The Gibbon Experience: Into the wild

Mentioning about Laos, there are 2 common words to describe: Buddhist and laid-back. The unexpectedly slow pace of daily life in the nation is what people are talking about. However, if any adventurous traveler is seeking a piece of exotic wildlife adventure here, please be patient to make your way up to Huay Xai, heading to Bokeo Nature Reserve to complete one of your adventurous bucket list: The Gibbon Experience

Bokeo Nature Reserve: The idea for mother nature

The reserve was initially set up in 1996 in order to protect the black-crested gibbon, a species which was previously thought to be extinct but is now listed as critically endangered.

Black-crested gibbon. Credit: World Life Expectancy
Black-crested gibbon. Credit: World Life Expectancy

Black-crested gibbons live in family groups, each one consisting of a male, a female and usually no more than five of their children. You can spot the babies by their white fur, which gradually turns black or yellow by the time they reach one year old. You will usually hear them as well as seeing them, as they are known for their loud songs.

These wonderful creatures spend the vast majority of their lives up in the trees, where they move from branch to branch using a process called ‘brachiation’. This essentially means swinging using only their arms to carry their weight, which is something that few other apes or monkeys do. Black-crested gibbons can move at around 35 mph using this method.

Gibbon flying over branches. Credit: The Gibbon Experience
Gibbon flying over branches. Credit: The Gibbon Experience

It also manages the forest, employing local people to ensure their stable living condition and help conserve an environment under threat from illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming custom and many other practices.

Bokeo Nature Reserve is mostly primary monsoon dry deciduous forest, but also contains some lowland slash-and-burn agriculture. Traces of traditional agriculture can be seen alongside the road running from Thailand to China. Still, there lies one of the most pristine Lao forests, shelter to rare wildlife and Lao’s biggest tree.

The Gibbon Experience

Travelers said it would be a miss if you visit Bokeo Nature Reserve without checking the Gibbon Experience. Located inside the reserve, this interesting project was originated to protect the National Park and its living community in Ban Huay Xai, then quickly become one of the most must-do adventure while in Laos.

Must-do Experience in Laos. Credit: The Gibbon Experience
Must-do Experience in Laos. Credit: The Gibbon Experience

When coming here, you will not only see that lovely creatures, but also enjoy many lifetime experience, including spending overnight a tree house. They built the world highest tree houses so you can experience flying through the forest canopies and waking up surrounded by gibbons. There are currently 3 designs of tree house for you to choose for your upcoming incredible night in the faraway jungle:

  • Tree houses suspended on rope wires
  • Tree houses set on wooden consoles
  • Geodesic polyhedron laid in the fork

Depending on the tree structure, they will choose the appropriate one, while still guarantee on the safety standards.

Tree houses are all built at a world record height of 30 to 40 metres (100 to 130 ft, or over ten storeys). Some of them are as big as luxurious mansions, with surfaces up to 160 square meters (1700 square feet)! How great it is!

Currently they are providing 3 packages for adventurers

Classic Journey

This is the easiest trek, with one hour of reasonably hilly access walk. You will choose how you want to spend your time, there is no strict schedule, food will come when you get hungry, and the guides will escort you to your tree house and around.

You can take shower in this incredible altitude and view. Credit: Living Nomads
You can take shower in this incredible altitude and view. Credit: Living Nomads

This option usually enables gibbon encounters with little effort. Up to three groups of eight people depart on alternate days soon after 8 a.m. for three days and two nights in tree houses scattered within the Nam Kan National Park.

Classic Journey takes you 3 days 2 nights on trip

Waterfall Journey

Let’s go deeper into the National Park. The program brings you deeper into the National Park, with a two-to-three hour trek each day along the Nam Nga River and through a fresh-water swimming pool and a charming waterfall. The two nights will be spent in different tree houses, one of which overlooks the river while from the other, you will be able to see stunning sunsets over several valleys. In order to join, you should be in a reasonably good shape.

The magnificent view from the tree house. Credit: Living Nomads
The magnificent view from the tree house. Credit: Living Nomads

Two groups of 8 people depart on alternate days shortly after 8 am for two nights in the Bokeo reserve, swapping tree houses on the second night.

Waterfall journey takes you 3 days 2 nights on trip.

Express Journey

The tour starts after a one-hour drive from Huay Xai. Access walk is steep for over an hour, the tour is thus recommended for trekkers from 12 to 50 years of age and in good physical shape.

Zip like a pro. Credit: Living Nomads
Zip like a pro. Credit: Living Nomads

A series of very long ziplines flies you from mountain to mountain to the heart of the Nam Kan National Park, all the way to the Tree King – the biggest tree to be found today in Laos. This Dipterocarpus Alatus is probably the most massive (biggest?) tree alive in the Lao P.D.R. today. Diameter at ground level is over 3 meters and still over 2 metres if you climb 25 metres up. This giant is 55 metres high and colonized each year by more than a hundred bee hives. Your host tree carrying the house you will spend the night in stands right next to this giant, As only one gibbon family lives in that area, your chances to meet gibbons are rather low. But for those who love flying through the canopies with stunning views, this zipline-packed ‘airborne’ program will be a lot of fun.

The sacred tree. Credit: The Gibbon Experience
The sacred tree. Credit: The Gibbon Experience

Express Journey takes you 2 days 1 night on trip.

“A Childhood Fantasy with a Serious Purpose”

That is the slogan of project, which completely express the core value the project would like to offer their visitors. Each of us when being a child once wished to have ourselves a home on top of the tree, then we can discover the whole world from our own territory. This time let the dream come true by making your way to up-north Laos, spending times listen to the sound of nature and support the local community by your participants in many relevant activities during your stay.  With mountains ranging from 1,600 to almost 5,000 feet in altitude, the reserve also is a good place to watch birds.

Gorgeous sunset in Huay Xai. Credit: The Gibbon Experience
Gorgeous sunset in Huay Xai. Credit: The Gibbon Experience

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The Gibbon Experience: Into the wild
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