The Gibbon Experience

Jump to story list

Updated on 25th January, 2011. First published 16th April, 2006

Blame it on Alex Garland's The Beach, but when I first heard of a place deep in the jungle where people could fly through trees and stay in tree-top houses it sounded like an old wives' tale. I expected to be passed a map and to find myself lost, alone in the middle of the Golden Triangle. What I hadn't bargained for was The Gibbon Experience.



Forrested mountains at the Gibbon Experience. Laos

Situated in Bokeo province in northern Laos, the Gibbon Experience is a conservation project which allows visitors access to the rainforest at canopy level. With an ingenious system of zip-lines and tree houses visitors scour the landscape in search of a once thought extinct species, the Black Gibbon, Nomascus concolor lu, which were only re-discovered in the area in 1997. The project's grand aim is to conserve the vast Bokeo nature reserve and raise funds to protect the wildlife while alleviating poverty.

Northern Laos however is not an easy place to get to in a hurry. After a brief ride on Lao Airlines my first impression of Huay Xai was an idle chicken pecking at the runway. Welcome to the real rural heart of Asia. To add to this the four smiling, terracotta-coloured returnees climbing out of the pick-up made me realise that the next 48 hours were going to be a mixture of dirt, mud, sweat and exhilaration.

Within the first hour, as our transport snaked its way through the dust, the importance of the project was brought into focus. Mud is thrown up and hills moved aside as a road carved up the landscape. Laos is opening up to the world and one of the last wildernesses in Southeast Asia is being threatened in the name of regional integration.

After a three-hour ride and a few more hours of trekking we arrived. The project has a series of treehouses, each accessed only via zip-line. Ours was a gigantic four-level affair, stocked with food, necessities, unique toilet access and for that extra kick a bottle of lao lao to get things started after dark.

After a brief safety lesson and a short tour of the site we were left to our own devices; all that was left was to strap up and head into the unknown.

One or two tentative leaps from the hillside and you're away -- no going back as speed and wind build up and the dot in the distance is your new home. The sound of the zip is reminiscent of an incoming plane; you look up, around, anything but down, and then a whole vista of tropical jungle reveals itself.


Treehouse, Gibbon Experience

The momentum of the zip brings the scene to you in cinema style and you don't quite believe what is around you. You feel detached from the experience and question your surroundings, is that really a jungle under your feet? What next, the Arc De Triomphe? You expect a blue backdrop, a change of picture, yet this time there's no $10 photo, this is the real thing and below you it's a long way down. The height of the longest line is greater than the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.

Without realising it within a day you become accustomed to your treetop lifestyle. The once-timid group of tourists can be heard along the hills shouting various renditions of "Go, Stop, Clear," followed by that crashing plane sound echoing around the hillside.

From the canopy, you get to gauge the size of the forest you are trying to protect, with not a sign of human habitation for miles, just endless shades of green. The wildlife meanwhile notices the additional tree-living ape with curiosity.


Ziplining at the Gibbon Experience

At night you're kept awake listening and wondering if you're about to fall out. It is discomforting to think that you are a hundred feet up playing Robinson Crusoe in the branches, and the sounds of the forest bounce across the canopy towards you. Crashing, snapping, falling, anything but graceful. You realise the jungle is more Meatloaf than Swan Lake. Yet it is a lot quieter than expected. Until recently the area was a hive of poaching activity (even the local police chief still comes to pick up timber for his own personal use) and the wildlife is still to fully recover.

Whether the Gibbon Experience can really protect the reserve for the future is an open question but there is no doubt it is ambitious. We never heard any gibbons but it didn't matter too much. It was a unique experience to have so much fun, acting out all your childhood fantasies, and to know that for once, you're not ruining the environment you came to see. For anyone looking to escape the faded plastic tour guide adverts in Chang Mai guesthouses, for the moment, this part of the world and this project in particular holds the answer.

For more information, see the Gibbon Experience website.



Story by



Read 68 comment(s)

  • Hi guys,
    im a solo traveller heading north to cross over into thailand and have heard so many backpackers rave about the gibbon experience.. how much is it for the 1 night, 2 days?? im in vang vieng now and will be heading to luang prabang in a couple of days... let me know how much it is??!

    Posted by nicolaine on 27th December, 2008

  • The Gibbons experience sounds amazing I love that there are no "$10 pictures!!" I am looking for tours that give a rare peak into the genuine culture and authentic environment as well as those that don't have a negative impact on the land or people- which these days, are really hard to find! I will be traveling around southeast Asia for a couple months- anybody have any suggestions on great tours like the Gibbons Experience??

    Posted by finn on 11th June, 2009

  • I (thoroughly) enjoyed a recent sojourn to the Gibbon Experience. The access price is high, but... [i]once every so often, price is not the issue[/i]. And, the Gibbon Experience falls into that category.

