Day 0122nd February 19
- Luang Prabang – Arrival (D)
Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to hotel. Luang Prabang has been claimed by the UNESCO to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’.
We will have Welcome dinner at Coconut Garden Restaurant in town.
Then free time to visit famous Luang Prabang Night Market, where you can find a unique selection of handmade textiles and handicrafts locally made by both ethnic Lao and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 0223rd February, 19
- Luang Prabang – City – Boat to Pak Ou Cave (B, L)
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
After breakfast, we then embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives us a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside as well as explore the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. Along the way, we stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, where they make the local rice wine. On return, we take a short drive to Ban Xangkhong, a village well known for its silk weavings and for its Saa (jute) Papermaking. Lunch at local restaurant.
Come back to the city, we visit Wat Xieng Thong and the shrine of The National Museum at the former Royal Palace, which displays a lovely collection of the artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign.
We then climb up to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a panoramic view of the city at sunset and the Mekong River.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 0324th February, 19
- Luang Prabang – Travel to Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury – Boat trip – Walk through the forest – Nursery Visit – Hospital Visit – Observe Elephants Bathing – Encounter Elephants & Mahouts (B, L, D)
After breakfast, transfer to Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury. When you arrive at the Nam Tien Lake pier, we will transfer you to the Center by boat. You will have time to settle into your room in the dormitory before your guide takes you to the forest. Along the way, you walk past the different enclosures where our main activities take place. After enjoying a Laotian style picnic, you can watch the resident mother and baby at the nursery. The mahout of the mother stays close by while she and her baby have a bath and play. The mother trusts the mahout around her offspring and even lets him play with her a little bit.
When the mother and baby have drunk enough and returned to the forest, you will take the boat back to the Center for the hospital visit. Our Laotian Vet Assistant or our Biologist will introduce you to their world and tell you more about common and uncommon injuries and their respective treatments. It is also the perfect time to ask any questions you have about the biology of the elephants.
You will then observe the elephants’ daily bath and learn more about our giant guests’ playful characters. Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers and love water. They also use bath time to socialize and strengthen ties in the herd.
After the elephants have washed themselves, you will have the opportunity for some soft interaction with the mahouts by your side. Get a feel for the elephant’s amazing skin and prickly hair, and experience up close the dexterity of their trunk. Now it’s time for them to walk back to the forest. After a short trek the mahouts will decide on a place where the elephants can graze for a while. The guide will tell you a little about the background of each elephant. They have all worked hard before they came here. See if you are already able to recognize the elephants while observing them.
While walking the elephants to their nightly resting ground you will witness the unique bond between the mahout and his elephant. Our experienced mahouts use vocal commands to steer the animals through the thick foliage. As you stroll together with these magnificent creatures into the dense forest of Nam Tien, take a moment! This is the REAL land of elephants! Your guide will give you some interesting information about the biodiversity of our protected forest.
Before dinner, take a moment to take in the surroundings from one of our viewpoints. You can also go for a swim in the lake, take out a canoe, or visit the museum where one of the staff will give a small presentation on our conservation efforts. During meal time, feel free to ask your unresolved questions to the staff and share one of our delicious Lao style cocktails!
Day 0425th February, 19
- Elephant Conservation Center – Meet the Elephants in the forest – Observe Elephants Bathing – Socialization Area Observation – Bath time – Target training (B, L, D)
On the second day, you will meet up with the elephants in the forest. After spending the night grazing in the jungle, it is time for another bath. Enjoy strolling together with these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.
When they have had their fill of water they are brought to the Socialization Area. This is an area where the elephants can freely interact during a big part of the day, recreating a semi-natural living environment. Here the elephants can enjoy being elephants. Follow the guide around the perimeter to learn more about the group and its dynamics. Take your time on the different platforms to see how a new herd is being formed. This rare opportunity will bring you closer to their natural life, something which is very special about our program and difficult to find anywhere else.
Lunch is served at the Center. You have some time to relax before the elephants come down for their afternoon bath.
You will meet our Laotian Vet Assistant or the Biologist again as they will conduct a Target Training session. All our elephants are being trained using ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques to facilitate any necessary treatments and to reduce the stress that these treatments or routine checks can give to them. We offer you the chance to follow their work from a safe distance.
Day 0526th February, 19
- Elephant Conservation Center – Enrichment – Travel back to Luang Prabang (B, L)
On the third day, our guide and biologist will explain the enrichment activities. Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animal’s behavioral biology. We are providing cognitive enrichment in the form of hidden food, toys, a mud bath etc. to give the elephants mental stimulation and avoid boredom. They love it! We invite you to take part in this amazing experience by helping our team to prepare the enclosure by cutting and hiding the food to give the elephants a challenge. Once they arrive, you will have the opportunity to observe how the elephants try to find what you have hidden! This is a novel and unique way to interact with our elephants, contributing directly to their well-being.
Lunch is served at the restaurant. You have some time to relax before we bring you back to Luang Prabang by minivan. You can say your goodbyes to the staff or walk around the center one last time.
Special note: Medical Care of the elephants at the Elephant Hospital is only carried out by qualified vets. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to participate in this activity. Thank you for your understanding.
Day 0627th February, 19
- Luang Prabang – Hiking Ban Long Lao – Khouangsi waterfall (B, L, D)
We depart from Luang Prabang and after a one hour drive we begin with a visit to the ethnic Khmu village of Ban Longlao Nung before heading to the nearby Hmong village of Ban Longlao Song. You will be able to observe the lifestyles of these two culturally very different minority groups and see how despite their differences they manage to work together on a day to day basis and even sharing the same school.
As we continue onwards the trail leads through rice paddys and vegetable fields before reaching the mountainous forest. Along the way we explore a cave which was used as a bomb shelter by the locals during the second indochina war.
After visiting the cave one more hour of hiking brings us to one of the many springs which feeds Kuang Si waterfalls, here a beautiful pool full of sacred fish can be seen. After descending from the top of the waterfall we enjoy a Lao style lunch amongst some beautiful settings!
The afternoon is spent bathing and relaxing around the turquoise pools below the waterfall. You can also visit the bear conservation center which is located nearby and home to many bears which have been rescued from illegal farms.
Before returning to Luang Prabang we take a short walk to a nearby Khmu village of Ban Thapene which is home to some of the most beautiful pools of Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Approximately: 2 hours driving, 4 hours hiking.
Then come back to Luang Prabang and have Farewell dinner at L’ Elephant Restaurant.
Day 0728th February, 19
- Luang Prabang – Departure (B)
Breakfast, transfer to airport for departure flight. Tour ends.