Kouang Si Falls is a haven for flora and fauna
Locals often tell you with a nudge and wink when you visit Laos that there is a local water-fall you must visit. For a country full of them, and some spectacular to begin with, it can be hard to work up the enthusiasm for yet another one. However, Kouang Si Falls is the one you must not miss. It’s exactly like you imagined a tropical waterfall hidden in the jungle showcasing the best that Mother Nature has to offer.
Picture shafts of light dancing through the trees, insects buzzing, exotic-colored butterflies flitting on the breeze, and the gentle rumbling of something in the distance, but you are not yet sure what. Walk a little further up the shady paths and a little deeper into the cool forest.
Flora and fauna are as prolific and luxuriant as you would expect from this fertile and humid environment, from gigantic Jurassic Park-like taro leaves to yellow and scarlet lobster claw heliconias dangling from stems in bunches like exotic firecrackers. Try to spot the red wax-like thick petals that make up the stunning succulent torch ginger and the aptly-named striking vermillion pagoda flower as part of the jungle’s bounty. Insect life is prolific. Among plants and leaves striped caterpillars, bright grasshoppers, and vivid colored beetles can be spotted meandering through the undergrowth.
Keep walking and soon you will be greeted by the water, clear and a perfect shade of swimming pool aquamarine bubbling over rocks and into the multiple layers of white-rimmed travertine pools and terraces. Follow the trails and you will be greeted by the star of the show, the falls themselves, plunging down from indeterminable height way above the tree line. Walk on the bridge, and take a photo with the stunning backdrop. You may need a wide lens to fit it all in.
If you want some seclusion or to get off the tourist path you can head to the top of the falls. A marked trail leads up the steep hill to the left of the falls and takes you to the top where the water cascades over the edge of the dizzying precipice plunging down to the pools below.
If you decide to visit the falls in the wet season prepare yourself for less color but more drama as the soil carried in by the rains can dampen the water’s vibrancy but the additional volume thundering down the cliff makes for an impressive aural and optical experience.
Larger wildlife is on view at the Bear Rescue Sanctuary. It can be quite amusing watching the resident bears play with each other and tumble and roll around. The Moon Bears are endangered animals distinguished by their white crescent markings on their chests and were likely orphaned cubs or rescued from illegal poachers and bile farms.
Chances are if you met anyone who has been to Luang Prabang, they have been to Kouang Si Falls, and it’s not just tourists visiting. Many local families visit to have a picnic and take photos, especially on weekends and around Lao New Year.
Kouang Si Falls is 30 kilometers or about a 45-minute drive from Luang Prabang. Lao Airlines has regular flights to Luang Prabang.
Text BY Anita Preston
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Anita Preston / Evensong Film