    All too often, I hear the comments like [i]I'd only pay that much to actually see a Gibbon[/i], or [i]for that money, I could...[/i]

    As one guide suggested [i]unless you've got a horseshoe stuck up your bum, you [b]won't[/b] see a Gibbon[/i].

    No, I didn't see, or hear a Gibbon. But, that is not why I went.

    I went for a host of other reasons:

    * trekking in a rainforest,
    * sleeping in a treehouse,
    * ziplining,
    * interacting with the H!Mong guides,

    to name a few.

    But, the primary purpose I went is that the project is preserving Gibbon habitat rainforest. That so much of Laos has been deforested so some high ranking official can drive a fancy car means that Gibbon habitat is shrinking fast.

    Globally, the list of species becoming extinct is growing too rapidly. But worse, the list of species considered endangered (ie on the brink of extinction) is growing at a faster pace.

    That a conservation minded person has devised a way to protect habitat from deforestation, give employment to the locals who would otherwise be paid by high ranking officials to deforest (and sell the logs to him for tuppence, only to be resold for a huge profit), and at the same time let me have a great adventure needs recognition.

    I hope you choose to enjoy the Gibbon Experience. Likely as not you won't see a Gibbon, and yes you could do a host of other things with the same $$$'s, but you [i][b]WILL enjoy yourself immensely[/i][/b].

    Cheers

    Posted by BruceMoon on 28th June, 2009

  • I first heard of the Gibbon Experience in 2007. I'm wondering how long and how far it will be to make the journey from Chang Mai this October? Is October a good time of year to go?

    Cheers for the advice, much appreciated!

    Posted by samhobbit on 16th July, 2009

  • Hi,

    I really want to do this but the phone number on the website doesnt work and I havent received any replies to my emails - did you just book once you got there? is it the wrong phone number or something?

    Thanks,

    Elisha

    Posted by Elisha on 11th September, 2009

  • Elisha,
    What follows is the e-mail address from where I received my confirmation letter:
    experience@gibbonx.org. Apparently you can show up and participate without having prearranged. They take a new group up nearly every day.
    They wrote to me: "To make a *last minute booking*, please come directly to our office.
    >

    Posted by Patrick on 15th September, 2009

  • Thank you so much!

    Posted by Elisha on 15th September, 2009

  • It's a phenomenal experience. If you're near, you have to do it. If you're not near, make the effort.

    Sam - October's a bit of a crappy time to go, the rains make the roads difficult. Although I hear that they're improving the road from Huang Xai (meaning: they're actually creating a road rather than having you drive on mud) so it may not be too bad.

    The best time is unfortunately peak season - Jan/Feb which means 2-3 week booking ahead times. However plenty of people just rock up and ask every day. Being Laos, travelers often can't make it or cancel etc. Worst case you might have to hang out for a few days and get boozed with all the other people in town who are waiting too..

    Bottom line - best, most unique experience you'll have in SE Asia. Just like that Chicane album, it's far from the maddening crowds..

    Posted by Matt Simpson on 21st September, 2009

  • Am headed towards the Gibbon Experience October 24. Chaing Rai Thailand appears to be the nearest airport. Are there buses from Chiang Rai or is it best to fly to Chiang Mai? Can I get a Leo visa at the boarder?

    Posted by Daniel Kallick on 2nd October, 2009

  • Silly question, sorry !
    Are they a lot of spiders around and in the treehouse ?
    Thanks in advance,

    Posted by Dani on 4th October, 2009

  • Is anyone going in the near future? What price were you quoted? They just e-mailed me and said it's 160 (240 USD) euros if booked ahead or 170 euros up front O_o

    Posted by Ron on 19th October, 2009

  • Have arrived to wonderful Bokeo, sitting at a plastic lawn chair typing away for the sum or 7,000 kip an hour at an internet cafe with no name....
    Spent an 2hours searching for Gibbon Experience, housed in a little dive attached to a budget guest house. Hard to find..... bring some notes from the Web site Cost for the 3 days 2 nights is $240. Maybe they will take us to a waterfall for a swim or not.

    Posted by Daniel on 22nd October, 2009

  • Wow! I feel very lucky after reading the above comments- I visited the Gibbon Experience in May 2007 and it remains the most amazing travel experience I have ever had. I heard Gibbons at daybreak and dusk and saw some very early one morning after our guide came and woke us at 4am- it was a bit of a wild goose chase through the forest (at ground level) but seeing those wonderful creatures swinging through the trees was mind blowing.

