Nam Et - Phou Louey National Protected Area: An Innovative Eco-Tourism Model

              Deep in northeastern Laos lies Nam Et - Phou Louey National Protected Area; the largest national park in Laos and one of the most remote primary jungles in all of Southeast Asia.  Due to the near inaccessibility of the park, wildlife is left relatively undisturbed, leading to growing populations of many endangered species like the sambar deer, gaur, white-cheeked gibbon, and even tigers.

              Nam Et - Phou Louey is named after its two main features; the Et River and the Phou Louey (‘Forever Mountain’).  The park itself boasts a total area of 401,720 hectares and is split into two sections.  Within the inner core section, wildlife harvest is prohibited and human access is strictly controlled.  The outer section of the park creates a buffer zone where pre-existing villages are allowed to continue subsistence living. 

              This outer zone consists of some of the poorest communities in Laos and their form of subsistence living, not only endangers the survival of the park, but also the sustainability of their way of life.  Working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the National Park has developed an innovative approach to protecting the areas wildlife and habitat while also supporting the livelihoods of those that live in the buffer zone. 

              Their integrative approach helps manage improved land use practices, while also creating alternative income sources through a new Eco-tourism model.  This new model builds awareness among local people about conservation through payback incentives, investment of tourist funds into development, and employees its members through biodiversity monitoring, guides (all of which are previous hunters in the area), porters, and accommodation.  Through the payback incentives, villages get paid for tourist sightings or markings of different animals; much more than the hunted animal would be worth.  This incentivizes them to protect the animals instead of hunting them.

Eco-tourism Experiences

              All tours have been designed to engross the tourist in the natural habitat and give them a chance to see rare wildlife.  These experiences have a direct link between your tourist money and the conservation of the area.  There are currently three ways to immerse yourself in Nam Et - Phou Louey National Protected Area’s Eco-tourism experience.  

Nam Nerm Night Safari

               The Nam Nerm Night Safari is an easy 24-hour journey into the depths of the national park and is offered year-around.  Most of the trip is a boat ride in a traditional long-tail boat that allows you the opportunity to view birds and water animals during the day and spot wildlife at night along the banks.  During the trip you are also offered the opportunity to do a short easy hike near the camp to learn about medicinal plants and learn about the history of the area.  This tour won the World Responsible Tourism Award in 2013 & 2014.

2/3 Day Trekking Tours

              These moderate to hard treks through the jungle take you into the heart of the national park.  Along the way you have the opportunity to spot exotic wildlife and tracks of animals recently in the area; as well as help the guide recover images taken by wildlife cameras hidden on animal paths.  Your final night offers the opportunity to watch from an observation deck for animals coming to a saltlick.  The two-day tour has a stay in the ‘Nests,’ a basket hut suspended from the trees.  Whereas the three-day tour has stays in a jungle hut and option to swim at a waterfall on the first day and the ‘Nests’ the second.

4/5 Day Cloud Forest Climb

jungle huts nam et phou louey national protected area laos
Jungle platform huts during my hike in Nam Et-Phou Louey.

              These tours are considered challenging and take you up to the summit of Phou Louey (“Forever” Mountain).  The trek allows you the opportunity to track important wildlife in its natural habitat.  During the climb you will stay in a homestay in a Khmu village, followed by a camping in jungle huts inside the protected area, and The Nests and wildlife observation tower.

Visiting Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area is not only one of the few opportunities in Laos to view rare wildlife, but your tourism also directly supports alternative livelihoods for local people and generates community support for the conservation of wildlife and its habitat.  You can check tour prices and book a tour on the national park website.

How to Get There

pin point map nam et phou louey national protected area laos

              Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area’s Headquarters is in Muang Hiam (formerly Vienthong) in Northeastern Laos.  There are local buses that make the trip there daily from Luang Prabang, Sam Neua, and Phonsavan.  If you are doing the Nam Nerm Night Safari, your guide may request that you meet them in Ban Son Koua (about an hour from Muang Hiam).  If this is the case, then your guide will instruct you to do so when you confirm your reservation.  

What are your thoughts on their model of eco-tourism? 

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1 comment:

  1. Great idea! It should be copied in other countries. Thank you for publishing it!


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