You really should consider a kayaking trip on your South East Asia holiday to northern Laos.
Here in Luang Namtha for most of the year the days are warm and sunny and its nice to take to the water for an outdoor adventure passing through impressive dense and uninhabited jungle, stopping at different ethnic minority tribe’s villages dotted along the opposite riverbank and of course going through a few rapids and having a swim at the end!
Trekking is a major draw card of Luang Namtha’s ecotourism, but to combine that with a kayaking trip adds a cultural and scenic element to your Nam Ha national protected area tour. Trekking is all about being immersed in the nature and challenged by the steep accents and descents (the Nam Ha NPA is mountainous), surrounded on all sides by trees. Kayaking allows a more laid back scenic experience and gives many stunning photo opportunities of the jungle and river vistas and the unique villages you pass by.
Some highlights of kayaking the Nam Ha NPA:
- Visit 3 or 4 different riverside ethnic minority villages; Lanten, Khmu, Khmu Rok or Tai Dam or Tai Lue villages. Park up your kayak on their little beach and learn about the similarities and differences of these ancient cultures and their unique way of life by touring their various villages with your guide.
- Eat awesome jungle and local northern Lao food on the river, either in a village on on a isolated riverbank surrounded by nature, your guide will cook for you and you also have the choice to learn how to cook Lao jungle style!
- Traversing the river by kayak or raft, is really fun and makes for a great group activity to meet some new friends, the scenery is stunning and the river (except in the middle of wet season) is gentle with some small but fun sections of rapids. The river is a grade one by western standards for most of the year.
- Taking photos of the jungle and river from your kayak make for some excellent holiday snaps, and jungle, village vistas.
- Kayaking is easier than trekking, so it is a pleasant way to explore the Nam Ha NPA without putting in too much effort, but still getting some exercise!
Things to know about kayaking in Luang Namtha:
- Check the kayaks; are they good quality, will they be waterproof and stay inflated? All Luang Namtha kayaks are inflatable, so they can still go down the river in dry season. Make sure your tour provider has a good product and is able to provide life jackets and/or helmets if you want them (recommended in wet season, in dry season the river is not very deep or current very strong)
- Where exactly is your tour company/agency taking you kayaking? It should be SOUTH of Luang Namtha on the Nam Tha or Nam Ha river, not north of the town (where the river terminates at a dam surrounded by rubber trees) or behind the town where there is little jungle and the water is too low to go in dry season. 30km south of Luang Namtha is where the boundary of the Nam Ha NPA starts and so does the dense jungle and idyllic villages. In this stretch you can kayak ALL YEAR ROUND, if you are told you cant, go to another tour provider!
- You should be provided with a proper 10 or 15 litre dry bag for your camera and other possessions you don’t want to get wet, make sure it is not a plastic bag! A good tour agency/company will transport your daypacks to your destination so you don’t have to worry about keeping them dry.
- Take hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, shorts, swimwear, tee-shirts and jandals (flip flops or thongs to you non kiwis 😉 as well as you camera safely stowed in a dry bag. Don’t let the dry bag float in the water for the whole day, this is asking for trouble.
- Make sure you can swim!
For a quality and fun kayaking experience that gets great reviews on TripAdvisor check out Forest Retreat Laos and their kayaking and combination trips.