The Mekong is also the natural habitat of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.
The 4,000 islands region, as it’s known, is home to one of world’s biggest Irrawaddy dolphin pools — a whopping 11 individuals.
Foreigners come to munch fried rice, dangle their feet in the tepid chocolate-colored waters and watch these vanishing mammals swim just 50 feet from the riverside. Set amid the lush rain forest, emerald rice fields, homes on stilts and golden-roofed Buddhist pagodas, it’s hardly surprising that this region is attracting tourists.
At least for the moment.
With the hush of waterfalls in the back, it’s a sublime experience, even for locals like Kem At, who operates a slow-moving tour boat big enough for 10 tourists to squeeze in.
“The Mekong dolphin doesn\’t jump,” At patiently tells tourists, smiling as he watches one of the dolphins cut the surface.
This month, workers will begin constructing a 100-foot-high, 256-megawatt dam that will eventually tower over the river, according to a communiqué filed by the Communist government.
Within the next year, scientists say, these dolphins will almost certainly be wiped out. Soon after, millions of fish in southern Laos will perish as well.