The Gibbon Experience

Houay Xai Travel Blog

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Gibbon Experience Treehouse Two Zip-Wire
The Gibbon Experience is held in the Bokeo Nature Reserve and is an attempt to conserve the area from poaching, logging and slash-and-burn farming. The Gibbon Experience, as travellers know it, however, is a three-day stay in treehouses within the reserve with full access to some extreme zip-wires that would never be allowed in most Western countries. Its popularity has increased greatly recently; without being included in guidebooks, relying mostly on word-of-mouth, it is now booked up weeks in advance, even in off-season. I was thus very pleased to get a place.

After a three-hour, bumpy journey in pick-up trucks we got to the reserve and were immediately kitted up with harnesses and taken to the first treehouse. We attempted several guesses as to how high it was and after answers ranging from about 30-50 metres we settled for somewhere in between.
Gibbon Experience 500m Zip-Wire


The typical Brits all stuck together as the group was divided into three groups. Made up of an English couple, Karl from Ispwich, a Geordie, an inspirational 64-year-old Irish woman called Mary and a couple of Dutch guys, I was pleased to get on great with the rest of my group. Mary had the misfortune to have to share a section of the treehouse floor with me and Paul, the Geordie. Mind you, it was her that got the ribbing about keeping us all awake with her snoring.

The guides and organisers are keen to stress that the zip-wires are only a small part of the Experience, but I think you'd be kidding yourself if you said they weren't the reason for paying your 1.4 million kip (only about 75 quid). At first, I will admit, it was a bit scary, flying at speed on a wire through the forest canopy, but once you get used to it, it's great fun.
The gang
If 64-year-old Mary can conquer the 500-metre long and 150-metre high wire, then most should be able to. All the time I kept thinking how it would never happen in the UK, and if it did how long would be spent on safety procedures; we were simply given a harness, shown how it worked and then left to zip around unattended to our hearts' content.

Near our treehouse was a circuit of zip-wires that took about half an hour to complete, with a bit of trekking uphill between them. The best zips, though, required a challenging two-hour return trek from one of the treehouses.

Mozzies were an absolute nightmare, and my theory that no mozzie repellant works on my skin was confirmed as I got absolutely pillaged by them.

At Treehouse Two was a brilliant zip-wire where you could get a real run-up and dive on as the trees opened up in-front of you, displaying acres of canopy stretching as far as the eye could see.
The Bear Experience (it's domesticated)
Fear turns to awe as it opens out in front of you. I'm afraid, though, that my trusty cap - which I said would never make it all the way around the world - didn't accompany me. As I got up to some serious speed, it flew up in the air and then hurtled about sixty of seventy metres to the canopy below. I'm sure a gibbon is out there somewhere wearing it, no doubt impressing the ladies with his cutting-edge style and panache.

Our accommodation was rustic but homely. We stayed at Treehouse One, which may have been the best treehouse, but it's location was possibly the worst for spotting gibbons. Despite the trip's name, we never actually saw gibbons. But, to be honest, most people I had spoken to had said the same so I expected it. If you really wanted to see them then you had to get up around 4:30 or 5:00 and trek through the jungle for a while or be in Treehouse Three, who spotted gibbons playing around their treehouse for several minutes on our final morning.
Off I go
After hearing them sing, we had attempted to find them on a trek at sunrise on our first morning, but I got the impression our guide had no intention of actually finding any; after about half an hour we turned back unsuccessful. 18-year-old 'The Gibbon' as we called him - seen as he acted and laughed like one - laughed at the smallest of jokes and, despite working in a conservation reserve, seemed to find amusement in trying to kick small trees down.

If I had any gripes with the Experience, which was absolutely amazing for the most part - it was with the food. I wasn't expecting much, but we had the same over-cooked stewed vegetables and sticky rice over and over again and by the time we left I was dying for a decent meal.

Perhaps a bit of background and context to the Experience could have been given by the guides, but seen as they only had a basic grasp of English it might be asking a bit much.
The Gibbon
It would have been nice, though, to have learned a little bit about how they were conserving the forest and its wildlife after they had tried to stress to us that the zips were not the centrepiece.

Overall, though, it can be added to tubing as one of the most original and fun things I have ever done and well worth the planning it takes in booking and organising in advance. Highly recommended.
goddardnotts says:
Hi, Kyle said that you liked comments when I told her I wasn't stalking you any more, so just letting you know you are brightening up patches of time while I am writing up reports. In fact, you are brightening them to such an extent that i laughed out loud all by myself the other day when reading your account of getting somebody else's food. felt an idiot laughing all by myself, but it was very droll, I enjoy your dry humour.
The zip wires sound amazing, I wonder if I could emulate 64 year old Mary, looked like fun, shame about the cap.
Was nice to read your comment about the brains of the team the other day, as Kyle had been singing your praises to me that very afternoon, telling me all about correcting a senior's spelling and attributing it all to you. So much better than people rubbishing each other.
Hope you enjoy China and can get to a computer.
Take care
Heather
Posted on: Jul 19, 2007
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Gibbon Experience Treehouse Two Z…
Gibbon Experience 500m Zip-Wire
The gang
The gang
The Bear Experience (its domestic…
The Bear Experience (it's domesti…
Off I go
Off I go
The Gibbon
The Gibbon
Bees
Bees
64-year-old Mary masters the art
64-year-old Mary masters the art
Food in transit
Food in transit
Bokeo forest
Bokeo forest
At Treehouse One
At Treehouse One
Houay Xai
photo by: orcio81