10. We understand that for a company to succeed we require well priced, fun and hopefully education tours, we specialize in small groups from one person up. Nothing is more important to us than your safety and enjoyment. We do not run 30 different tours as we do not farm out our guests. We only run our tours which we are specializing in running.
11.We are 100% scam free, going on any of our tours will ensure you will not be exposed to any scams that maybe present, our guides will look after you the whole way.
12. After some 20 years conducting tours in and around the numerous floating villages, fishing villages and flooded forest we certainly know what our guests require, we are always focused on achieving the best cruise and tour possible, at the best price.
13. Zero Scam policy, our guides and all staff are committed to ensure a safe, smooth adventure into the numerous floating villages and forests in Cambodia, our (Zero Scam Policy) means that we Guarantee our tours will be scam free, it's because of this policy most leading educational organizations both local and International use our service, it's also why most expats in Cambodia use our service.
14. Our boats are the safest and cleanest operating on the lakes and rivers, On the Queen Tara riverboat we run on 100% solar power, clean, green and renewable energy, all boats are inspected daily before any tour takes place. they are also of a very unique design (flat bottomed Haul), they can cruise where other boats cannot, enter small canals with ease, some are of double hauled for added protection.
15.All our tours can be taken as a private, exclusive tours if required, inquiries welcome, we will give you the best possible price.
16.We can customize a tour to suit you, after 20 years of cruising the vast lake and river systems we know all the different places of interest.
17. Most importantly we are the only true riverboat on the lake, converted from a large Cargo Vessel and with 100 year of service our Queen Tara Riverboat is by far the largest safest and best boat doing tours every day, powered by solar power.So,
all in all, we believe by having the Best Staff, Best Boats, most experience (20 Years so far), Scam Free, cheapest and Best Lake and river cruise tours in Cambodia, we will ensure our guests the BEST possible experience.
We are a private Riverboat, so only our guests will be on board. No huge crowds of people, so you can relax and enjoy.
We believe in fair wages and conditions, we are fully insured, conducting safe, clean, professional and sustainable tours for over 20 years.
Our Sister Company: - www.khmerdetours.com covering all the harder more remote temples to access. also tours to Phnom Penh and Kulin Mountain
Inquiries 24/7WhatsApp +855 9227 1349
We can arrange all private land and lake travels throughout Cambodia, inquiries welcome.
Welcome to Cambodia and wish everyone a safe, relaxed and happy travel always.
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To Ensure all our tours and services are done in a safe, professional, and timely manner, focusing on educating, enjoyment and sustainability, working closely with the very villages we visit.