Existing Member?

The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

The Gibbon Experience!

LAOS | Saturday, 16 January 2010 | Views [2721] | Comments [2]

For the unfamiliar (i.e. anyone who has not been to Laos, cos it's hot goss on the backpacker scene), the Gibbon Experience is an ecologically sustainable tourism project in the north-western Bokeo Province which involves trekking deep into the rainforests of the Bokeo Nature Reserve, staying high up in the canopy in treehouses, and travelling by way of massive zip line (flying fox). Before I go any further, I will say that we weren't lucky enough to actually see any gibbons - although we hadn't really expected to so weren't too disappointed. On the morning of 8 January, we huddled outside the head office enjoying a morning coffee and our last taste of civilisation before our three days' sojourn in the wilderness! At 8 o'clock, the doors opened and we were introduced to our new family (who we would trek, zip, eat, sleep and do everything else with during our adventure): Australian/American house mates (Alicia and Kasey) from Sydney, a med student couple from Melbourne (Adrian and Phillipa) and an older German couple (Wolf and Karina). All in all we had a pretty good group dynamic, although Alicia was a bit abrasive (one of those Australians who talks with a fake British accent all the time in order to sound sophisticated) and let herself be baited by Jack's cheekiness (big mistake). The other group that left on the same day consisted of 6 rowdy Australian boys travelling together and one poor little English couple - we felt very sorry for them!

The adventure started with a three hour sawngthaew ride back up the highway then down a long, dusty trail to the fringes of the national park. From there the jungle is pretty impenetrable, and it was another three hours on foot until we reached our first zipline! This turned out to be significantly more taxing than I had imagined when I had read the glossy brochures, and involved (you guessed it!) lots and lots of STAIRS! But most good things in life require effort (while spouting cliches, I might also say here that 'what goes down must go up') so I tried not to complain too much - also I wanted to look tough in front of our new friends.Jack was even tougher, carrying the bag with all our stuff in it, as well as 2 kgs of smuggled beer.

It was a glorious moment when, gasping for breath, we reached our first zip line and were fitted into our harnesses. The zip lines were really the highlight of the whole experience - so much fun! The photos we have don't really do it justice - but to give you some idea of what it is like, the lines are up to 150 m above the ground and up to 1 km long. Needless to say I was quite freaked out by this prospect but once I'd taken the plunge on the first one I just loved it - the zipping totally made all the stairs worthwhile. Jack loved it too, but obviously couldn't behave himself properly and insisted on zipping backwards (much to my horror), for which he got deservedly roused by our guide.

On the first afternoon we hiked to a waterfall, which we were extremely looking forward to after all our hiking efforts. It was absolutely freekin freezing! Possibly the coldest water I've ever been in! Once we'd all swum to the other side (the boys did some waterfall exploring while the girls gossiped, as they do) nobody was brave enough to swim back. Jack was our knight in shining armour and paddled us all back to shore on a bamboo raft. What a boy! 

The second funnest part of the gibbon experience was the accommodation: huge treehouses (70 m above the ground) nestled in the treetops, with amazing views. We felt like real little monkeys! Sleeping quarters were divided by cloth nets, so we had some privacy - we felt very smug after Jack altered ours with his trusty sewing kit, so that it was perfect square while our companions' were ramshackle and oblong. There was no electricity in our first treehouse so bedtimes were fairly early (after consuming smuggled beer). We stayed up late (9.00) bonding with our new roomies and playing cards by candlelight. The tents did not keep out the wildlife: we had several visits by native rodents (everyone kept saying 'rat' but J was quick to correct them) scampering over our feet. The other thing worth mentioning about the treehouses is the toilets - squatties with just a hole in the bottom of the treehouse floor. I found this a little hard to get used to, to say the least, and Jack maintains he was the only person out of the 8 able to do a number two. My hero!

By the second night everything had been going so swimmingly that I was scared. I had gone two whole days without a major mishap and knew it was looming around the corner. What exactly I would be treated to became clear when we sat down to dine and my stomach started churning. Throughout the card games that followed I tried to mentally overcome my illness but at the end of our third round (which I lost, coincidentally) I had to leap up and announce "I'm going to spew" in front of everyone (my timing is unbeatable) and race to the edge of the treehouse, where I proceeded to bring up my entire food intake for the day. Jack was lovely as always and held my hair and pretended I wasn't gross, and had fun counting the 6 seconds til my spew hit the ground.

Despite this small hiccup, the gibbon experience was amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Laos!




hi, im keen to get to gibbon experience with some friends im meeting in laos mid ths year. your tails excite me even more. I was wondering if you could help me, im looking for a way to book the trip or book a guide or whatever it is i have to do. how did you go about it, any hints would be grand. cheers.

  ned Feb 13, 2012 7:59 PM


Hi Ned. I would definitely recommend doing the Gibbon Experience if you are lucky enough to be in Laos this year! There is only one company that you can do it through (i.e. there is no choice between companies/guides). The website is http://www.gibbonexperience.org/. We did the Waterfall Experience. The only advice I can give you is to book well in advance (as it fills up quickly...give it at least a few months). Also leave a couple of days for your travel to Huay Xai - the roads are bad and you can't rely on there not being massive delays! Let me know if you need any more info. Tessa.

  Tessa Feb 14, 2012 2:23 PM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.



Travel Answers about Laos

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.