Originating as a reservoir on the Angkorian highway 66 it was rebuilt as a man-made irrigation and water storage reservoir by slave labor during the Khmer Rouge Regime in 1976. The reservoir now harbors a unique wetland associated with grassland, dipterocarp forests and paddy fields. Aside from being a feeding ground for more than 300 Sarus Crane in the dry (non-breeding) season, more than 200 species of other birds occur here, of which 18 have been classified as globally or near globally threatened. This is also one of the handful of sites in Cambodia where the endangered Eld’s Deer can be seen. Colonies of fruit bats inhabit larger trees that are often semi submerged on the edge of the reservoir.
The best time to see the Sarus Crane is from February to May though an abundance of bird species can be viewed all year. There is also a hill top Angkorian temple a few kilometers into the forest while traditional silk weaving is still practiced in the adjacent village. A boat trip can be taken on the reservoir which depending on the time of year is 11km along and 8km wide and offers fantastic views of the surrounding countryside
Officially declared a Sarus Crane Reserve by Royal Decree in 2000 the area designated covers over 12000 Hectares, following the work of Sam Veasna and his friends at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), all foreign visitors are required are required to register at the WCS Office in the adjacent village.
ATT is a day trip from Siem Reap though accommodation can be arranged at the WCS HQ (tel 012 703033) or organized through the Sam Veasna Center in Siem Reap (tel 012 520828) in the adjacent village, giving birdwatchers the chance of dawn sightings and offering the opportunity of visiting the massive Angkorian temple complex of Banteay Chma.