Swimming and Camping at Tad Leuk

Tad Leuk is the most popular destination in Phou Khao Khouay, but it is by no means crowded. It is ideal for relaxing, swimming and camping, or as a starting point for trekking in the surrounding forests. As someone put it: “What a paradise here! If I’d knew it before, I’d come here for more than just a day.”

Tad Leuk is a waterfall within the Nam Leuk, one of the three major rivers of the reserve (‘Tad’ means waterfall, while ‘Nam’ means river). The riverbed is a relatively wide sandstone plateau, dotted with numerous, sometimes deep holes. These so-called ‘whirl pools’ have been drilled into the ground by water currents, setting quite big and heavy stones into motion.

The waterfall itself is not a very high one, only about 6 meters high, but can be quite a noisy experience during the rainy season, when the river turns into a wild and torrent ‘beast’. The amount of water varies considerably with the seasons, thus the river will get calm and gentle during late October/November, falling nearly dry thereafter.

Facilities at Tad Leuk

The Tad Leuk Visitor Information Centre holds a permanent exhibition of the flora and fauna to be found in the area. It is written in Lao as well as English. Inside, you can also use the small ‘visitor library’ with survey reports and field guides on the regional plants and wildlife.

Next to the visitor centre, a small restaurant serves basic Lao food and drinks. The friendly family will be happy to welcome you and to give any assistance if needed, although they only speak Lao.

The visitor centre is also the start of the ‘Houey Bone Nature Trail’. Red and white triangular markers guide this 1,5-kilometre trail on trees along the way. It offers a good overview of the flora and fauna in the park. The restaurant owner, Mr. Savay, can provide you with a copy of the trail booklet.

May we kindly ask for your support: If you see any wildlife or make any other observation (insects, plants etc.), please record your discoveries in the Visitor’s Sighting Book in the Tad Leuk Visitor Centre or inform the National Tourism Administration in Vientiane. Thank you!

Tad Xang Waterfall

Tad Xang, about two to three hours walk from Tad Leuk upstream, is another beautiful waterfall well worth a visit. Two bridges crossing fiery and deep tributaries (during the rainy season) allow you to enter the nearby forest at any time.

You could try to find Tad Xang by yourself, but we strongly recommend you to hire Mr. Savay, the supervisor of Tad Leuk, for a reasonable fee as guide. He knows the area very well and you will not get lost in the sometimes-tricky labyrinth of trails. Please be aware that he doesn’t speak English, but he can nevertheless manage to communicate well.

At Tad Xang, a large pool is inviting you for a refreshing swim. During the dry season, you might consider walking back to Tad Leuk on the other side of the river. The landscape and vegetation is quite different there.

How to get there

Tad Leuk is relatively easily accessible by car or motorbike from Vientiane via National Road No. 13 (South). Turn left at Km 90, short before entering Thabok. The road leads to Ban Houay Leuk (5 km). Follow the signs and turn right just 1 kilometre after this village (and cross an iron bridge over the Nam Leuk).

After another five kilometres you will reach the checkpoint at the park’s border, where you have to pay a minimal entrance fee. Three kilometres ahead, you turn left to Tad Leuk (small signboard). From there it’s another four kilometres.

Please note: The road through the park is good but can be dusty. Only the last stretch of the way leading directly to Tad Leuk is difficult to use at few places since it has dramatically deteriorated there in the recent past to the point that rocks are protruding around deep ditches of eroded soil (according tho the park authorities it has recently - 2009 - been repaired and is under "good" condition now). It needs a good driver and a high 4WD-car to be able to safely navigate around these hindrances, particularly during the rainy season.

Where to stay

Tad Leuk and the nearby Tad Xay can be visited easily on a one-day trip, since it is only a 2,5 hours drive from Vientiane. After exploring Tad Leuk first, you might consider combining it with the nearby Tad Xay and Pha Xay (20 kilometres away).

At Tad Leuk camping is permitted. Camping materials such as tents, mosquito nets, sleeping bags and mattresses can be rented for a small fee. Tad Leuk offers clean toilets and washing facilities. A refreshing bath can be taken in the crystal clear river water.

It is also possible to stay overnight in a home-stay in the village of Ban Hatkhai, from where you can visit Tad Leuk. Pre-arranged tours can be booked through various tour operators in Vientiane.

During the dry season, the riverbed is an ideal place for picnics or small bonfires in the evening. Please be extremely circumspect with any kind of fire and do not start any without permission. It may quickly run out of control and ignite the dry vegetation, turning into a huge forest fire with uncontrollable consequences. Extinguish any remains of the fire completely before you depart!