“The Nests” and “Cloud Forest Climb”
These new hiking/trekking tours is a unique opportunity to visit and stay overnight in the protected area’s core zone.The tour length varies between 2 to 5 days (see the tours below) and along the trail clients will have the opportunity to help to check the wildlife camera traps and will receive electronic copies of the photos from their trip.
These new tours located in different part of the National Protected Area than the Nam Nern Night Safari tour aim to distribute the visitor flow to reduce the negative impact to the protected area and to offer an economical alternative for new villages.
The treks operated in collaboration with surrounding villages and will directly benefit 12 villages through a village development fund. The amount of money received by the villages depends on the number of photos of rare wildlife taken by camera traps along the trail.
The project is designed to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money that guests pay has a positive impact on encouraging local people to protect endangered wildlife.
(Moderate to Difficult Trekking, Option 2 – 3 Days, Dry season only)
Moderate 2 and 3 day family friendly hiking tours to the heart of the protected area with overnight in cozy spherical baskets hanging from the trees – ‘The Nests’. Enjoy wildlife viewing from the observation tower at the nearby Poung Nied salt lick, which attracts animals such as the rare Sambar deer from far and wide.
Note: The Nests tours are available during the dry season only, from October to May/June (depending on the rainy season)
(Challenging Trekking, 5 Days, Dry season only)
An adventurous trekking of 5 days up to the summit of Phou Louey (Forever Mountain) – one of the few Cloud forests in the region. This trek through the evergreen forest with overnights in the jungle huts in the heart of the protected area offer a great opportunity to track wild species such as white-cheeked gibbon, leopards, bears and wild dog using camera traps, which will be set up along the trail and maintained by tourists. You will also learn about the surrounding village life as the first night is spent in a Khmu village home-stay. The longer 5 day option also includes the final night in ‘The Nests’.
Note: The Cloud Forest Climb tours are available during the dry season only, from October to May/June (depending on the rainy season)
Do you know what a dhole is? Did you know that this predator has disappeared from more of its traditional range and faster than the tiger and that it is thus considered by many to be more endangered? The Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area is blessed to still be host to a robust population of this rare canid and it is one of the most crucial locations for the species’ survival in mainland Southeast Asia.
The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a member of the family canidae like wolves, domestic dogs, coyotes, and jackals. Though small in size (10-20kg) dholes hunt in large packs (often over 10 individuals) making them a competitor of the much larger tiger across its range in India and east Asia. They are one of only three hypercarnivours in the canidae family, meaning that their diet consists entirely of flesh. They have enhanced slicing teeth and reduced number of molars unlike most canids which have dental adaptations for omnivorous diets. This hypercarnivory is associated with their large pack sizes which makes for more efficient hunting of many large prey. This need for many large herbivores and thus very large ranges to feed such large packs is part of the reason the dhole has been so decimated by the habitat loss of the last half century; this in addition to persecution by humans for perceived dangers to livestock. As Nam-Et Phou Louey still contains relatively large tracks of forest and relatively high density of wild ungulates (such as pigs, muntjaks, serow, guar, and deer) the protected area serves as an island of relative safety for the dhole in a land otherwise barren of suitable habitat.
In Nam Et-Phou Louey dholes have been demonstrated as having a strong preference for muntjacs (Muntiacus spp.) and sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), avoiding the much more abundant wild pig (Sus scrofa). This is perhaps due to the dangers posed by wild pigs’ own social pack behavior. They also have been observed to have a negative preference for serow (Capricornis milneedwardsii), possibly due to the serow’s almost exclusive occurrence in rugged upland areas while the dhole prefers the flatter lowland forests. The protection of muntjacs and sambar deer from human market hunting and illegal hunting in the Nam Et-Phou Louey Totally Protected Zone is thus essential for the dhole’s survival in Nam Et-Phou Louey and in Laos itself.
Dholes in Nam Et-Phou Louey appear to hunt in smaller packs than in other areas of their range such as many remaining populations in India. This could be due to smaller packs being necessary for ease of movement and ambush in the dense vegetation of Nam Et-Phou Louey as opposed to the more open environments of India. Maybe this smaller pack size is partially responsible for a greater ease of survival of dholes in Nam Et-Phou Louey, pure speculation.