    Posted by Dezi on 10th November, 2009

  • So...I read about the project and wanted to visit. After reading some of the comments (and experiencing that these projects tend to change within some years) I'm not sure if it's worth the visit. I would go there in the beginning of march. Maybe some of you have been there lately (and give some more information than Daniel)? Thanks! Baba

    Posted by Baba on 12th November, 2009

  • My group went in April of this year. AMAZING and worth every penny we spent. And we were all extreme budget travelers. We saw gibbons both mornings, but it was part luck, part determination. They had recently been spending time in our part of the forest and we got up at 4 am to trek and zip line to find them. The folks that didn't want to wake up, never saw or heard them.

    We couldn't get in contact with anyone in the organization after repeated emails months in advance, so just ended up going to Huay Xai and waited outside the office. We had to wait in the town a couple days before we could get in a trip and not the waterfall experience we had wanted.

    Dani: There was a spider the size of my fist in our 'shower'. If you're squeamish about those sort of things it may not be the best experience for you. It is the actual jungle. I had to use the restroom in the middle of the night with a bat flying around my head! Ah, the memories!

    Posted by Steph on 23rd November, 2009

  • I find it funny how the writer thinks that this is adventure is so environmentally friendly when really - the noise caused by the tourist is absolute noise polluting the whole area ....and no, wildlife are not wondering with curiosity but are of course scared and this leads to an alteration of their daily life - Therefore, going totally against the whole idea of having a conservation area.

    The experience must be unforgettable but as the writer states, noises that sound like crashing planes is really not a way to contribute to a good conservation project but merely a selfish experience with a very simple win - loose result.

    Posted by Christina on 12th January, 2010

  • Highlight of my trip to Laos and Cambodia. Well worth the money, just wish I could have stayed much longer!

    Posted by susib on 20th January, 2010

  • The gibbon experiance was great but where were the Gibbons ?? What an experiance to be in the jungle 40 meters high living in a tree house for 2 days using zip wires to get from A to B. The food aint great but it did us. We stayed in tree house 4 which slept 6. The rats keep you awake at night and the noise of the jungle, but i enjoyed all this its part of the experience. We took some alcohol with us and on the second night and went zipping to other tree houses where other travellers were camped. Dangerous but at the same time brilliant. It is expensive think we paid £160 each but its not every day you get to do a thing like this. There is a lot of walking and it takes it out of you. You can do the waterfall experience which is a bit more expensive and is alot more trekking and all you get to do is look at waterfalls. On one crossing from tree house to tree house i dropped my camera and it fell 100 meters to the jungle floor, believe it or not one of the guides went off and come back with it 2 hours later. Fair play to him !!!!

    Posted by Larry on 23rd January, 2010

  • Im headin into Laos with my wife from northern Thailand in about 2 weeks and am planning on reserving spots. I have a little apprehension about safety. I was hoping someone could speak to the quality of the equipment as well as instruction. Having a little rock climbing experience i have used harnesses before but generally under the superviosion of more experienced and trusted friends. My wife has not. ANy thoughts?

    Posted by Zack on 23rd January, 2010

  • Hey zack,

    harden the fuck up. You won't die.

    Regards,

    matt

    Posted by Matt on 23rd January, 2010

  • Can anyone give advice on suitability for children (zipwires etc). Am in Huay Xai with three kids aged 7 to 9 in June and this is the sort of one off experience they would dream about. Thanks. Patrick

    Posted by Patrick on 27th January, 2010

  • Due to unforseen circumstances I had to cut my trip around Asia short. This meant that my pre-arranged booking to go on the Gibbon Experience had to be cancelled.
    Under the terms and conditions, I had been advised that I would only be able to get a 90% refund on my 160 Euro payment.
    After cancelling via email, and getting confirmation that I would receive my refund by the end of the month (December 2009), I heard nothing. No refund was paid, no reply to my follow up emails.
    Therefore I can only advise that you don't pay up front because if you need to cancel, you might end up having your money stolen.

    Posted by johnb on 4th February, 2010

  • its sounds like an amazing experience that is worth the large amount of money! What was the experience with rats? I have a huge fear of them. Where they were you were sleeping?

    thanks a million for any input!
    julie

    Posted by julie on 24th February, 2010

  • Treehouse no 1 has a tree cat that takes care of the rats. Have not heard anything about rats from any of the other treehouses.

    Yes, it's a great experience, though not sure if to me it was worth the full $250. It is simply awesome waking up at 4:45 am surrounded by the jungle sounds and zipping out at first light. Food is simple, yet sufficient (loads of msg).

    Points of improvement would be the guides' minimal command of English and the lack of an emergency system in the treahouse (where you spend the nights by yourselves without Gibbons staff present).

    Posted by chocgirl on 9th March, 2010

  • So my 11 year old and i are planning on heading there in a couple of weeks, i'm wondering if anyone had success with just booking a trip the same day?

