Swimming and tubing

swimming tubing don det


Where are the beaches to swim in the Mekong ?

The main beach is located on the pier of Don Det, 300 meters from BABA guesthouse in the center, top North of the island (see on map). This is not a huge expanse of sand, but there's usually enough space for every one's towels, and that's a very good spot to go into the Mekong.
There is another beach in Don Khone, more spacious with a restaurant nearby and fishermen who can drive you towards the dolphins. Also an interesting little spot, down the Liphi Falls (see on map).
Apart from those, any access to the river along the banks is open to swimmers, and you don't need to ask the permission, just feel free to go where it's the most attractive to you.

swimming-beach-khone

Boats to the dolphins from the beach of Don Khone

The waters of the river are clean, and most of the villagers take their daily bath inside, without privacy. The reason why Si Phan Don is not polluted is because the Mekong has traveled 1.500 km on a weakly-industrialized land, that is Laos, until here.
All the guesthouses in Don Det and Don Khone fill their tanks by pumping the water from the river, because there is no running water in the 4000 islands (except in Don Khong). Thus, having a shower in your room is like having a bath directly into the river. Or see things this way : swimming in the Mekong is like wading in a giant bath !

The color of the river changes with the months, it is green during the dry season (November - May) and red during the monsoon (June - October). The level also varies, it is 5 meters higher in August than in March. The higher the level is, the stronger the current is. Swimming during the rain season is more difficult, because the current is so strong, it drags you towards the South. Stop swimming 10 seconds and you're already 5 meters away ! But from November to May, it's great, and easy to go against the current. The waters are also clearer during this dry season, and it's a fantastic experience to dive here, especially at the sunny hours.
In Si Phan Don, the Mekong is at its widest section, which measures 14 km large ! Delicious freshwater expanded like an ocean !

Concerning the nudity, Lao people are more shy than their Thai neighboors. It is not in the culture to appear in bikini, and if you are respectful to this dress code, you can wear a t-shirt over your swimming suit. However, so many young travellers occasionally wander around scantily clad in Don Det, locals get used, and only a small minority get offended.

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Lao girls sitting on a tube in the Mekong

Warning : There's no particular danger to bathing, no crocodiles nor big snakes, but you may be surprised to feel shrimp-sized fishes trying to eat your toes... Don't worry, they're not dangerous, on the contrary, many travellers appreciate to get rid of their dead skins, it's even a service some massage centers charge in Bangkok.

Watch this short Youtube video starring adventurers jumping into the river from the old Mekong tree in front of BABA guesthouse.

Swimming-pools in Don Det

There are two spots in Don Det where the water is particularly clear, it's in the private swimming pools that use powerful filter systems. The biggest of these two pools is 18 meters long, and located at the Little Eden guesthouse, near the pier in the center (map).
The entrance fee is 50.000 kips, and if you're thirsty there's a bar next that serves cocktails (don't drink the water of the pool) !

The second private swimming pool is located top South of Don Det, after the bridge (continue following the Mekong), at the Long island guesthouse (map). This pool measures 15 meters and the entrance fee is also 50.000 kips with a free drink.

Renting a tube

Tubing is amazing in Don Det, where the green coutryside is gorgeous. Renting a tube costs 10.000 kips (1.20 $) in most of the shops located in the center. The start usually is from the beach of Don Det, and when finished, you'll walk along the path to return your tube, on foot. But you can also be pulled up North by a motorised boat, and once in your tube, slowly drifted by the current of the Mekong til Don Det.

Careful not to get drunk in the water, as alcohol is at the origin of most of the serious accidents.
Also remember to stop before the bridge between Don Det and Don Khon, since they're frightening rapids after, and deadly dangerous Liphi Falls right there.

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A boat full of tubes in Don Det

Read this article Forget Vang Vieng - Tubing in the Mekong at Si Phan Don written by Daniel Mc Bane on his blog.

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