The area east of Phou Louey mountain with its lush forests, less extreme topography, many salt licks, and high preference by muntjacs and sambar deer is thus a haven for dholes. This abundance along with the dhole’s diurnal (day time) behavior means that is one of the more likely large predators to be seen by visitors on any of the new eco-tourism trekking options offered by the protected area and the local communities; much more likely than seeing any of the very clandestine, very nocturnal cat species of Nam Et-Phou Louey. More, they are not an uncommon capture on the camera traps set up along these trekking routes as the photos here attest to (all taken within the same week in two different distant camera trap locations).
The new trekking tour options vary from 2 to 5 days inside the Protected Area and all tours include camera trap verification. Follow the link to read the trekking tour itineraries: http://www.namet.org/wp/wildlife-trekking-north-laos/
For more about the 2012 dhole study conducted in Nam Et- Phou Louey, its methods and its results, please see the attached article from The Journal of Mammalogy, June 2012 (https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/93/3/627/834260/The-diet-prey-selection-and-activity-of-dholes)
The Nam Et–Phou Louey National Protected Area hosts a large number of endangered species including the last tigers of Indochina, gaur, Sambar deer, and white-cheeked gibbon. Eco-tours organized by the protected area and Wildlife Conservation Society Laos offer unique opportunity to visit the protected area core zone and try luck to see the wildlife.
When on the Nam Nern Night Safari tour visitors can view rare wildlife as Sambar deer, various species of civets, Slow Loris, and Muntjacs while cruising down the Nam Nern River in the dark with the boat engine turned off (See more – What kind of wildlife can be seen on Nam Nern Night Safari tour?).
A new method to view wildlife has been introduced with the New Trekking Tours – The Nests and The Cloud Forest Climb – which opened in April 2016. These 2 to 5 day adventures inside the national protected area offer a unique opportunity for visitors to see rare wildlife – captured by the camera traps! The camera traps are special cameras that are equipped with a motion sensor that detects moving objects such as wildlife and are commonly used for ecological research to capture images of wild animals when researchers are not present.
The Wildlife Conservation Society Laos together with the monitoring team of the Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area have identified the most appropriate locations, and ten camera traps have been installed along the trekking trails.
When on the trekking tour, visitors will help the protected area guides to check the camera traps and sort the wildlife photos captured by the camera traps. These photos will be shared with visitors as souvenirs, as well as uploaded to the website for further viewing and download.
See the first camera trap wildlife photos captured by the Poung Nyied saltlick nearby the Nests camp!
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.
Want to see larger list of all the species? –> Click here.
The Nam Nern Night Safari, the 24 hour eco-tour inside the protected area is 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 Nam Nern Night Safari tour?
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 during the Nam Nern Night Safari tour 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!
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.
The Nam Nern Night Safari is 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 behaviour. When doing the night safari, 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.
We can’t guarantee 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.
See our previous client thoughts on Tripadvisor
We are proud that the Nam Nern Night Safari eco-tour in the heart of Nam Et-Phou Louey protected area has won the prestigious ‘World Responsible Tourism Award’ at the World Travel Mart in London, England, both in year 2013 and 2014.
In 2013, Nam Nern Night Safari won in the category, Best for Responsible Wildlife Experiences. The London judges describe the project as:
Nam Nern Night Safari has been designed to support the conservation of tigers and their prey, as well as other wildlife, by placing a monetary value on tigers and other wildlife for local people. Each reported sighting of wildlife by a tourist results in a financial reward for the villagers, and this includes people who might otherwise poach… The initiative has been very successful in increasing the number of wildlife sightings per boat – they have doubled.
In 2014 the Nam Nern Night Safari was the winner in the category People’s Choice in Responsible Tourism in association with National Geographic Traveller (UK). World Travel Mart comments:
When asked to prepare a special video for the People’s Choice this year, Nam Nern rose to the challenge – reminding us all what makes them so special. Developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, they are a model for ecotourism in Laos – involving travellers in wildlife conservation by asking them to keep a record of the animals they see. Each animal is allocated a specific value, the more animals tourists see, the more money villagers get, which has led to a big reduction in poaching. The judges liked this project because of its benefits for both communities and wildlife – and it seems the people agree!
For more information see the World Responsible Tourism Awards website.
Head upriver by boat deep into the jungle, where you can enjoy a campfire dinner before drifting back downstream, spotlight-searching for the rare and endangered species that live in this area of rich biodiversity.
The Nam Nern Night Safari is a 24-hour, boat-based tour into the core of the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. The highlight of the trip is the nighttime wildlife-spotlighting, when long-tail boats drift down the Nam Nern River looking for wild and endangered animals before returning visitors to the ecolodge within the national park.
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 in the ecolodge, built and managed by the community and overlooking the Nam Nern River from the forest edge.