The Nam Et Phou Louey is one of twenty National Protected Areas in Laos. Named after its two main features, the Nam Nern River and Phou Louey Mountain, it is located in northern Laos with an area of 4,229 km2. As of today, it is believed to be the only home left for tigers in all of Indochina.
Two different excursions are offered in this National Protected Area: the Night Safari and the Nests, both community based tourism projects that work hand in hand with the local communities. Their goal is to save one of the places with a higher level of biodiversity in Laos and the home of a vast number of endangered species including tigers, gaur, sambar deer and white-cheeked gibbon, among others.
The community benefits from these projects because every entrance fee a tourist pays goes to the village development fund that is shared between the 14 villages that surround the protected area. Each group of tourist mark the amount and the type of animals they have seen at the end of the trip and both the guides and the villagers get a bonus amount of money in the village fund for every animal or track spotted. The money from this fund is then used to support village development projects and activities chosen by each village.
The community’s role is crucial for these projects. All community members are divided in five different service groups: the guides (most of them former hunters), boat crew, cooking staff, camp group and handicraft team. The key of the projects is that these groups are divided equally amongst the local families to ensure that every family gets the chance to benefit from this project.
Recently, Fair Trek’s team witnessed both Night Safari and Nest trips in the hope of learning more about the projects and being able to offer them to our clients in the future. Activities like hiking through the jungle, bird watching in the high tower, wildlife tracking next to the salt licks, night time wildlife spotting, learning about medicinal plants, cooking and listening to local stories by the fire in a river beach waiting for the night to come, sleeping in the eco-lodge, traveling in a boat down the river surrounded by the magnificent trees and various ecosystems and eating the delicious local food make this trip a unique experience in Laos.
Having community based tourism projects in Fair Trek, it is a great joy to find other projects that value the role of the communities, that notice the importance of protecting the natural resources and that find viable solutions through responsible tourism. We invite you to be part of this project and ask us about this destination when arranging your students’ trip itinerary.
This article was written by Juliana Gutiérrez G.
Photos by Cyril Eberle and Kyle Wagner.