Some 120km south of Pakse in Laos the Mekong River has it's broadest part on his 4,800km journey from the high Tibetan Plateau down to the South China Sea. Here the stream becomes 14km wide and splits up in many sidearms. A great number of islands appear here in the big river. The big islands as Don Khong, Don Pet, Don Khone and many others are permanent. But in dry season, when the water level lowers, many more islands, actually merely bigger sandbanks, come up. I don't know how many islands there are in dry season, if it is really 4,000 or just a few hundreds I can not tell. But there is a great number of them and the river looks completely different than it does at other parts. It's divided in many small arms, surrounding all the islands and sandbanks. Plants grow at the islands banks, providing habitats for many fish species and other animals. Some of the islands are inhabited by peasants and fishermen families. Most of the islands are uninhabited. The whole Mekong River section of the 4000 Islands is approximately 50km long.
Don Khone / Samphamit Waterfalls. Inconspicious in dry season, strong in rainy season. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
The climate is varying. Between dry (hot) season and rainy season is a big difference. The water level of the Mekong River rises significantly. Besides, when it comes to rain and thunderstorms in dry season, they can be very heavy. It reminds a bit to heavy weather on islands in the sea and appears as quick as there.
Very remarkable is that the surroundings of the Fourthousand Islands are a refuge for the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. There are places around here where dolphin watching is possible, as the gifted animals come up to the surface every now and then to breathe. Beside the fascinating dolphins there is a huge biodiversity on and around the 4000 Islands.
Since a short time there is electricity on the both touristic islands of Don Khone and Don Det. The electrical system is weak and has repeatedly breakdowns when it starts to rain. The local people use it for light, TV, music and karaoke.
The ferry connection to Don Khone and Don Det is linked to Ban Nakasang. There is a bus station providing transport to Pakse and the Cambodian border. The boat fares suffer heavy inflation and are getting ever more expensive. A single traveller might have a longer waiting time for the boatsmen go only when they have a certain minimal number of passengers; best case for them is when the boat is crammed full.
Map of the southern part of the Si Phan Don / 4000 Islands landscape with Don Khone and Don Det in the center.