Settle into a night in the jungle in your very own ‘nest’: a simple yet cosy bamboo bubble partly suspended above the forest floor. Snuggle down after a challenging day’s trekking and let the gentle sway of the canopy rock you to sleep, with the sounds of the tree-dwellers as your lullaby.
Terms like ‘off-the-beaten track’, ‘unspoilt’ and ‘remote’ are easy to reach for, but often harder to justify. However, they are truly deserved when describing the National Biodiversity Conservation Area of Nam Et-Phou Louey: a vast area of mountains and forest home to a rich variety of endangered wildlife.
Not everyone has the interest, time, or willingness to make it out this far, and you won’t be surprised to hear there is a distinct lack of five-star hotels in the dense jungle! The Nam Et Nests are by no means luxurious, but they are, as far as we know, unique. An innovative solution, created by a local eco-tourism project to bring sustainable tourism into the area, they offer simple yet quirky places to hunker down after a day exploring the jungle.
But the ‘nesting’ itself, whilst a lovely novelty, is just a small part of the experience. We hesitate to say it, but this one is about the journey! You’re bound to sleep well after a fairly challenging four-hour hike, stopping to scrutinise animal tracks and learn about jungle life along the way, followed by a visit to the observation platform overlooking Poung Nied salt lick. Stay quiet and still you might see sambar deer, civets, and even bears and wildcats around sunset, before returning to camp for a traditional Khmu dinner.
Whether you’re staying for a longer trek or departing after an early-morning jungle wake up call, you’ll leave in the knowledge that your visit is supporting local communities and helping them to preserve their beautiful environment and its resident wildlife. Currently 26 villages in the area benefit in some way from ecotourism, and the cost of every tour includes a contribution to the local Ecotourism Benefits Fund (EBF), used to support numerous small scale community development projects.
Wildlife-wise, there are never any guarantees, but the area is known to be home to five key species: white-cheeked crested gibbons, gaur (Indian bison), otters, sambar deer and critically endangered Indochinese tigers. Add in a night safari for the thrill of drifting silently down the river, as the glint of an eye or two reveals the whereabouts of some of the area's nocturnal occupants. You might be lucky enough to spot a handful of these elusive creatures, or you might not see more than a few flashes through the trees. However, a night at the Nests is about more than simply camping out to spot animals. It’s about being amongst the forests and mountains, surrounded by nature, and miles and miles from any sense of the city hubbub.
16 days to see the very best of Laos.