    I don't know our exact dates of getting to that part of the country and don't want to lose a deposit!

    thanks,

    John & Jake

    Posted by jma351 on 25th March, 2010

  • re: my post above (4th Feb 2010)

    Fair play, they refunded my 90% as requested(3 times). Hopefully I can get there another time - I've heard nothing but great things about this place.

    Posted by johnb on 26th March, 2010

  • I am heading there in the next week and a half. Has anyone had any success in booking?
    Thanks

    Posted by Max Almeida on 30th March, 2010

  • I just finished the Gibbon experience a few days ago. If you are thinking of going.....this is my take:

    It is a really, really cool experience, zipping into your treehouse and living 150 feet off the ground in such pristine wilderness...its a once in a lifetime thing. There is hardly any wilderness like that in Laos left. Although from TH 1 you can hear bulldozers clearing land not far away, which takes something away from the experience.

    All in all, I felt disspointed at the end, considering how much it costs; 180 Euros ($275 australian on my credit card).

    I didn't see any gibbons which was a big let down. I could hear them, but the guide seemed to take us away from them, not near them (at the other treehouse). Some guides werent too friendly nor spoke decent english. In fact I felt the whole thing was pretty impersonal, giving it a 'tourist factory' feel, just get as many tourists in and out as they can. No-one is interested in you nor asks your name, including the partners of the project who are there.

    I think for what you pay, getting cabbage and rice for two meals running is not accepatable and rats in the treehouse running across my bed at night was pretty shit too - treecats or not.

    The people you are with is very important too - Im a young solo traveller but ended up with a 4 older European couples.

    In short, it is truly a great experience, but only do it if you have the $$$ and time. Otherwise you may come out feeling pretty dispointed at the end, especially seeing how the whole thing is run now.

    Posted by almondy23 on 30th March, 2010

  • My girlfriend and I not long ago did the Gibbon Experience and yes it was very cool. However after talking to the guides and locals, it seems that only the smallest fraction of your 180 Euros goes to the Lao people. For example the guides are paid 100B per day and very little is put into the community village, leaving most of the profits for the wealthy owner living off shore. The company makes its self out to benefit the people more than it actually does. As a side, we and 3 other people on our trip also had a lot of money stolen from the tree house while out for a nature walk with the guides. The only way into the tree house in the middle of the jungle is by zip line, leaving either the cooks or other staff to have taken the money. The manager of the Gibbon Experience is ignoring our concerns now that they have taken our 180 Euros. So be warned, if you are going on the Gibbon Experience to help the community, think again. Also, do not trust the staff or guides as they come across very friendly, but may be plotting to sneak your money. I hope everyone has better experiences than we did.

    Posted by Rob on 3rd May, 2010

  • In Contrast to the last post my 11 year old son and I had an amazing experience at the Gibbon experience. I heard a lot of rumors that the guides wanted to "strike" that they were unhappy etc...We didn't experience that on our trip. What I noticed was that we drove up there in the back of a pick up to the village and they unloaded sheeting for roofs and other building materials for the locals.

    I noticed that about a 1/4 of the buildings already had new roofs and could see that they were obviously benefitting from us traveling through their village,in particular our group deposited a large sum of money in the local little store where the stock of Beer Lao was being rapidly depleted at a slightly inflated price...the little shed was not being run by some outsider either.

    I think that it has to be understood that a guide can't make a salary based on western standards...Also the amount of money we spend to go on this experience to see Jungle that is rapidly disappearing in this region is sadly going to be an expensive endeavour.

    The Gibbon experience has to bribe unscrupulous Chinese from poaching animals and trees. The Local Lao officials are surely on the take as well as the Lao government and the villagers themselves. Trust me the Locals there wouldn't stop hunting and slashing and burning this area if they didn't feel they were being compensated enough to not do it. They have no moral issue of burning the forest down. They only have an economic incentive.

    The Gibbon experience is well worth it, It was one of the highlights of our trip in Laos. The guides leave you in the afternoon...and you have time to wander alone through the forests...wake up early in the dawn and the Gibbons can be heard or seen, but this place is much more than going to see a Gibbon. Be open minded,safe, sensible and have an awesome time...it's a lot of fun!

    John and Jake.

    Posted by jma351 on 4th May, 2010

  • Could someone tell me what it is like during the rainy season in August?

    Posted by Jo on 18th June, 2010

  • Hello there, and hi i was wondering if anyone would be able to give me some information on the gibbon experience regarding how you actually get up into the tree house? you see the thing is i was born with a disability to my left arm, which i can still use but do not have the same strength and grip as my right any information would be appreciated, thanks paddy.

    Posted by Paddy on 5th July, 2010

  • @Paddy - The tree houses are reached by zipline only.

    I hurt my left arm in a bad fall a few weeks before going to the GibbonX, it was almost healed but it still had slightly less strength. It was ok, not so easy the few times I did not quite make it all the way and had to pull myself towards the platform. You will need one good arm at least for breaking. Maybe send them an email and see what they advise?

