The biggest natural allure of Luang Namtha province has got to be the Nam Ha NPA (also commonly misspelt as NamHa NPA) which was Lao’s first national park and an ASEAN national heritage site. It is the second biggest national park in Laos at 222,400 square hectares which is a huge amount of the provinces land area. The Nam Ha NPA is named after the Nam Ha river that runs through it; which is simply stunning and you can kayak down it, but only with a guide. Moreso than the rest of its South East Asian neighbours Laos has demarked an impressive 13% of its landmass as national park which helps it to be a natural tourist destination for nature seekers.
Mountainous Luang Namtha province was the clear first choice for a national park for Laos because of its huge biodiversity of plants and animals including the Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Pangolin, Asiatic black bear, Sun bear, gaur, over 300 hundred birds species and many other types of flora and fauna; many of which are found nowhere else in the world. A number of these species of large animals are globally threatened because they have been hunted for centuries, especially as this part of northern Laos is a cultural crossroads for nomadic ethnicities over history. These species are very wary of people (as you would be after being hunted for centuries!) so are unlikely to be spotted by visitors. The Nam Ha NPA’s main purpose is to protect habitat and biodiversity for the unique and amazing wildlife of northern Laos.
There are 25 tiny ethnic minority villages that lie within the borders of the Nam Ha NPA, these peoples have had their livelihoods entwined with the jungles and rivers in the national park for centuries. The Nam Ha NPA Management Unit has helped educate and empower these peoples to be the protectors and sustainers of this amazing natural environment by creating rules for land use and setting up a well regulated eco-tourism industry as well as teaching the people to sustainably harvest and sell non-timber forest products (such as wild Cardamom) as an income source for the villagers. The villages realise their sustainable future depends upon them being able to protect the national park for future generations.
The eco-tourism industry in Luang Namtha is designed to protect the Nam Ha NPA natural environment and give sustainable income to the nearby local village as well as making sure the tourist dollar goes into those areas which contribute to the ongoing welfare of the national park and its peoples.
You can go on many amazing excursions into the Nam Ha NPA; kayaking or rafting through it along the Nam Ha river is one of the most popular activities. There are also many treks where you can stay at camps deep in the jungle or homestays at local villages who get there sustainance from the jungle and rivers.
This national park is simply a natural specticle not to be missed when you come to Laos.