Welcome to the largest National Protected Area in Lao PDR, that hosts the third highest peak in Laos, the summit of Phou Louey.
The last home of tiger in Laos, and plenty of species are found here.
Welcome to the land of ‘Forever Mountain’ and the Nern and Et Rivers. The place where your breath will be taken away with its virgin green nature beauty
This is one of the 10 must-see places in Laos especially for wildlife excursion.
Let’s check the detail below to learn more about Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA

The National Protected Area of Nam Et - Phou Louey

Nam Et–Phou Louey National Protected Area (NEPL NPA) is located in the north-east of Lao PDR.

With an area of 410,720 ha, it is the largest of Laos’ NPAs, covering seven districts and three provinces (Houaphan, Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang provinces).

Mostly hilly or mountainous, it is the source of many rivers. It is named after its two main features, the Nern and Et Rivers and Phou Louey Mountain (“Forever Mountain”).

The area has primary forest remaining in many areas, a high level of biodiversity, and a number of endangered species including tiger, gaur, Sambar deer, and white-cheeked gibbon.

Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA (Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos)

What wildlife can I see on Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA?

The Nam Et – Phou Louey national protected area has gained its popularity as being home to the last wild tigers in Lao PDR as well as for many other wild species endemic to Indochina as Gaur, Sambar deer (status: vulnerable), and the White-Cheeked Gibbon (status: critical).

The area displays an outstanding diversity of carnivores that includes:

  • Six cat species (tigers, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat and leopard cat),
  • Dhole (status: vulnerable),
  • Two species of bear (Asian black bear and sun bear, status: vulnerable),
  • 11 small carnivores including civets, mustelids, and mongoose.

The tours to Nam Et – Phou Louey are promoted as “One of the few opportunities in Laos to see rare wildlife”.

While visitors can see a range of wildlife during the tours, some species are very difficult to spot as they hear people approaching from a long way off.

For example, due to its secretive nature and low numbers, the tiger is almost impossible to spot.

This tour is very different from an African safari where lions may lounge by the road while clients take selfies.

So the questions you may ask is: What wildlife can I actually see during the tour to Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA?

Wildlife sight during the tour to Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA

 

The chart above presents the percentage of seen wildlife per species on tours in period of 2010-2015.

Almost all our clients (90%) have seen at least few of the animals listed above and the average sightseeing per tour is 5 animals.

The most common wildlife to be seen is the rare Sambar Deer, Civets and Monitor lizards. Other common species are Muntjacs, Slow Loris and Otters.

Some lucky clients have seen Asian Black Bears, Porcupines, Asian Golden Cat, Tiger Tracks and even a Leopard!

Nam ET - Phou Louey Wildlife

 

You are sure to see also high number of various bird species especially during day time.

Preliminary surveys of the avifauna in the NPA were first undertaken in 1998 (Davidson 1998) and resulted in a list of 299 species.

Of these, three species are listed as endangered or near threatened (NT), including Rufous-Necked Hornbill Aceros Nipalensis (VU), the beautiful Nuthatch Sitta Formosa (VU) and Blyth’s Kingfisher (NT) (IUCN 2009).

However, the most common species you will most likely see during the tour are: Crested and Common Kingfisher, Red Jungle Fowl, Silver Pheasant, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Drongo, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Spotted owlet.

Bird - Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

The tours to Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA are for those who wish to immerse in the heart of protected area and try their luck to spot the rare wildlife in cautious manner to preserve the animal natural behavior.

Joining the tour, you encourage the local people to protect endangered species as the money received by villagers depends on the wildlife health and on the numbers of wildlife seen by the tourists.

There is no warrant that wild animals will hang out by the river to greet visitors, but we can promise you will learn about the wildlife conservation in Laos from naturalist guides and ex-hunters in the middle of the protected area, and if lucky spot wild animals.

Full list of wildlife in Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA

We have sorted out the list of endangered species living in Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA, let’s find out below

Tiger

Status: Endangered

Nam Et – Phou Louey harbors one of the most important tiger populations in Indochina. It is estimated that there are 7 – 23 tigers in the area.

Tigers represent the overall health of the ecosystem, as only the most healthy ecosystem can support enough prey (deer, gaur, wild pigs and others) to support this large carnivore.

To survive, an individual tiger needs to eat at least one large deer or pig (150kg) per week.

Illegal trade of tiger prey (wild deer, pigs and cattle) and of tigers (selling their skin or their bones for medicine) is threatening their survival in Laos.

Although tigers still exist in Laos, they are rare and hardly ever seen.

To count tigers, scientists use cameras to identify different individuals by comparing stripe patterns as the pattern is unique for each individual tiger.

Scientists estimate that there are less than 20 tigers in Nam Et-Phou Louey today but the government is working with conservation organizations and communities to increase these numbers over the next decade.

Tiger - Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari-1
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Gaur (Bos gaurus)

Status: Vulnerable

This large herbivore is the tiger’s preferred prey and is declining rapidly due to poaching its gall bladder, which is sold on the black market at a high price.

As a result of the trade, gaur numbers have plummeted and its survival is threatened.

Gaur forage on grasses and, thus, represent the overall health of NEPL’s important grassland habitat.

