Si Phan Don: Laos’ River Island Archipelago
While Laos may be landlocked, the south of the country is home to one of the most spectacular natural attractions you’ll find along the mighty Mekong River that passes through Laos: Si Phan Don, which translates as ‘4000 Islands’ is a beautiful region where the Mekong becomes a vast inland sea of flowing water, carving the land into a riverine archipelago of tiny islets.
The Mekong River, which stretches 4,350 km from its headwaters in the Himalayan foothills to the Vietnam Delta, touches six different countries and is no doubt one of world’s mightiest watercourses. After approximately three quarters of its journey to the South China Sea, the river begins to spread over a broad floodplain – opening up to an incredible width of 14 km at Si Phan Don in the green season.
The biodiversity of this riverine ecosystem is amazingly abundant with many varieties of plant and animal species found along its riverbanks; as well as a diverse variety of fish species and other marine life, such as the giant river carp and the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin.
Si Phan Don is arguably one of the most peaceful and laid-back regions of Laos. It’s a beautiful rural region with self-sufficient villages producing crops like rice and coconuts. Fishing is also an important part of local river life and there is also a thriving weaving industry. Si Phan Don provides a great opportunity to take a step back in time, observe the quiet, local way of life, and discover what rural Laos is all about.
Don Khong and Don Khone are the only islands that offer accommodations. Each is a good base from which to explore many other small islands and places of interest along the Mekong. There are boat rides to see the Irrawaddy dolphins and Khone Phapeng Falls – a succession of impassable rapids that gave rise to the first railway in Laos, built by the French to bypass the falls and enable vessels, freight and passengers to travel along the Mekong.
The biodiversity of this riverine ecosystem is amazingly abundant with many varieties of plant and animal species found along its riverbanks; as well as a diverse variety of fish species and other marine life, such as the giant river carp. For the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphin there has been some good news: World Wildlife Fund very recently reported that the numbers are on the increase for the first time in 20 year. While this success has been measured in Cambodia, our hope is that viewings of the elusive mammal in the 4000 Islands area, which borders on Cambodia, will also increase.
Our excellent local Laotian guides are eager to share their inheritance with your clients. For more information about Si Phan Don and the beautiful Khone Phapeng Falls, please contact [email protected]