    Posted by chocgirl on 5th July, 2010

  • I have no idea what it is like during the rainy season in August,but I am planning to go anyway on late August -just showing up at the door, counting on luck. Anyone have any ideas what it is like during rainy season? Also, I really like trekking, but would like ziplining as well. Any ziplines in the waterfall one?

    Posted by Coen on 28th July, 2010

  • I have no idea what it is like during the rainy season in August,but I am planning to go anyway on late August -just showing up at the door, counting on luck. Anyone have any ideas what it is like during rainy season? Also, I really like trekking, but would like ziplining as well. Any ziplines in the waterfall one?

    Posted by Coen on 28th July, 2010

  • hey guys, I am heading to Laos in January, but I haven't received any emails back from the email provided on the website.

    My only fear is getting to the base for the Gibbon Experience. I have heard some horror stories about getting there.

    What is the transport like from Luang Prabang?
    Anyone who has done this recently, please let me know.

    Cheers

    Posted by Callum on 2nd August, 2010

  • Callum, you make your own way to Huay Xai and it's either a two-day boat trip (apparently nice, usually quite busy though) or 10-12 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang. Road is interesting - cars swerve from left to right to avoid potholes, but overall pretty ok. Or you cross the border from Thailand, easy as can be!

    If arriving by bus from LP I recommend staying overnight at Luang Namtha, renting a motorcycle in the morning then continuing to HX on the afternoon public bus. You should arrive in town just in time to report to the Gibbons office for departure next morning.

    Posted by chocgirl on 24th August, 2010

  • As posted by another poster here, I cancelled my reservation, which I made in advance - 500 USD... In accordance to their mails, they said they would pay me 50% back. The Email they sent me:
    Hello,
    We wait for my boss to refund money to you we will refund to you 50%.Please wait until next week.

    I have contacted them myself after a week and a half, and since then, but never got any reply, not to mention the money.

    Besides, we heard some bad stories about the place from a group of travelers that came back from the gibbon experience and came to Luang Nam Tha. One emphasized that in the rainy season there's an aprox. 6-7 hour trek to reach the canopy infrastructure (the gibbonx emphasizes that in their mails), and on the 3rd day, a 6-7 hours trek back. The people we met said the trek was hard and slippery and full of leeches which is to be expected in the rainy season. Considering you only reach the trek starting point around noon, and leave on the 3rd day in the morning, that leaves you pretty much only 1 whole day to really enjoy your time there. This was one of the deciding factors for us to cancel our reservation. The other story, which IMO is pretty shocking, was about a thunderstorm. Think what happens in a thunderstorm, when you're on a tall tree. The wind is moving the trees, lightning hits all around you. The procedure there is to evacuate the trees once you see a storm coming, but on one of the houses, the guide which was with them just bailed a group of 4 women on the tree just before the storm hit after he failed to warn them or to tell them to evacuate. They spent the entire time on a tree swinging in the wind with lightning striking trees around them. We also met a fellow traveler that we met earlier on our trip to Laos (which was great), who told us most of the guides there aren't really enthusiastic about showing you around, and you have to really bug them to get to know the forest, if you want.

    Anyways, I'd recommend against going there, just on the ground that they are lying thieves. But if you want a more objective opinion, it seems that the level of the guides there has gone downhill...

    Posted by Yochai on 3rd November, 2010

  • I'm going to be travelling to The Gibbon Exp in Feb from Hanoi, Vietnam. Has anyone else attempted this route!? It looks like a million and a half!

    Thanks

    Posted by StaceyThomson04 on 28th December, 2010

  • Hi just wondering if rats are a problem at all. I have a slight phobia ha and don't really want to be sleepying in a tree house with rats running about all over me.

    Posted by mrk12a on 15th January, 2011

  • hiya,
    i've emailed the gibbon experience crew but yet to hear back. how much was it roughly? also, what's the best way to travel from Vientiene?
    thanks!
    shelley

    Posted by Shelley on 20th January, 2011

  • Shelley, I booked about a month or 2 ago and it was around £187 each. Also, We had to email them about 5 times to get a reply!!!! And then email them about 5 more times to confirm the booking!! haha But we are all booked up now so all is good!

    Stacey

    Posted by Stacey on 20th January, 2011

  • how are people booking the gibbon experience? i've emailed them countless times and called them countless times; no emails back and no one picks up. never thought it would be this hard to book something lol.

    anyone else recently have any luck?

    Posted by UM on 20th June, 2011

  • I emailed them and they got back to me once telling me bookings for 2011 were not available until whenever (this was in 2010) but then could never get a response from them after that. I emailed them about 10 times. So I emailed them from my friend's email address and they got back to me that same day! Weird. Maybe try using another email address? When I done the Gibbon Experience a couple just turned up and done the same tour as us. It was AMAZING, so keep trying to get through!!