With the better protection in the protected area, recently, there is the evidence that gaurs are still reproducing; but their existence is still vulnerable

Gaur - Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari-0
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

White-Cheeked Crested Gibbon (Nomascus Leucogenys)

Status: Critical

NEPL has the largest population of white-cheeked crested gibbon, which is found only in Vietnam and Laos.

Gibbons require large areas of primary forest with thick canopies to swing from and bamboo to feed on, thus their presence indicates healthy primary forests.

The major threat to gibbons is hunting. Local consumption of gibbons as a source of protein in rural areas still occurs, and many are sold as pets or for their bones, which have purported medicinal value.

Although traditional taboos against hunting gibbons exist, these are currently degrading under new social pressures, and thus opportunistic hunting still occurs.

Though information on gibbons in Lao PDR is limited, Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA has been identified by the Gibbon Conservation Action Plan for Lao PDR 2011-2020 as having significant population of Northern White-cheeked Gibbons in the country.

White Cheek Crested Gibbon - Nam Et Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
White Cheek Crested Gibbon

Sambar Deer (Cervus Unicolor)

Status: Vulnerable

The sambar is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent, southern China, and Southeast Asia that is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

Populations have declined substantially due to severe hunting, insurgency, and industrial exploitation of habitat.

The name “sambar” is also sometimes used to refer to the Philippine deer, called the “Philippine sambar” and the Javan rusa, called the “Sunda sambar”.

Sambar deer are very rare in Laos and are one of the tiger’s main prey. They prefer mixed deciduous forests, the predominant habitat of NEPL.

Samba Deer - Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari-1
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Otters

There are three species of otters found in NEPL, oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea, status: vulnerable), smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), and Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).

The presence of otters represents the health of aquatic ecosystems, which are irreplaceable support systems both wildlife and people.

Otter - Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Otter

Other Mammals

Nam Et-Phou Louey displays an outstanding diversity of carnivores, that includes six cat species (tigers, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat and leopard cat), dhole (status: vulnerable), two species of bear (Asian black bear and sun bear, status: vulnerable), and 11 small carnivores including civets, mustelids, and mongoose.

A small elephant population persists along the Nam Et River. In 1998, over 40 species of bats were recorded at NEPL, of which three were new to Laos. Want to see a fuller list of all the species? Click here

Asia Black Bear - Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Asia Black Bear

Reptiles and Amphibians (Herpetofauna)

Among the wildlife of Laos, relatively little is known about the reptile and amphibian diversity.

The first survey of the herpetofauna in the NEPL NPA was undertaken in 1998 (Stuart 1998).

A field survey coupled with interviews resulted in a preliminary list of 30 species that included six species of turtles, two species of pythons, several species of frogs, toads, lizards that included two species of monitor lizards, typical snakes, vipers, and an elapid snake (krait).

Of the known herpetofauna in the NPA, it is notable that most of the turtles are listed as IUCN endangered (EN), vulnerable (VU) or data deficient (DD), including the Southeast Asian softshell turtle Amyda cartilaginia (VU), the big-headed turtle Platysternon megacephalum (EN), the four-eyed turtle Sacalia quadriocellata (EN), and the impressed tortoise Manouria impressa (VU) (IUCN 2009).

Want to see a fuller list of all the species? Click here

Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari-1
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Birds (Avifauna)

Preliminary surveys of the avifauna in the NPA were first undertaken in 1998 (Davidson 1998) and resulted in a list of 299 species.

Of these, three species are listed as endangered or near threatened (NT), including rufous-necked hornbill Aceros nipalensis (VU), the beautiful nuthatch Sitta formosa (VU) and Blyth’s kingfisher (NT) (IUCN 2009).

Phou Louey mountain is identified as especially important as it contains a distinctive mountain bird community with ten species that are known from only one or two other localities in Laos.

Want to see a fuller list of all the species? Click here

Bird - Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari-4
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Communities around Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA

Social and Demographic Status

Villagers living in the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA comprise many ethnic groups including Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, Tai Kao, Tai Puan, Tai Lue, Tai Yuan, Khmu, Hmong Kao, Hmong Lai, and Yao.

The population of the villages within and surrounding Nam Et-Phou Louey is 91,500 and there are 13,600 households and 283 villages.

The ethnic split is Lao Loum 32%, Lao Teung 51%, and Lao Soung 17%. Within the NPA, where there are fewer villages located, there are 23,000 inhabitants.

Nam Et - Phou Louey Community
Source: Dominique Le Roux

 

Livelihoods and Tradition

The livelihoods of the villagers in the area are very much associated with the natural environment by way of agricultural production and shifting cultivation.

There are few sources of alternative employment and settlement are highly scattered and often in remote and inaccessible areas.

The traditions of the villagers in the area mainly stem from animist beliefs, with New Year celebrated in January and villagers following the lunar calendar.

However, the 12 rules and 14 principles from Buddhism are commonly followed (heep sip song, khong sip sii).

The religious beliefs of the different groups and their trappings, e.g. spirit forest, cemetaries and animal veneration, have an important bearing on conservation due to the restrictions they impose.

