ELEPHANT EXPERIENCE

Code: LA-SA-EE7 Duration: 7 days Theme: Soft Adventure

Known as Lane Xang, or the “Land of a Million Elephants”, the Lao PDR historically had large and widely distributed populations of both wild and domesticated elephants. As a living icon with important symbolic connotations, Lao elephant is an animal dear to the hearts of all people in the country

Unfortunately, as in other countries, elephant in Laos is now confronting with the loss of natural habitat (expansion of settlements, agriculture, the logging industry and industrial infrastructure i.e. dams and roads) and to a lesser degree by poaching for the ivory trade or for the export of living animals. Competition for space is leading to increasing conflict between elephants and people, leading to casualties on both sides.

As an effort to protect, and increase the awareness of the problem, some elephant conservation centers have been created to make a safe home, and socialize these animals back to the nature. During the scope of this package, we will visit the Elephant Conservation Center in Xayabouly, the highlight of your Lao travel.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Emerging into the culture and spirit of Laos by visiting the serene temple in Laos, and joining the Baci Ceremony.
  • Cruising the mighty Mekong river to the mysterious Pak Ou caves
  • Exploring the nature of Luang Prabang surrounding by vising the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden, and Kuang Si waterfalls
  • Visiting the Elephant Conservation Center in Xayabouly to see the effort to makes a safe home, and socialize these animals back to nature.

TOUR ROUTE

Luang Prabang city tour – Baci Ceremony – Pak Ou caves – Pha Tad Ke Garden – Kuang Si waterfalls – Elephant Conservation Center (Xayabouly) – Luang Prabang

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Dinner
+ Excursion: Temple & museum visit + Baci ceremony
+ Accommodation: Hotel in Luang Prabang

+ Arrival Flight: TBA

On arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to check in the hotel.

After a soft rest, your city tour begins with a visit to the magnificent Wat Xiengthong, a superb piece of Lao temple architecture, which presents a sweeping two-tiered roof and ornate mosaics including a beautiful ‘tree of life ‘glass montage on the rear temple wall.

If time permits, we will take a short walk around the small streets of city center, watching the life of local people, and visiting the traditional house of Heuan Chan, the Chantal wooden house dating back to 100 years old.

After that, you will visit Royal Palace Museum, which was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family.

Late afternoon, we climb up to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a panoramic sunset view of the city and the Mekong River.

After that, join a private Baci ceremony at a local family. The Baci ceremony as a traditional ritual of the Lao people expresses the spirituality of the country and is a highly memorable experience and a deep insight into Lao culture for the participants.

Dinner will be served after that for you to share with the host family. This is the best chance for you to have first-hand experience of local life and culture.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

+ Guide & driver
+ Meal: Breakfast, lunch
+ Excursion: cruising the mighty Mekong to the famous Pak Ou caves
+ Accommodation: Hotel in Luang Prabang
+ Pick-up: 08:30AM

Breakfast at the hotel, we will first visit the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene. After that, we embark on the leisurely cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives us a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside, before reaching the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, a 16th century cave monastery filled with thousands of Buddha images, which locates 25 Kilometers North of Luang Prabang in the limestone cliffs overlooking the Mekong river.  En route, you will stop at Ban Muang Keo, a well-known village for its traditional Lao rice whisky distilling. You will arrive back in Luang Prabang.
On arrival back in the city, we visit Wat Mai, which is one of the most beautiful temple of Luang Prabang. We then continue to Wat Visoun, dating back to 1513 during the reign of King Wisunarat (Visoun), this is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple and was once home to the Prabang Buddhas. Our last stop today is the Traditional Art and Ethnology Center (closed on Monday) to learn about Laos’ many ethnic cultures. Overnight in Luang Prabang

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Breakfast, lunch
+ Excursion: visit Pha Tad Ke botanical garden, and Kuang Si waterfalls
+ Accommodation: Hotel in Luang Prabang
+ Pick-up: 08:30AM

The Pha Tad Ke boat departs Ban Wat That at 9:00 (please be at the pier at 8:45). Enjoy a 15-minute leisurely boat trip down the Mekong River. Upon arrival at Pha Tad Ke Botanic Garden reception you will be given a short presentation about the gardens. After that walk through the Ginger Garden and the Ethno-botanic Garden, which is the centrepiece of the garden. Follow the path through the Limestone Walk and take in the amazing mountainous Mekong landscape. Learn how to make a bamboo stick animal at the site of the hunting lodge of the former royal family. Then continue your tour of Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden walking through the Arboretum, Palm Garden, and Bamboo Garden to our viewpoint that overlooks the rice field. Stop by the Mist House where you will learn more about the importance of biodiversity conservation and finish your excursion with an optional orchid talk at Pha Tad Ke Nursery. All of the gardens will have introductory panels and labels. You can always ask our expert staff should you have any questions or require more information. Enjoy a delicious Lao set lunch at Pha Tad Ke’s café before taking the cruise back to Luang Prabang In the afternoon, we drive to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall which is the biggest in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. The pools also make great swimming holes and are very popular with both tourists and locals We will also take a short visit to the Bear Rescue Center, which houses a couple of dozen animals rescued from the hands of poachers and traffickers. On the way back to the town, we will take a short visit to the Ock Pop Tock Living Craft Center, set serenely close to the Mekong, this beautiful, traditionally styled workshop, where weavers, spinners and batik makers produce top-quality fabrics, offers free tours every half-hour.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
+ Excursion: transfer to Elephant Conservation Center in Xayabouly, where we experience the daily life of the elephants
+ Accommodation: Elephant Conservation Center’s bungalow
+ Pick-up: 08:15AM

