While in Laos we had the opportunity to visit the Save the Bears sanctuary at Tat Kuang Si Park, a protected area near Luang Prabang.
Free the Bears is an international charitable organization started by an Australia woman with a goal to rescue bears kept in captivity and rehome them in safe sanctuaries throughout Asia – Laos, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. I won’t go into the awful things these bears have endured but rest assured they are definitely better off in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary in Laos is near some beautiful waterfalls. You walk a short distance from the carpark to the bear enclosures where you can observe the bears going about their day. While we were there, they were all consuming coconuts and taking great delight in ripping the hairy husks off them.
The enclosures aren’t huge, I have seen bigger enclosures in zoos but considering their lives previously, it has to be a major step up. The enclosures were clean and had lots of enrichment activities for the bears.
There is are some large signs both about the bears and the organization. Some smaller signs have a bit of personality traits about some of the individual bears. There is a small stall which sells very nice t-shirts and a few little souvenir knick-knacks. The t-shirts were very reasonably priced, around $US8 from memory and good quality, all proceeds go directly to supporting and rescuing bears.
A little further along the path are the waterfalls. It was far too cold to swim while we were there, but it was pretty to walk along the path to view the falls and admire the scenery.
I can imagine this would be a very busy place in warmer weather with people having picnics and swimming but we only saw two very brave swimmers trying to get up the courage to get into the water – they were gathering quite a crowd as it was so chilly. I’m not sure if they ever actually made it in or not.
The waterfalls are a three tiered fall. They are mostly shallow pools. The water is an amazing azure blue.
If you are in the area of Luang Prabang, the falls and the Free The Bears sanctuary is well worth a visit.
If you are heading to Asia and wish to be a little more proactive, Free The Bears have a wishlist on their website of items they require. If you are more of a hands on traveller, they also have volunteer activities available in Cambodia and Laos.
Else you can make a online donation to this worthy cause or there are donation boxes at the sanctuaries.