    Stacey

    Posted by Stacey on 21st June, 2011

  • I finally got a reply, with them outlining all the details. (I had to call them twice for them to send me the details.) I've sent them an email back with the date i want to do the experience but now they're not replying again lol.

    such an effort!

    Posted by UM on 21st June, 2011

  • My Gibbon Experience (Dec 2011)

    Paying 290 USD for a two night trip kind of set many expectations that weren't met. I'd like to share some of my thoughts about that.
    All quotes are from the confirmation email I got after making the booking.

    1) "(...) Pop in our office the day before (...) so we can (...) discuss the last important things before you leave the next day."

    Actually  they want you to sign a liability paper. Here my two favorites:
    * if you follow anybody's advice (even a guide's) and that advice was wrong it's your mistake and they are not liable
    * If they give you an old harness that leads to an accident it's your fault and they are not liable.

    I'm pretty sure this goes against common principles of law, so I didn't feel very welcome right from the start, especially since they said only Lao law is applicable.


    2) "You choose how you want to spend your time, there is no strict schedule; food will come when you are hungry though, and the guides will always be around, at your service."  

    The guides come to the treehouse for each transaction ( breakfast, tea/coffee breaks,  meals and picking you up for trekking)  but they are far from being there when you want it, especially in the evenings. Of course I would never expect them to be at my disposal all the time, we're in the jungle and in a treehouse, so why make such a promise?

    3) 2-night trip: "This option usually enables gibbon encounters with little effort." 
    1-night trip: "only one gibbon family lives in that area so your chances to meet gibbons are low in this program."
    General section: "we cannot guarantee gibbon sightings"

    From the 21 people I asked coming down from the treehouses on our way up and from the 22 people on the trip with me it would say you chances of seeing gibbons on the two night trip are about 20% to 30%.
    Our guide even said he didn't see gibbons for a month.
    I would think this differs from 'gibbon encounters with little effort.'


    4) "PLEASE consider the use of cables only as a smart way to access the
    canopy: making it the main purpose of your visit, you would lose out
    most of the experience "
    The odds are that I won't see the Gibbons and the zip lines should not be the primary purpose of my trip. So, what's left is a jungle/treehouse experience.  
    So why don't they rename this trip from Gibbon experience to treehouse experience?
    Of course, for the people on my trip the zip lines were so fascinating and thrilling that it became the main event of the trip. But zip line experiences are available  at other places for less money.


    Furthermore:
    * The treehouses only have sit down toilets and no toilet paper: bring your own.
    * If you are a solo traveller you will share a double mattress, moskito net  and blanket with someone else.
    * The mattresses are hard
    * Transportation to the reserve is by Songthaew, so if it is cloudy you'll be freezing sitting there for a good two hours.


    Was the overall Gibbon Experience worth it and would I do it again? Maybe.
    But I was disappointed a lot as my expectations were set quite high by the USD 290 price and their confirmation email's promises.
    My USD 260 Halong Bay 2-night trip felt like pure luxury from beginning to end.

    If I understood their presentation correctly on the first day:  25% of the money you pay them goes into maintaining the tourist infrastructure and the rest goes into their projects. So knowing I actually booked a trip  for USD 72 (25% of 290) and at the same time made a donation of USD 218 this puts everything back into perspective.

    If money is not an issue: book it.
    If money is an issue think of what you want to get out of the experience. If its gibbons, don't book it. If its the zip lines, look for alternatives. If its jungle with treehouses this might be your only option.

    Posted by Daniel on 11th December, 2011

  • Daniel, I feel like I don't know why you done this trip! Of course when wild (endangered) animals are involved you have no guarantee of seeing them. Also, I thought the guides went out of their way to help us out and make us feel comfortable!

    When we went we were stopping off at little places and dropping off food, wood and other things to people to seemed to genuinely appreciate it. I though the whole trip (treehouses, scenery, trecks, wildlife, guides etc etc) was well worth every penny/cent/kip.

    Posted by StaceyThomson04 on 11th December, 2011

  • Hi holing for some help, I'm traveling with a friend from luang prabang, with only an afternoon/evening to get tonteh gibbon experience we want to hire a driver/car to get up to huay xai, does anyone have any contacts to boom a driver? None of the travel agents seem to want to confirm with us...many thanks Juliet

    Posted by Jules on 4th January, 2012

  • hi this experience looks great am going to be in Laos for around 2 weeks at the begging of April.
    I would love to fit this in aswell as get down to Vang vieng to go tubing and was wondering if this would be possible to fit in also what order do you think it be best to do in as i am traveling from Bangkok and need to get back to either Bangkok or Phuket. I have just over 2 weeks for the whole trip leaving from Bangkok and back and wouldn't mind stopping of in a few place on the way if possible either in north Thailand or in between Vang vieng and Huay Xai i would prefer to fly back if not to expensive but want to travel overland on the way.