Other beliefs may have negative impacts, e.g. burning of vegetation to improve land productivity and hunting prospects, prolonged celebrations and belief in the healing powers of spirits to the exclusion of modern medicine.

Nam Et - Phou Louey Community
Source: JBikova

 

Economic Status

The economies of the majority of villages in Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA are primarily based on agriculture and the natural environment.

A small number of villages also manufacture handicrafts and have simple services.

The main staples are rice and corn. Upland cultivation (also known as shifting cultivation) accounts for more than 80% of cultivation, which is evident by many cleared hillsides along roads in the village use zone.

The most common cash crops grown by villagers are soya beans, mak deuai, sesame and chili.

The most common livestock are cattle, pigs, goats, and poultry.

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as cardamom, sugar palm, rattan, mulberry fibre, chewing bark, bamboo shoots and edible shoots and roots are another income source that is estimated at 22% of total of all income.

Nam Et - Phou Louey Community - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: Dominique Le Roux

Is tourism the only activities to help protect the wildlife?

It is the fact that, tourism is the most important part of the whole effort to protect the wildlife as it generates revenue to fund the protecting activities;

However, we need more than that to raise the awareness of the local people who rely on the forest for hundreds of year.

Protecting Nam Et-Phou Louey’s rich biodiversity is a full-time task.

There are five departments dedicated to conserving the area’s wildlife and forests: enforcement, conservation outreach, monitoring and research, land-use management, and ecotourism.

Enforcement

The enforcement team is responsible for patrolling the protected area and its boundaries in order to stop and prevent illegal hunting, buying or selling of wildlife, logging, plant collection, and other illegal activities.

There are a total of nine substations situated at key locations around the protected area, each staffed with six to eight rangers.

There are two mobile units that patrol the markets and towns and respond to tip-offs from the hotline.

Nam Et - Phou Louey - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safaric
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Conservation Outreach

The conservation outreach team is dedicated to local people’s participation in the management of the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area.

The team disseminates information about the globally important ecosystem of the Nam Et-Phou Louey while communicating rules and regulations governing the protected area through fun and exciting participatory methodologies such as social marketing.

The team also assists village communities and local authorities to negotiate and demarcate village-use areas within the protected area through a participatory approach to maintain traditional agriculture without negatively impacting the wild habitat.

Nam Et - Phou Louey Community - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: Dominique Le Roux

Monitoring and Research

The monitoring and research unit is responsible for monitoring the health of the ecosystem and populations of key species, including tigers and other endangered animals, and researching a range of issues including human-wildlife conflict.

Camera trapping is done regularly to estimate the numbers and distribution of rare and endangered mammals.

Nam Et - Phou Louey - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Land Use Management

Land-use management involves helping villagers to effectively manage their resources in order to increase production from agriculture and livestock and to reduce wildlife conflicts and forest degradation.

Livestock depredation (attacks on domestic animals by wild predators such as tigers and leopards) is one of the most pressing issues at Nam Et-Phou Louey.

Nam Et - Phou Louey - Muang Hiam - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: Lauren Kana Chan

Eco Tourism

The project has developed the model of ecotourism that benefits the local community, and involve them in the effort to protect the wild life.

The Nam Nern Night Safari and The Nature Trek provide positive benefits to local people, in addition to the natural services (water, forests and wildlife) provided by Nam Et-Phou Louey.

Benefits from ecotourism are linked directly to conservation through a village-development fund and sightings of wildlife by visitors.

Nam Et - Phou Louey Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: Lauren Kana Chan

WildLife Eco-tourism - How does it work?

Community Involvement in Wildlife Conservation

Effective and meaningful engagement with communities is a key pillar of a NPA ecotourism program.

If benefits and incentives are set up effectively, then tourism development can lead to increased and diversified income and encourage conservation friendly practices at the village level.

In addition to the conservation benefits that accrue directly from the ecotourism program, the stronger links and trust that can be forged with local communities can support a much wider range of PA management objectives.

Ecotourism benefits for communities at NEPL are through two main activities: providing alternate livelihoods with service provider groups, and through broader community engagement under the Ecotourism Benefits Fund (EBF).

Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking Tour and Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: Dominique Le Roux

Alternate livelihoods through the service provider groups

Ecotourism service groups have been created in four villages to create employment opportunities for local people.

All of the ecotourism sites, trails and infrastructure have been developed and are currently co-managed by people from these ecotourism villages in cooperation with the NEPL NPA.

Most of the service group members are former hunters, today being involved in tourism activities as guides, porters, and boatmen.

Additionally women service groups are developed providing handicraft, cooking and cleaning services.

Each group member has been selected through an open interview process conducted by the NPA Management Unit, with low-income families prioritized in the selection process.

In order to spread the benefits of tourism fairly in the village, each participating family is allowed to have membership in only one service group.

Fees for the services offered by each group are pre-determined and agreed with villagers in the service group contract and included in the total cost of the tour.

In addition to the pre-determined payments, a financial incentive based on visitor satisfaction and on encounters with wildlife (including direct sightings, animal calls, footprints, and scat) by visitors translates into a personal bonus for each of the service providers employed on the tour.

