Bokeo Nature Reserve
The Bokeo Nature Reserve is in the northwestern province of Bokeo, which borders both Myanmar and Thailand. Home to the Gibbon Experience, visitors can spend up to a week staying in large tree houses accessible by zip line. Not for the faint of heart, the base camp is reached by a three-hour drive from Huay Xai, and then a demanding one-hour trek through the jungle. The reward is close-up views of the endangered black-crested gibbon, buffalo, elephants and birds.
Phou Khao Khuay National Protected Area
Phou Khao Khuay Translates as Buffalo Horn Mountain. This 770 sq mi (2,000 sq km) area is only 30 miles (48 km) from Vientiane and is home to wild elephants, sun bears, clouded leopards, and Asiatic black bears. Start your visit at Ban Hat Khai village and take a boat tour or trek with a local guide. If botany is your thing, consider a tour with Vientiane Orchidées to see the many species of wild orchids that bloom in the area. Stay overnight in a village homestay or rent camping equipment from the Ban Hat Khai Visitor center.
Nam Ha National Protected Area
On the far northeastern corner of Laos lies the Nam Ha National Protected Area, on the boarder with China. In partnership with UNESCO, the Lao National Tourism Authority designated this area to help villagers engage in sustainable tourism that won’t harm the environment. See elephants, tigers, guar, and 228 bird species. See the lush watershed of four rivers on foot, or rent a kayak to see it from the water. The provincial capital of Luang Nam Tha is within the boarders of the NPA, and offers bicycles for rent, restaurants, and handicrafts made my local people.
Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area
Accessible via tuk-tuk and lying 3 miles (5 km) north of Thakek in Khammuan Province is the Phu Hin Pun National Protected Area. Swimming holes offer a refreshing break from the oppressive heat, and caves that are home to the park’s 43 species of bats are fun to explore. The limestone karst and surrounding tropical forest are home to endangered birds, such as the sooty babbler and limestone leaf warbler, and monkeys like the Assamese macaque.
Xe Pian National Protected Areas
Located in Salavan Province, Xe Pian National Protected Area lies along the boarder with Cambodia and covers 1000 square miles (2600 sq. km.) Xe Pian NPA contains large swaths of wetlands conserved through the RAMSAR convention, and home to many bird and fish species in addition to elephants, tigers and pangolins. Treks can be arranged that depart from Pakse, and homestays can be arranged with Brau, Su or Lao Loum tribespeople.