A unique experience: Observe wild elephants from a viewing tower, where you can stay overnight, before or after treks of various levels of difficulty in Phou Khao Kway National Park.
What to experience ?
One hour’s drive from Vientiane, on the edge of Phou Khao Kway (Buffalo horn Mountain) Protected Area, and after an easy two-hour walk guided by well-trained local guides, you’ll access the Elephant Tower. It’s located 4 km from Ban Na village along a stream where wild elephants gather, attracted by a natural salt lick and a dry season source of water.
Your cheerful guides will prepare a typical Laotian meal, share a drink of Lao Lao (local rice alcohol), install basic sleeping mats and mosquito nets, before you settle down for the night (there are toilet facilities and electricity via solar power), overlooking the salt lick. In the early evenings or during the night, especially during the dry season and on full moon days, you are very likely to see herds of elephants coming to lick the salt and frolic around the pools.
You can also opt for slightly more comfort and sleep in village homestays, experience typical Lao community life, learn basket making (or just buy exquisite woven baskets). The villagers also offer day or overnight camping treks through the forest to waterfalls, caves and fantastic viewpoints of Phou Khao Kway National Park. The sight of birdlife, butterflies, wild orchids, and a variety of snakes will all contribute to a greater understanding of Laos’ wildlife.
Nearby, you can head to Ban Hatkhai, a 200-year old village, where local guides can take you on a day walk to Tad Xay and Pha Xay waterfalls, or on more strenuous overnight treks combined with river travel to the top of Pha Lung plateau where you’ll be rewarded by the stunning views over the forest to the Mekong.
How does it help?
In the mid 1990s, a herd of some 30 wild elephants decided to move down from the mountain to the lowlands and adopted Ban Na village as a good source of food, destroying villagers’ sugar cane plantations. Ban Na Eco-tourism project has developed into a purely community-based venture, completely managed by the villagers. An Elephant Observation tower was built at the edge of the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area.
At first supported by the German Development agency, the villagers now manage all operations autonomously and efficiently. They are regularly invited to conferences to share their experience and approach to responsible travel. They earn income from guiding services, accommodation, boat transport, food, and the sale of handicrafts. There is a revolving fund used to provide loans to community members in need.
Originally designed to help in mitigating the simmering human-elephant conflict in the village’s vicinity, tourism now plays a major role in the community’s business structure and development. The villagers now fully understand the importance of keeping their environment intact and act accordingly with limited means. Shooting elephants is now out of the question, but outside poachers still occasionally do it to the dismay of the Ban Na people.
Village Guide Association, Ban Na,
Thaphabath District, Bolikhamsay, Laos,
c/o Mr. Bounthanom Inthylath
Tel:+856- (0)20 22 20 82 86