All service provider wages and bonuses are distributed to the villagers just after the tour in the visitor’s presence.

In order to receive the tourism-linked benefits, all service group members and their households must adhere to the conditions of the contract.

Households caught violating the regulations risk losing their position in the service groups.

NEPL-night-safari-laos-4-JaninaB
Source: Janina Bikova

Community Involvement through the Ecotourism Benefits Fund

To ensure that communities are incentivized to support conservation efforts, and also share in the benefits that ecotourism brings to the area, an Ecotourism Benefits Fund (EBF) has been introduced.

Every visitor taking part in a tour contributes to the EBF as part of the total tour price. All the 26-ecotourism villages engaged in the two tourism products can receive financial benefits from the EBF.

To create a direct incentive for conservation, the NPA not only delivers to the villages a fixed amount of money for every tourist going on the tour, but an additional amount is provided depending on the numbers and type of wildlife encountered by the visitors on the tour.

All visitors required to fill out a wildlife monitoring form at the end of the trip.

To encourage conservation efforts, greater incentives are provided for sightings of rarer species.

All collected information on seen wildlife during the tours is recorded on an online database and is further incorporated into the NPA’s wildlife-monitoring program.

In addition to these positive incentives for conservation in the ecotourism strategy design, the benefit distribution agreement also outlines disincentives for breaking the protected area’s regulations.

For example, if anyone from the ecotourism villages is caught violating the agreement, then the yearly EBF of the respective individual’s village is reduced.

The amount of money levied from the law breaking villages is shared equally between other villages and the benefit accumulating can begin again in the next tourism season.

Ecotourism-payment-DominiqueLeRoux
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

The money from the EBF is calculated and distributed yearly to all ecotourism villages based on the number of households.

The EBF is used to support small-scale village development activities chosen by each village by popular vote, rather than distributing cash payments.

For example previously the EBF has supported a medicine bank, materials to fix and build school infrastructure and community meeting halls, improvements to the village’s water sanitation and supply, and been added to existing revolving micro-finance funds.

Read more about the Ecotourism Model of NEPL NPA

Tours offered by Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA

Ecotourism activities at Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area (NPA) have been developed to provide an additional livelihood opportunity for local people surrounding the Protected Area.

All tours have been designed to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money that visitors pay has a positive impact on encouraging local people to protect endangered wildlife.

This is achieved through active community involvement, and the creation of conservation linked financial incentive mechanisms.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been supporting the NEPL Management Unit since 2003, and has assisted with the development of ecotourism products commencing in 2009.

During this time significant experience has been gained on how to implement ecotourism in the Laos NPA context, and how to ensure effective operations and meaningful community engagement.

Currently 26 villages (more than 2000 households) are participating in ecotourism with 4 villages being directly engaged to provide services for tours. The primary aims of the tourism model are to:

  • Create additional income for local people – linked to conservation
  • Generate sustainable financing for protected area management
  • Increase awareness among local people and visitors about the importance of wildlife conservation
Nam Nern Night Safari - Nam Et - Phou Louey - Nature Trek
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Nam Nern Night Safari Tour

Opened in 2009, the Nam Nern Night Safari is a 24-hour boat-based tour into the core of the NEPL NPA.

The trip involves night-time wildlife spotlighting: long-tail boats drift down the Nam Nern River looking for wild and endangered animals.

Additional nature activities during the tour include bird watching, wildlife tracking, and a short morning hike.

Visitors to the Night Safari stay overnight in traditional Lao bungalows built and managed by the community.

This innovative and adventurous journey is not only one of the few opportunities in Laos to view rare wildlife, but the trip is designed to support alternative livelihoods for local people and generate community support for conservation of tigers and other wildlife.

Nature activities during the tour include bird watching, wildlife tracking, nighttime wildlife spotting, discovery of medicinal plants and an early morning hike.

Visitors to the Night Safari overnight in one of our two-person traditional Lao bungalows, built and managed by the community and overlooking the Nam Nern River from the forest edge.

The Night Safari has gained public recognition and international visibility as well as won the ‘World Responsible Tourism Award’ both in year 2013 and 2014. The project currently employs directly around 40 families and involves 14 villages.

Nam Et - Phou Louey - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Highlights:

Easy 24 hour tour. All year Long. All Age.

  • Travel by Boat into the Totally Protected Zone of the National Protected Area
  • Best for Nighttime Wildlife Spotting & Bird Watching
  • Meet the Forest Rangers
  • Visit an old Buddhist Stupa covered by Jungle
  • Overnight in Comfortable Jungle bungalows
  • World Responsible Tourism Award in 2013 & 2014!
  • 6 visitors per group or more on special request.

Check out the package tour that includes Nam Nern Night Safari HERE

Nam Et - Phou Louey - Nam Nern Night Safari

Wildlife Conservation Trekking Tours

Since 2016, Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area offer new ecotourism attractions: the wildlife conservation trekking tours!

The trekking project offers an unique opportunity to enter one of the most important wildlife habitats of the Total Protection Zone of Nam Et-Phou Louey and track wild species such as wild cats, bears and the wild dog (dhole) using camera traps which are set up along the trail and maintained by tourists.

