Inle Lake is a shallow lake in the middle of Myanmar, southeast of Mandalay. The lake is 22 km long, and is densely inhabited by many different tribes. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles, and one of the highest at an altitude of 2,900 feet. During the dry season, the average water depth is 7 feet, with the deepest point being 12 feet, but during the rainy season this can increase by 5 feet.
The watershed area for the lake lies to a large extent to the north and west of the lake. The lake drains through the Nam Pilu or Balu Chaung on its southern end. There is a hot spring on its northwestern shore.
Although the lake is not large, it contains a number of endemic species. Over twenty species of snails and nine species of fish are found nowhere else in the world. Some of these, like the silver-blue scaleless Sawbwa barb, the crossbanded dwarf danio, and the Lake Inle danio, are of minor commercial importance for the aquarium trade. It hosts approximately 20,000 brown and black head migratory seagulls in November, December and January.
The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself. Most are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers.
Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with single cylinder inboard diesel engines. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar.