We have recently been checking on a newly established project tour which leads into one of the most remote areas in Laos. It was created by the WCS (Wildlife conservation society). It is a night safari to spot wildlife in protected jungle from a boat...quite impressive! Cool thing is the stay in the jungle houses... I'm not sure if I can include pictures here, but maybe worth checking online.
The starting point of the journey is the small town Vieng Thong, located near the protected area in the valley of Nam Khan river. From Nong Khiaw it is a scenic three and a half hour ride through mountainous landscapes, passing small villages and breathtaking sunrise views in the early morning hours. Not sure how regular transportation is managed. I recommend to stay a night in Vieng Thong, or book a package before.
Longtail boats bring you from the village Ban Son Khoua upstream to the camp side in the core zone of the protected area, together with guides and all supplies. Along the way you might already see some wildlife and birds and maybe also a dear or so. The jungle camp is an idyllic place at the riverbank where visitors stay in open bamboo bungalows in the middle of lush jungle vegetation, best jungle night so far!!! After a lao style lunch we went further upstream to see a salt lick spot where a photo trap camera is installed to take pictures of the animals passing. With a bit of luck, there’s a Leopard or even a Tiger on the pictures. We had various species on it!!
A highlight is the night BBQ on a riverbank with delicious food and traditional stories told by the boat men at the camp fire. The day ends with the highlight, the night safari, where the boats drift downstream the river without engine on. The only light, beside the impressive starlit sky is the torch of the boat man looking for animals coming down to the river in the evening hours.
The next day after breakfast, the guides will take you on a hidden trek to historical sides in the jungle and explain about jungle herbs and the use of plants. The trip can be extended with more nights, we did not have the chance to do so...
I am sure there is operators offering it and I guess you might check this in Luang Prabang rather than any other place. cheers and enjoy it!
#1 marakusch has been a member since 4/4/2007. Posts: 22
Hi marakusch, that sounds like a great adventure. I am heading to Laos in March next year and am interested in seeing wildlife, i suppose you would have to be extremely lucky to actually see a tiger : )
I did a search for information on the Nam Et conservation area after reading your post and found this page - http://www.namet.org/namnern.html
Is this the trip you are talking about??
Also, does it only take 3.5hrs to get to Vieng Thong from Nong Khiaw? I have read a number of different timeframes, most seem to say more like 6.5-7hrs.
#2 tpurple has been a member since 4/12/2010. Posts: 5
this is really great.i dont expect to spot wildlife and its good to know of a spot like this.How much did it cost.i will just go for night safari just for fun of it.i have stayed in jungles ,so it doesnt mean that i must see wildlife to appreciate the programme.theres whole lot to it.
Just to make things clear,the site above mentioned has info about travel direction (http://www.namet.org/visit.html).Its a hard 10 hour journey.
#3 santos_g15 has been a member since 14/3/2011. Posts: 8
I've been reading about this project for a few years, and have some reservations.
I've never followed up on it enough to substantiate my unease with this program but the following is what I had problems with.
Traditionally upland peoples of Laos gather half their food from the forest in the form of both plants and animals. The animals upland people have always eaten are wild pig and deer. The Lao government with encouragement from organizations such as WCS has been on a push lately to confiscate the primitive black powder muskets with which upland peoples feed themselves.
The WCS has decided that the roughly 17 tigers existant in Nam Et could be increased to as many as 50 if the tiger didn't have to compete for prey species with humans.
Of course if you read between the lines this means dead kids.
Upland peoples are in a contant struggle to feed themselves, when you take away half of their protein you're going to have much higher rates of malnutrition in children. And malnourished kids die.
Tigers exist in Laos in other National Protected Areas, I've seen their tracks, the Nam Et NPA is simply the place the WCS set up shop. The government of the Lao PDR would be happy if all upland peoples left the mountains and came down to Vientiane and worked in factories speaking Lao Language and joining mainstream society, and I'm sure that given time that is exactly what will happen. But those people have been living in those hills for hundreds of years, it's not their fault that tigers are endangered, it's the fault of the generals selling the large logging concessions to the Vietnamese.
If you do travel to the Nam Et NPA please ask the foreigners working for the WCS if they realize they are impoverishing the upland peoples and selling jungle treks won't do enough to stifle the cries of young children going to sleep hungry waiting for the rice harvest.
Nam Et-Phou Louey is a conservation area, not a national park. It is about sustainable, managed use, not about preservation. According to the laws of the national protected area, people living in surrounding villages are allowed to hunt non-threatened/non-protected species using traditional methods for their own consumption in the managed use zone, which equals roughly half the entire area. They are also allowed to practice traditional agriculture in the managed use zone. The core zone of the park is set up to protect threatened species, such as tigers which have been hunted to near extinction, as well as creating an area where non-protected species--which people rely on for food--can breed. This zoning and protection actually improves the stock of non-protected species which people are allowed to hunt in the managed use zone--thus providing a sustainable source of food. Without such management, the food source of wild meat is unsustainable (the examples in Lao PDR and around the world are countless). Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand the differences between conservation areas and national parks and, thus, have a knee-jerk reaction to such conservation--wrongly asserting that such areas impoverish people. In regard to WCS, it is important to note that it has also been assisting local people in livestock production, so that people can improve their domestic protein sources, as well as helping villages in creating systems for better management of their forests and wildlife in the use zones.
In regards to ecotourism, it is by no means intended to replace what nature provides through wild vegetables and wild meat harvested from the managed use zone. It is rather intended to provide additional benefits and supplemental income to the 25 families who work directly in tourism as guides, boatmen, cooks, handicraft producers and ecolodge assistants, and to the 14 communities surrounding the tour area who share the village development fund, which is generated from the tour fees. Unlike mainstream tourism, ecotourism in Nam Et-Phou Louey is community-based, i.e. operated by local people with 100% of the money staying local.
Energy used in criticizing such programs, (community-based ecotourism, livestock management, and zoning of a conservation area), would be better spent on the issues of commercial mining and plantations, which have far greater ramifications for local livelihoods.
#5 pauleshoo has been a member since 5/10/2012. Posts: 2
We got to go on the Nam Nern river trip in September 2013 and had a great time, and the guide seemed to know a lot about what the tour does for conservation and for the villages around the national park. It seemed like a good project.
The river was pretty high during our visit, but the boat guys were real experts - even while going downstream after dark with no motor running. They said it's more likely to see animals after dark, but we got to see some cool birds and two bear cubs! in a tree during the afternoon, which was incredible and really cute. We had dinner and a campfire right next to the river, and then went back down the river after dark. We got to see some deer drinking in the river and some big lizards. You spend the night in little huts which were basic but comfy, and totally surrounded by trees.
It was a long drive to get there, but the roads were better than we expected and the scenery is great in this part of Laos.
#6 LaoLover has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 5