The data from these camera traps is then incorporated into the protected area’s wildlife-monitoring program.

These wildlife conservation trekking tours are located in different part of the Protected Area than the Nam Nern Night Safari, and provide alternate livelihoods in 3 villages as well as offer additional financial benefits for wildlife conservation efforts for 12 surrounding villages.

The benefits depend on the number and type of the seen wildlife by visitors on tours and photos of wildlife taken by camera traps along the trail.

There are 5 different itineraries for trekking program depending on your level of experience in trekking and physical fitness. But all of them requires a certain level of physical condition

Note: Trekking tours are available during the dry season only, from October to May/June

nepl-namet-cloud-forest-trek-15
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

The Nests (2 Days / 1 Night)

In Brief: Trek to the heart of the protected area and overnight in spherical baskets hanging from the trees – ‘The Nests’.

Verify wildlife camera traps and try your luck to spot wildlife from the observation tower overlooking a salt lick that attracts animals such as the rare Sambar deer from far and wide.

Accommodation on tour: 1 night in The Nests.

Option: Add extra night in the ecotourism village home-stay the night before/after the tour.

SeasonalityDry season only, from October to May/June (depending on the rainy season).

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard. Please note this package requires a total of 14 kilometers walking over quite difficult terrain over two days (rocky streams to cross, steep hills to climb and dense vegetation).

Please sign up for this tour only if you have experience with trekking and if you are confident in your physical ability to deal with such stresses.

Elevation profile: Day 1 & 2 follow the same path:

2 Day Trek in Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA

 

Itinerary

Day 1: The tour starts with a transfer from Muang Hiam to the nearby Khmu village of Ban Nam Poung. From there, we join the “tok tok” (a hand tractor) transfer via the rice paddy field, admiring the beautiful landscape of the area.

In the afternoon, start trekking into the jungle following the small trail passing through a thick jungle and mixed deciduous forest. Along the way, learn about medicinal plant, spot animal tracks and birds.

After the 4-hour trek, we arrive the The Nest campsite. Enjoy free time to relax, bathe in the nearby river and enjoy the nature.

In the evening, we will join the spotlighting at Poung Nied Salt Lick, one of the largest salt licks in the protected area.

The most common animals that you might spot include Sambar and barking deer (AKA muntjak) and various species of civets, although, if lucky, you may see also other protected animals such as bears, dhole, several species of wild cats and others.

The Nest House - Nam Et - Phou Louey 2 day Trek
The Nest Hanging House (Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos)

 

Day 2: Wake up early and walk back to the salt lick to identify different wildlife tracks. This is also the great chance for bird watching when they are leaving their nests to look for foods.

Then come back to campsite to enjoy the leisure breakfast before trekking the same way back to the village and joining the transfer back to your accommodation in Muang Hiam

Waterfall & The Nests (3 Days / 2 Nights)

In Brief: Trek to the heart of the protected area and enjoy natural pools and waterfall nearby the jungle camp.

Verify wildlife camera traps and try your luck to spot wildlife nearby ‘The Nests’ camp on the day 2, from the observation tower overlooking a salt lick that attracts animals such as the rare Sambar deer from far and wide.

Accommodation on tour: 1 night in the Jungle Hut & 1 night The Nests.

Option: Add extra night in the ecotourism village home-stay the night before/after the tour.

Seasonality: Dry season only, from October to May/June (depending on the rainy season)

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult. Please note this package requires a total of 25 kilometers walking over difficult terrain over three days (rocky streams to cross, steep hills to climb as well as dense vegetation).

Please sign up for this tour only if you have experience with difficult trekking and if you are confident in your physical ability to deal with such stresses.

Elevation profile:

3 Day Trek in Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA-

 

Itinerary

Day 1: The tour starts with a 45-minute drive along a curvy road through gorgeous mountainous landscapes and through the protected area corridor you arrive at Ban Sakok, an ethnic Khmu Village, situated on the edge of the protected area core zone boundary.

From there, we embark on the short trek of around 4Km through the village’s rice, tobacco, and cornfields learning along the way about upland rice cultivation and rural livelihoods.

After picnic lunch, we continue with another 4Km trek via the jungle path built and maintained by the village to Tad Loy Camp passing mixed deciduous forests.

The first day trek is quite easy for you to warm up. The campsite accommodation locates near Tad Loy Waterfall, the most beautiful waterfall found in the park area

Nam Et - Phou Louey (NEPL) NPA - Nature Trek
Tad Loy waterfall (Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos)

 

Day 2: Wake up early and before breakfast walk up to a nearby mountain to check for photos on camera traps set there, bird watch, and possibly have the opportunity to hear the calls of the rare White-cheeked crested gibbon.

After breakfast, trek from the foothills of Phou Louey Mountain across the rugged and mountainous landscape to Poung Nied and The Nests campsite.

The trek is approximately 9km with a steep ascent to the top of Phou Phamai Mountain followed by a gradual descent down to Poung Nied Salt Lick and The Nests camp.

The route traverses some unique forest and landscapes and trench remains from the war.

In the evening, we will join the spotlighting at Poung Nied Salt Lick, one of the largest salt licks in the protected area.

The most common animals that you might spot include Sambar and barking deer (AKA muntjak) and various species of civets, although, if lucky, you may see also other protected animals such as bears, dhole, several species of wild cats and others.

Nam Et - Phou Louey (NEPL) NPA - Nature Trek
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Day 3: Wake up early and walk back to the salt lick to identify different wildlife tracks. This is also the great chance for bird watching when they are leaving their nests to look for foods.

Your final day of trekking takes you along a 7km forest path built and maintained by the village passing through thick jungle and mixed deciduous forest.

The local guide will show you medicinal plants and spot animal tracks along the way.

The trek has a couple moderate ascents before descending into agriculture fields.

From here another “tok tok” (a small tractor used for plowing rice paddies and convertible to a vehicle for transportation) will pick you up and take you through the village rice and corn fields for about 7km to Ban Nam Poung Village, an ethnic Khmu Village, situated on the edge of the national protected area core zone boundary.

Once in the village your village guides will bid you goodbye and you will be transferred back to Muang Hiam by private truck or van.

We will be back in Muang Hiam in afternoon.

NamEt-Trek-Wildlife-Laos-2
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Cloud Forest Climb 5-Day Itinerary

In brief: Challenging trekking up to the summit of Phou Louey the “Forever Mountain” (Elev. 2257m) – the third highest peak in Laos and one of the few cloud forests in the region.

This trek through the evergreen forest includes a homestay in a Khmu village at the start of the tour, followed by a camping in jungle huts inside the protected area, and The Nests and wildlife observation tower.

Accommodation on tour: 1 night village home-stay, 2 nights in the Jungle Hut & 1 night The Nests.

SeasonalityDry season only – October to May/June (depending on the rainy season).

Difficulty: Difficult to Challenging. Please be aware that this has been found to be a very difficult trek.  It involves full days of climbing up steep hills and other difficulties associated with thick jungle. Please sign up for this tour only if you have experience with difficult trekking and if you are in very good level of physical fitness.

Elevation profile

5 Day Trek in Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA-

 

If you have less than 5 days we can shorten this tour to make it in 4 or 3 days. Of course, it will require higher physical fitness. We show you how below in the 3-or-4-day itinerary section.

Itinerary

Day 1: The tour start with 1.5-hour transfer Muang Hiam to the village of Ban Nam Soy. (Note: you can either start from Nong Khiaw with your own transportation, which will take 3.5-hour transfer to Ban Nam Soy)

From here you will get on a tok tok (a hand tractor used for plowing rice paddies and convertible to a transportation vehicle) along a 9km trail crossing local villages and overlooking agricultural fields to Ban Navene, a remote Khmu village.

In the afternoon, explore the village and help your homestay family with the daily tasks around the house or in the nearby fields.

NamEtPhouLouey-cloud-forest-trek-24
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Day 2-3: Conquering Phou Louey mountain which host the third highest peak in Laos.

These 2 days are very challenging and require the highest physical condition.

You also need to wake up early to make sure that every scheduled stop will be made within the plan.

Along the way, our guide will help explain about local agriculture, which villagers depend on for their both their food and income.

There are also the chance to visit 2 beautiful waterfalls hidden in the thick jungle: Tad Ang waterfall, and Tad Loy waterfalls. Take a refresh dip if you wish so.

The night will be arranged the the jungle huts locating near the 2 waterfalls above. The guide will help you spot the nightlife of the jungle with the animal tracks or the mark that they left.

Every morning, waking up among the nature, hearing the sound of the waterfall and bird calls is always the best reward that you can have.

Phou Louey Summit Peak | Nam Et - Phou Louey Nature Trek
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Note: To minimize the negative impacts on this fragile and extremely special ecosystem, on day 3, lunch will be taken before the summit.

Please do not pick any plants from the Phou Louey peak area and please stay on the trail to reduce the footprints on this rare plant community.

The peak is usually covered in clouds all day year round, however, if you’re lucky with good weather conditions and clear sky, you may see a breathtaking view of thick, old growth forest covering “Forever Mountain” for as far as the eye can see.

Day 4-5: These 2 days are the same as Day 2-3 of the program “Waterfall & The Nests (3 Days / 2 Nights)” above

NamEtPhouLouey-Trek-Wildlife-Challenge-1
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Cloud Forest Challenge 3-or-4-Day itinerary

“Amazing!” is the common review from the visitors after joining the 5-day-4-night program above. Most of the people will be impressed by the virgin beauty of the peak of Phou Louey mountain.

“Really? but I do not have those 5 days” you may think.

NO WORRY, we can shorten the above tour to make it 3-or-4-day tour with the same route, same experience, and of course, with higher physical fitness required

Let’s find out how.

First, we take a look again at the Elevation profile of 5-day itinerary:

5 Day Trek in Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA-

 

For the 4-day itinerary, we can cut 1 night either at Navane Homestay or The Nest Campsite, hence you have 2 versions of 4-day itinerary

Note: In case you decide to cut the night at Navane Homestay, you need to stay in Muang Hiam the night before to start the tour early in the morning on the first day.