In the morning, our driver will transfer you to the meeting point where we will join the minivan of Elephant Conservation Center for the transfer to Xayabouly (about 90KM).
When you have arrived to the pier at Nam Tien Lake, we will transfer you to the center by boat. You might be able to catch a quick glimpse of one of our elephants while our boat docks. You will have some time to install yourself in your private bungalow before lunch is served. After enjoying a Laotian style meal, your guide will take you for a visit of the Center’s facilities and present our ongoing projects.
During the hospital visit our veterinarian and biologist will take you into their world and explain about the projects they are undertaking. Through the visit of the only Elephant Hospital in Laos, you will discover the conservation actions implemented by The Elephant Conservation Center. You will then observe the elephants’ daily bath and learn more about our giant guests’ playful characters. Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers and love water. They also use this time to socialize.
After the elephants have washed themselves, you will meet our mahouts, who will show you how they get on and off the elephant and the commands they use. You will then have the opportunity to interact with the elephants with the mahouts at your side. Get a feel for the elephant’s amazing skin and prickly hair, and experience up close the dexterity of their trunk as you offer them some food. Feel free to take photos standing next to our giants!  For those who really want to get a feel of being on top of the elephant, mahout style, you can request to do so later on when bringing the elephants to the forest or socialization area.  But this is absolutely not central to the experience we propose and is strictly on the neck, not in a chair on the elephant’s back!
While walking the elephants to their nightly resting ground you will witness the unique bond between the mahout and his elephant. Our experienced mahouts use vocal commands to steer the animals through the thick foliage.  As you stroll together with these magnificent creatures into the dense forest of Nam Tien, take a moment! This is the REAL land of elephants!  Your guide will give you some interesting information about the biodiversity of our protected forest.
Before dinner, take some time to take in the surroundings from our viewpoint. You can also go for a swim in the lake or visit the museum. During meal time, feel free to ask your unresolved questions to the staff or share one of the Lao style cocktails!

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
+ Excursion: experience the daily life of the elephants
+ Accommodation: Elephant Conservation Center’s bungalow
+ Pick-up: 08:30AM

On the second day, you will meet up with the elephants in the forest. After spending the night grazing in the jungle it is time for another bath. Enjoy strolling together with these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. If you wish, you can ask to ride the elephant, bareback on the neck, for a short time on their way through the forest, to get a physical feel for the animal.

When they have had their fill of water they are brought to the Socialization Area. This is an area where the elephants can freely interact during a big part of the day, recreating a semi-natural living environment. Here the elephants can enjoy being elephants. Follow the guide around the perimeter to learn more about the elephants. Take your time on the different platforms to see how a new herd is being formed. This rare opportunity will bring you closer to their natural life, something which is very special about our program and difficult to find anywhere else in Laos.

Lunch is served at one of the viewing platforms. You have some time to let everything sink in. Following the forest picnic, you can see the resident mother and baby at the nursery. The mahout of the mother stays close by while she and her baby have a bath and play. The mother trusts him around her offspring and even lets him play with her a little bit. Afterwards, board our boat for a trip back to the center in time to see the afternoon bath. You will meet our veterinarian or biologist again as they will conduct a target training session. All our elephants are being trained using ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques to facilitate any necessary treatments. We offer you the chance to follow their work from a safe distance. Afterwards you can walk the elephant back to the forest.

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Breakfast, lunch
+ Excursion: continue the experience with the elephant before transferring back to Luang Prabang in the afternoon
+ Accommodation: hotel in Luang Prabang
+ Pick-up: 08:00AM

On the third day, our guide and biologist will explain the enrichment activities. Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animal’s behavioral biology. We are providing cognitive enrichment in the form of hidden food, toys, a mud bath etc. to give the elephants mental stimulation and avoid boredom. They love it! We invite you to take part in this amazing experience by helping our team to prepare the socialization area: cut and hide the food, create elephant toys etc. to give the elephants a challenge. Once they arrive, you will have the opportunity to observe how the elephants interact with what you have created! This is a novel and unique way to interact with our elephants, contributing directly to their well-being. After Lunch at the restaurant you can take your time to pack your bags and say goodbye to the staff. Perhaps you would like to take in the scenery for one last time before we bring you back to Luang Prabang. From there, our driver will transfer you back to your hotel. Overnight in Luang Prabang

+ Guide & Driver
+ Meal: Breakfast
+ Excursion: None
+ Accommodation: None
+ Pick-up: 2.5 hours before the flight
+ Departure Flight:

You are free to stroll around the town for your own exploration before taking the departure flight