Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area
A visit to Laos is all about the wild and untamed beauty of the mountains – and it doesn’t get much wilder and more untamed than this. Covering nearly 6,000 square kilometres, Nam Et-Phou Louey provides a haven for endangered animals, including sun bears, white-cheeked gibbons and perhaps even tigers.
Not very catchily named for its two main features, the Nam Et River and Mount Phou Louey, this is the largest of 20 protected areas in Laos: nearly 6,000 square kilometres of forested mountains spanning three different provinces. To safeguard the delicate ecosystems and biodiversity of the region, access to these forests is restricted to organised tours – and there are some amazing options to choose from. One of our favourites takes you into the jungle by night, travelling by longtail boat as you keep your eyes peeled for its nocturnal residents. Another takes you trekking through the cloud forests to the Poung Nyied salt lick, a wildlife hotspot where you can sleep in hanging “nests” in the trees nearby.
Nam Et-Phou Louey is one of the last remaining habitats for countless endangered species, including Asiatic black bears, slow loris, white-cheeked gibbons, and perhaps even Indochinese tigers (though in the latter case, no camera trap photos have been caught in over a decade). We like to think they’re still out there – but regardless, protecting this ecosystem is imperative to the survival of countless species, and ecotourism may be the only answer. A trip to the jungle isn’t just one of the most memorable experiences you can have in Laos: it’s a way to ensure its survival.