For the 3-day itinerary, of course, we cut 2 nights, 1 in Navane Homestay and 1 in The Nest Campsite.

Note: You need to stay in Muang Hiam the night before to start the tour early in the morning on the first day.

Once again, as you cut the 5-day itinerary to make it within 3 or 4 days, the shorter tours require the highest physical condition, especially the 3-day program.

Which tour suits you most?

The tour to Nam Et – Phou Louey is recommended to all of travelers to Laos, especially for the ones who love the nature beauty. This will be your lifetime experience.

However, some of the tour requires a certain physical fitness. Check the table below to see which one is most suitable for you:

Difficulty level - Nam Et - Phou Louey Tour-

 

If you still need more information to make decision, we are always HERE to help

What to bring - Recommendation from NEPL NPA

Weather note – Weather can be both very hot during the daytime and very cold at night. It is recommended that you bring clothes for both extremes.

Water note – Please note that we provide boiled stream water on the multiple day trekking tours. Please take your own water purification tablets.

We recommend you to bring just one small backpack and leave large suitcases or long‐haul backpacks in the village or your car. Please bring the following:

  • Light rain jacket or poncho (strongly recommended)
  • Fleece jacket (strongly recommended as November to February can be very cold)
  • Both sun hat for daytime and wool cap for night
  • Long pants for walking in the forest
  • Good walking shoes and sandals for bathing
  • An extra t-­shirt and shorts for sleeping/bathing.
  • Snacks (food is provided, but you might want to bring something to snack on)
  • Water purification tablets (for multi-day treks the water is boiled)
  • Towel and toiletries
  • Insect repellent
  • Flashlight
  • Binoculars (we have just one pair)
  • Reusable water bottle (help us reduce waste)
Nam Et - Phou Louey Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

What you don’t need to bring:

  • Food and water
  • Mosquito net and sleeping equipment

Optional:

  • Your own sleeping bag and/or sleeping sheet (we provide a  sleeping bag and sleeping sheet, but you can use your own if you have)
  • Our porters will carry all camping equipment, however if you would like someone to carry your personal items for you, you may pay extra for an additional porter. Please ask our staff about this.
Nam Et - Phou Louey Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Packing list recommendation from a backpacker who has taken the trek

1. Water bottle or thermos: staying hydrated during the trek is important! All water is boiled from the stream, but you can also bring a lifestraw or something to filter the water.

2. Toilet paper/tissue: always carry some with you – even though it is provided! There are modest toilet facilities at both campsites but carry toilet paper, just in case!

3. Lightweight clothing:

  • Lightweight trousers
  • Lightweight shirts
  • Lightweight rain jacket (note that the trek will not run if it is raining, but there might be light showers and I like to be prepared!)

4. Warm clothes: depending on the month and time of the year this may change, but it is important to bring layers. When the sunset, I was wearing a shirt, fleece and thin down jacket. On one night we stayed outside to observe wait and observing wildlife, so it can get chilly when you’re sitting in the dark without a fire.

NamEtPhouLouey-Trek-Wildlife-Challenge-2
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

5. Warm accessories: hat, socks, and mitts are helpful additions to your warm clothes.

6. Mosquito spray: it keeps away leeches as well, or so I’m told! Despite this, I was bitten twice, but both occasions were not bad and I simply removed them. I also wore a mosquito repellent wristband, but I’m not sure how effective they were – has anyone had any experience with them?

Note that sleeping bag, sleeping mat and mosquito net are provided are carried for you.

7. Headlamp: of course, once it gets dark it’s impossible to navigate without a headlamp. Make sure there are batteries! I have made the mistake of not checking before leaving home.

8. Hiking shoes and flip-flops or sandals: it’s nice to have both options during the day. When we walked to the waterfalls it was nice to wear my sandals and dip my feet in the water, but during the trek, I wanted to have closed toed shoes as there were many small items that could easily cut your feet. However, if you’re brave like our guide, he was only wearing flip-flops. He told us that people sometimes jokingly call him the “flip-flop” guide.

nepl-namet-cloud-forest-trek-18
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

9. All-purpose soap and dry towel: Keep soap for hand washing or dipping in the river to bathe, preferably biodegradable, environmentally friendly and multipurpose soap. Don’t forget a packable towel!

10. Solar charger: if you’re using your phone to take photos, you might want to take this with you – note that you will not have service during the trek!

Source: Faces2hearts blog

How to get there

You can check the map below for the general idea of how to get to Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA. For further detail, do not hesitate to contact us HERE

Bonus: Activities in and around Muang Hiam

Beside the tour into Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA, which is of course the main attraction in the area, there are plenty of things for you to spend 1 or 2 more days around the town of Muang Hiam.

First, take a look at the map of Muang Hiam town and surrounding.

Muang Hiam and surounding map
Muang Hiam and surrounding map (Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos)

 

Muang Hiam town in Houphan province was known to be dangerous for its many tigers, so people were told when passing through here “to beware”, which in the local dialect is “hiam”.

Hence, the town was called Muang Hiam (“muang” means town or district).

The Nam Khan River in Muang Hiam is the same river that flows by Luang Prabang UNESCO peninsula in to the Mekong River.