    Thanks

    Posted by lewks on 8th January, 2012

  • hi this experience looks great am going to be in Laos for around 2 weeks at the begging of April.
    I would love to fit this in aswell as get down to Vang vieng to go tubing and was wondering if this would be possible to fit in also what order do you think it be best to do in as i am traveling from Bangkok and need to get back to either Bangkok or Phuket. I have just over 2 weeks for the whole trip leaving from Bangkok and back and wouldn't mind stopping of in a few place on the way if possible either in north Thailand or in between Vang vieng and Huay Xai i would prefer to fly back if not to expensive but want to travel overland on the way.

    Posted by lewks on 8th January, 2012

  • This should be enough time. I would probably do Gibbon first. I felt ILL after tubing and still had to make it to do gibbon! But it depends how crazy you want to go on the river I suppose.... Travelling around Thailand is easy. They have so many cheap flights available or even train. so I would probably cross into Laos from the north a Huay Xai. And do Gibbon. Then take the overnight bus to Luang Prabang. It is nice here but you can do it in 1/2 days if pushed for time. Then catch the bus down to Vang Vieng. You can do it justice in 5 days I would say. But then you can also knock a few days off if you are pushed. I would then get the bus to Vientiane. From here you could catch a flight to Bangkok probably. I hope this helps.

    Posted by Stacey on 8th January, 2012

  • Yea that is alot of help thank you where abouts would i cross the border in the north can it be done by train or bus ect?


    Thank you

    Posted by lewks on 8th January, 2012

  • You would have to do it by boat over the Mekong! I think they call it the ChangMai crossing from the Thailand end. People I spoke to had got a bus to the crossing and the boat over. And then the Gibbon office is on the main street in the little Laos town. I would have your Laos visa ready because it took us ages. We were at the Cambodia border crossing though.

    Posted by Stacey on 8th January, 2012

  • Oh realy I would i need to get a Laos visa before i entered the country or could i get one on arrival when i cross the river by boat?

    Posted by lewks on 9th January, 2012

  • You can probably get one when you arrive in Laos when you get off the boat. We didn't pre-arrange and were stuck at a border crossing for about 2 hours or so with about 100 other people. It was a bit of a nightmare! Especially after spending 24 hours on a bus........

    Posted by Stacey on 9th January, 2012

  • I've been wanting to sign up for the 20th of Jan. no one has emailed me back. Canyon please let me know if the 2 day 3 night trip is still available .


    Kristina

    Posted by Kristian on 16th January, 2012

  • I've been wanting to sign up for the 20th of Jan. no one has emailed me back. Canyon please let me know if the 2 day 3 night trip is still available .


    Kristina

    Posted by Kristian on 16th January, 2012

  • Totally not worth it.
    Its a business and it runs and feels like a business.

    Considering little (if any) money actually goes back into the environment and community, I think the "green, eco-friendly, eco-tourism" effect is getting to people's heads a little too much. For the money ($290 when I went in January 2012 - tour guides get paid 100B per day - under 1% of that) I was dissapointed and at the end of the "adventure" I began to think about all the better ways I can contribute to the environment and community.

    Posted by Mike on 3rd March, 2012

  • We are considering going in june or July if not to wet. I have been in SE Asia for 6 mths and can tell you this program is definitely extremely overpriced. For the same price. You can motorbike your way around Laos for 2-3 weeks hiking into waterfalls, jungle, and even having elephant excursions for just $25. Considering you can fly to 4 or 5 countries for this price, I'm not sure it's worth it? Anyone been in june?

    Posted by matt on 21st March, 2012

  • We are considering going in june or July if not to wet. I have been in SE Asia for 6 mths and can tell you this program is definitely extremely overpriced. For the same price. You can motorbike your way around Laos for 2-3 weeks hiking into waterfalls, jungle, and even having elephant excursions for just $25. Considering you can fly to 4 or 5 countries for this price, I'm not sure it's worth it? Anyone been in june?

    Posted by matt on 21st March, 2012

  • I thought it was worth every penny. I went in March. They still do it in wet season but wear long socks for leeches!!!

    Posted by Stacey on 21st March, 2012

  • I want to comment about price("shock"):
    290US$ will buy you 2 nights in new Singapore budget hotel:"V Hotel".
    You have any comments?
    I have: Gibbon Experience you will remember.
    2 nights in V-Hotel?will you remember?V Hotel is really nice place,highly recommended.
    The same money will buy you 2 nights in Carlton Guest House
    in Chungking Mansion in HongKong(Block D,10Fl) and THIS IS rip-off.
    In short - our monies has lost its value recently,it is difficult
    to digest,but it is a fact.
    Experience in real RitzCarlton in HK will cost you - 1kUS$/night.
    So,do not complain about gibbons.

