Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Trekking around Kiet Ngong and Phapho wetlands
- in Xe Pian National Protected Area

See the locations on Xe Pian National Protected Area and Kiet Ngong Wetlands Google Map

Picture by Pretre
Xe Pian Wetlands, seen from Wat Phu Asa

Picture by intothegreen

Picture by Pretre
Lizard outside Kingfisher Lodge

Picture by gardnergp
Near Khiet Ngong

One of the largest and least altered wetland in the region with swamps, lakes and marshes at the foot of Phou Asa, a large rock outcrop renown for its intriguing ruins and superb views of the dense semi-evergreen forests below: This is the area between Kiet Ngong Village and Pha Pho village, in the the 2,400 km2 Xe Pian National Protected Area (also: Se Pian). See Map of Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands. These wetlands are connected to several small streams: Houay Ta-kuan, Houay Ta-euang, Xe Khampho, Xe Pian and Xekong River. During the wet season these areas are all connected and they are a passing way for varieties of fish to move upstream. About 43 species have been reported, for example Walking catfish (Clarias spp.), Snakeheads (Channa striata) and Swamp eel (Monopterus albus). Read more on Ramsar Wetlands. See on Facebook. Study Xe Pian Leaflet. See a slide-show of Xe Pian National Biodiversity Conservation Area

Xe Pian NPA is considered to be one of the most important areas in Indochina for waterbirds. Here you find the vanishingly rare Giant Ibis, the White-winged Wood-Duck, the Sarus Crane, the Lesser Adjutant and the White-shouldered Ibisother. It's also known for large mammals. Although Rhinoceros, Kouprey, Eld’s Deer, and Hog Deer have already disappeared from the area, Asian Elephant, Tiger, Gaur, Banteng, Leopard, Sun Bear, Black Bear and Dhole (Wild Dog) are still found here. These species are very difficult to see, more visible are Yellow-cheeked Gibbons and hornbills.

Almost 10'000 people live within Xe Pian NPA, many practicing traditional agriculture and collecting forest plants. Kiet Ngong’s traditional houses, wooden temple and working elephants offer a window into Lao rural life.

Activities: Elephant rides from Kiet Ngong Village to the top of Phou Asa and back are popular. They can be booked through the Visitor Information Centre in Pakse or Champassak District or with a tour company. Phou Asa can also be reached by a walk along a 7 km long forest trail. The summit provides a view over large areas of southern Laos. The forests of Xe Pian and Dong Hua Sao (another National Protected Area) appear to stretch out endlessly from the Kiet Ngong wetland. To the north you see the Bolaven Plateau with its waterfalls. Ahead to the east is the Xe Khong floodplain in Attapeu, and lining the horizon are the Annamite Mountains on the Vietnamese border. At the top of the mountain is a ring of stone pillars. You can take elephant-back treks as well from the village Pha Pho (read here) and here.

According to ecotourismlaos.com village guides are available to take visitors on half- or full-day walks to Phou Asa and its surroundings, interpreting its many medicinal plants and non-timber forest products. The eco-trail begins at the foot of Phou Asa and offers 3-4 hours of steady walking through tall semi-evergreen forest. Some trees along the trail are labeled, and there are good places to rest or observe birds. An important natural resource, which can be seen on the walk, is the Mak Chong (Malva Nut) tree. It only grows in original forest and reaches its greatest abundance in southern Lao. "In some years, the Mak Chong harvest from Xe Pian alone may be sold for more than US$ 1,000,000 in China. Local harvesters only receive a tiny fraction of that revenue, but it is a significant source of income nonetheless", writes ecotourismlaos.com.

During the dry season (November-April) there is a trail around the wetland to Donlay Island, which takes about two hours if walked slowly. On the way you will pass the Giant Rock (Hin Huoa Yak in Lao), a sacred place with a superb view. The trail continues to Phapho Village. Donlay Island can also be reached by canoe.

Mountain Biking to Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area is another possibility. From Kingfisher Ecolodge at Kiet Ngong you cycle 20 km to Lao Gna village, do a forest walk and have a picnic lunch with villagers.

On offer is also Ta Ong Trail, a 2 days Journey by canoe along the Ta Euang river from Palay Bok village, whose guides will teach you about medicinal plants and wildlife spotting. You stay overnight withfamilies in Ban Ta Ong, a Brow village known for its traditional giant crossbow. At dawn you walk through thick forests for birdwatching and, if you are lucky, to listen to the song-like calls of the endangered yellow-cheeked crested gibbon. Read about a trekking tour from Pha Pho to Ta Ong.

Where To Sleep:
In Kiet Ngong village there are five small, local-style huts about 250 m south of the last house in the village (1 km from the temple). And a home-stay offers the contact with a local family.

Kingfisher Ecolodge: A bit outside the village. Bungalows with beautiful view of the wetlands. During winter time bring some additional covers with you. In the ecohouses two rooms share a bath. Very good reviews von tripadvisor.com. See view from a room on panoramio.com. See pictures of the wetlands.

Boun Hom Guesthouse in Pha Pho village: Phone: 030 5346293. Read here.

How to get here:
It takes 1 hour from Pakse to Kiet Ngong. In Ban Thang Beng you turn east. You can travel by taxi or a songthaew bus from the southern bus station in Pakse (8 km east of town). Get off the public bus at Km 48 junction with Route 18 in Thang Beng village. Here you can visit the Xe Pian NPA Office. From here you follow Route 18 for 7 km eastwards then you turn right for the last 1,5 km toBan Kiet Ngong. To get to Ban Pha Pho, continue along Route 18. After 5 km turn right at Ban Kele and take a dirt road for 15 km to Pha Pho. There is also a bus from Atapeu on Route 18.
Another possibility is to travel on the Xekong River along the border of Cambodia and then up in the Xe Pian River. Three waterfalls along the Xe Pian River - Tad Saepha, Tad Samongphak and Tad Saeponglaican - can be reached by foot or by boat with a local guide. Tad Phapong, a waterfall on the Xe Xou River, is accessible by trekking or boating and is noted for its many colorful rocks that line the riverside.

Read also Lonely Planet for Southern Laos

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