A small stupa, situated atop the hill amazingly survived the heavy explosions during the war, and an unexploded bomb lodged deep inside the earth (the bomb was detected by UXO clearing teams).

In the center of town, is the market. You can purchase some fruits, sticky rice, BBQ and sour vegetable PakSom for picnic lunch when exploring the surroundings of Hiam. (If you see any wildlife for sale please inform the protected area, tel. +856 020 2860 0038).

Muang Hiam Town - Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area’s Headquarters & Visitor Center
(Open Monday-Friday from 9-5pm (lunch break 12-1.30))

The NEPL NPA is the largest protected area in the country spanning across three provinces: Houaphan, Luang Prabang, and Xiengkhouang. The NEPL NPA is a critically important habitat for 6 cat and 2 bear species, northern white-cheeked gibbons to name few.

The Protected Area’s Headquarters and Visitor Center is located nearby the junction towards the hot springs.

The visitor center offers introduction to the protected area’s conservation work and the wildlife ecotourism projects, and is the starting point of the School Forest Trek.

Homestays can be arranged in protected area’s ecotourism villages.

Nam Et Headquarter
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Muang Hiam School Forest & Self-Guided Hike.

The Hiam School Forest, a conservation forest of 635 ha was established by the Hiam secondary school in 2010.

A self-guided hiking trail is available, and is starting from the protected area’s office.

Along the way see a bamboo forest transitioning into deciduous forest, the Indochina War trenches, a Tree House/View Point offering a beautiful view over Muang Hiam town, and Hok Don Waterfall.

You can choose to either end the tour by visiting the giant old growth trees, or to go straight to the hot springs.

Traveling 0.6 Km past the hot spring will take you to Muang Hiam Secondary School. More information and maps are available at the protected area’s office.

Muang Hiam School Forest & Self-Guided Hike
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Hot Springs (Open everyday, 6am-11pm).

If you cross the bridge over the Nam Khan River and take right on to the dirt road, you will arrive to the hot springs located just 10 min walk from the main road (passing the protected area’s office on the left).

This is one of the hottest natural springs in the country; in fact you can boil an egg in it, so be careful! In daytime relax and enjoy picnic huts.

For bathing you can choose between bathtubs or showers. Please remember to wear appropriate clothing (see cultural guideline below)

HotSpring and Viewpoint-MuangHiam
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Dam Tad Loun Waterfall & Swimming
(5km. Around 20min one way or 12 km the loop).

A quiet country road will lead you to the hydroelectric dam and waterfall, nice for swimming.

To start, after crossing the Nam Khan River bridge turn left before the petrol station.

The route passes Ban Houay Saa village, a Hmong village that has traditional houses built at ground level (rather than on high posts).

At the Y-junctions keep right and you will arrive at the top of the dam on the Nam Sat River.

Pass the dam 100m, you will find a small path going down to the river.

If you keep following the main road, it will become narrow after the power station and eventually lead to the Nam Khan River, possible to cross by bamboo bridge (motorbike will need to do river crossing).

Continue trough the rice fields and you will arrive at the main road in Viengthong village, turn left to return to the town.

The loop is 12km, and is great for a run, or by bicycle/motorbike).

MuangHiam_TadLoun_Waterfall_Houaphan_Laos
Tad Loun (Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos)

 

Tad Salay Waterfall & Swimming
(8 Km. Around 30 min one way by motorbike).

Travel towards Nong Khiaw/Luang Prabang for 4 km and turn right before the NamSat bridge.

Continue beautiful country road trough mountainous agriculture valleys upstream the river for 4 km.

There is no information sign about the waterfall, but you can notice sound of the falling water, and a walking/motorbike path going down to the river.

Bring some snacks to enjoy picnic by the waterfall.

Nam Et - Phou Louey (NEPL) NPA - Nature Trek
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

 

Indochina War Airbase (Lima Site 36) & Village Homestay
(27 km. Around 2h one way by motorbike)

From Muang Hiam town follow the signs as you head south for 7 km to Poung Hai village where asmall Buddhist temple is located, and is the only one in the area.

Turn left at Poung Hai, and follow scenic mountain dirt road for 15 km, and take a left at the Y-junction.

After another 5 km you will reach Ban Nakout. The village is 100% Tai Phuan ethnic group.

Evidence of the former Indochina war airbase can still be found in the area (air slip, fuel tanks, etc). The area is highly contaminated with UXO, please be careful!

A simple but comfortable homestay/lodge is available in the village.

Nam Et - Phou Louey NPA - Nature Trek - Nam Nern Night Safari
Source: NEPL NPA/WCS Laos

Cultural Guidelines

  • To bathe in public, women must covers the body from chest to knees.
  • Please dress appropriately when visiting villages. Men must wear shirt and women must cover their shoulders and knees.
  • Please take off your shoes when entering a house.
  • If you want to take pictures of people, please ask for permission first.
  • Smiles beget smiles. Please, be patient and kind.
  • Please do not buy any wildlife or wildlife products. Selling & Buying wildlife is illegal in Lao PDR.

Source: with reference from the website of Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA: http://www.namet.org/

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