The Gibbon Experience – Tarzan time!
A gibbon is probably the coolest monkey around. Just to prove my point I included a youtube video below. They’re awesome!!
To get things straight we have moved from Thailand to Laos now. We went from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong where we crossed into Huai Xai on the Laos side of the Mekong river. Writing this we have finished the gibbon experience and are currently travelling down the Mekong river on a boat headed for Luang Prabang. We first heard about the gibbon experience from Tom and Zoe, our awesome diving friends from Koh Tao! They really recommended it, and after hearing about it we just had to go!
The Gibbon experience is a conservation programme made to preserve the gibbons and the habitat they live in. The jungle in Laos is in danger of being chopped down, since the people living in it can make som fast cash by chopping down the ancient forrest. The point of the conservation programmes is to replace the income that logging brings and replace it with a sustainable tourist income. The gibbon experience is making good money everyday, something the logging industry can do just once..
The Gibbon Experience is basically treks into the jungle where you get to look for gibbons. The twist here is that they have given you the ability to go after the gibbons on their own turf, high up in the canopy!
The Bokeo nature reserve contains a number of treehouses that are connected by wires. We were going to stay up in one of these treehouses, 50 metres up in the air, for two nights and the only way to reach them was by zipping along the wires at breathtaking speeds. We were so ready!
We started of by paying for our trip at the office. If you haven’t been to Laos then you wouldn’t know that the laotian money is close to worthless. The trek cost us each a 180 euros which in kip (laos currency) ended up being 1,9 million! Since we had to pay for three people, Eli and I went to the ATM and withdrew a total of 5,7 million kip in 20 000 bills… It was awesome!! I finally got to walk down the street with my pockets so full of cash that they were about to burst, one more thing to do before I die I can check off 🙂
The drive to the village that controls the programme was a 3 hour drive through some of the bumpiest roads I have ever driven on. We sat in the back of the pickup and the suspension was definently not from the last couple of decades. Arriving at the village we started trekking towards the basecamp for the conservation programme, where we would get our harnesses so that we could use the zip lines. As we had got to know Megan and Meg in the car heading towards the village we teamed up with the two of them and another canadian couple, Jasper and Lindsay. The seven of us ended up stayin in treehouse one as this was the only one suitable for seven. It was an excellent choice as they were all awesome people and we ended up having the greatest time with them!
The treehouses were awesome, and ours number 1, had three floors including a living area, a bathroom with a shower and areas to sleep for all of us. The view from the treehouses are amazing, as they are all far above the ground giving you a clear sight over the canopy. The first thing we did was to get aquainted with the wire network that connected the treehouses. We zipped along at blazing speeds with the trees around us blurred by the speed of the zip line. It was awesome! You have to trek a bit to get from one zip line to another but it’s so worth it.. Having finished a quick tour and gotten used to the equipment we relaxed at the treehouse, talking and listening to the busy jungle beneath us. Getting to fall asleep was a completely different thing. Knowing that you were 50 metres above the ground and hearing a thousand different sounds, all unknown made it a daunting task to relax enough to doze off. I have never heard a forrest so alive! Leopards fighting, bushes creaking, birds and monkeys howling and of course the ever summing sound of millions of insects.
Around six in the morning I woke up at he sound of our guide landing on the treehouse platform. This meant that it was gibbon time! I was tired and didn’t really feel rested, but the thought of trekking through the jungle in the dark looking for gibbons was too tempting to sleep another couple of hours. Jasper, Lindsay and Veronica got up after a while as well, but Lee and me (our guide) took of by ourself before the others. As we landed on the second platform away from our treehouse the call of the Gibbon rang through the jungle, reminding me why they call it the Gibbon song. It was like they were calling to eachother as they raced over the canopy making the tracking of them a difficult task. Lee started running and I made a feeble attempt at following him, being the clumsy non-jungle adept norwegian that I am. His stealthiness was completely ruined as I made more noise than a great elephant crashing into the jungle. We were rewarded with four gibbons only 50 metres away sitting in the top of a tree nearby, they move so amazingly swiftly through the trees! I desperately tried to get a picture but they were too fast for me to even focus on them. But I saw them!
We spent our days in the Bokeo nature reserve trekking a couple of times per day and using the zip lines frequently! We even celebrated Megans birthday after Jasper had gone down to the village, about an hours walk away, for the sole purpose of getting some Laolao (laos liqour) and some beer Lao! Now that’s a trooper! After a long day of trekking none of us managed to stay up to congratulate her after 12’o clock, but we made up for it by throwing a party when we got back to Huai Xai.
If you are considering travelling to northern Thailand or Laos in general, a trip to the Gibbon Experience project in Bokeo is a must do. It’s by far the coolest thing we have done so far on this trip and as they are building more treehouses as we speak I gotta go back and do it again when it’s finished! It was that good!
Take a look at their website www.gibbonx.org and another good thing is that all the money goes towards the preservation of the natural habitat of the Gibbon. It’s a win win!