    Posted by Kucinta on 7th May, 2012

  • Tourist trap and really disgusting thinking the profit this company is making, while destroying the environment and robbing local people and naive travellers.
    Dear travelfish staff, I believe a website that promote this scam just become partner in crime and your whole credibility is afftected

    Posted by Gus on 7th August, 2012

  • A $290 dangerous scam?

    In time chronological order see our comments below, the more serious ones in italic:



    Day before trip



    - No receipt: Despite asking for a receipt at the time of purchase in Huay Xai we did not get one. Staff first said they were out of “receipt paper” and said they would remember our faces. We later found out that no one in the group got a receipt. When demanding a receipt upon our return as reference to this email staff simply pulled up a regular word doc on their computer, wrote a few lines and printed. No copy was kept by staff for record.





    First day



    - No introduction: Our first day guide (see attached picture) did not say a word, in the grouped we figured he was the guide because he was the only Laos person around. (I.e. he did not present himself, the itinerary for the day, time for lunch, pauses, how far/long time to walk, no explanation or intro to anything about the villages we were passing by, the jungle, plants, etc.)

    - Guide didn’t wait for group while walking: The guide did not wait for the group, just kept far ahead of all of us. At crossroads we had to ask the guide several times to wait for the rest of the group, that was far behind so that they wouldn’t get lost

    - Guide start eating lunch without informing us of lunch: The guide had a sandwich without informing us when we could have lunch. When we caught up to him and asked for food he gave us one sandwich while taking another one himself.

    - Push car on bad roads, when good road had to walk: We pushed the car all the way up the hill, when finally was good road condition and downward slope we had to walk. Trekking is fine, that’s what we signed up for, but trekking on a road for cars where cars can go (and were going) felt stupid.

    - Stressful guide without any reason: told us to hurry but did not explain why. When arrived at house about three hours before the sun went down and no activity planed.

    - No information when arrived at kitchen (gathering point before zipplining): No information was given, only each one got a harness for the ziplining. We did not get to see a map over the area or got any information about the coming days, where to live, times etc. It turned out the group were splitting up between house number 1 and 2. We got into number 2 but we did not get any option presented or any chance to choose.





    Second day



    - No info/options presented of what to do: Ended up walking randomly in the forest and visited house 7 and 1 before lunch. After lunch we had no guide but got instructions on how to use the four ziplines back and forth from “the big tree” close to our house. (the guide 44 was very polite and described things about the forest such as natural medications)

    - Very bad safety from first guide (in attached picture): Were ignoring the safety precaution NR.1, that accordingly to the safety video was the reason behind the most common accident. Did not wait until I (Louise) said OK then went I went first on the zipline – were close to bump in to me twice. Both times I was still on the line (about 8 m out) when he reached me. I even told him to wait the second time, until I said ok, but he did not listen. When we again said that it was not OK he just smiled and said that it was OK. It felt very unsafe and stressful.





    Third day



    - Wrong information about how far to walk: were told we were going to walk for 1 hour to a village then getting into a truck. Ended up walking for 3.5 hours and then waiting for about one hour, refusing to walk anymore due to the risk since we were lacking water.

    - Wrong information about how much water to bring: were told to bring one small bottle of water each. We brought one extra big bottle (since we had learned not to trust the few bits of info we were given) but ran out of water after 2.5 additional hours of unplanned walking (uphill).

    - Wrong information about when to eat lunch: information changed many times, no snacks or any food between 8 am and 2.30 pm.

    - Late lunch: 2:30 pm

    - Lack of security in pickup car: When the pickup car finally reached us, 17 people were squeezed into the small car on very bumpy roads. Local people and many guides. (we were nine people in the group). Several people standing outside and close to the edge and in each others laps (incl the ones in the group).





    Generally



    - No information to keep water bottles: We got info bring two big water bottles but not to keep these for the trekking back home.

    - No information about the project.

    - Food not satisfactory: Cold food every meal. Not enough food. Not healthy, nutritious food. (rice, cabbage and sometimes egg) One day we got meat but smelled bad. First night got a old bottle of vine that was cloudy and smelled like vinegar. It was not consumable. The guide corked it up again and brought it back instead of pouring it out.

    - No information on water safety: No advance information that the only water on site was cloudy tap water. Guess the water in itself was fine but no one informed us of the water safety.





    To sum up our experience: For $580 we were walked out in the jungle (after having pushed a car up a hill for no apparent reason), and left there with little to do for 3 days and two nights. Guides hardly said anything, we received almost no information on anything (neither practical, itineraries, maps, or interesting things about project etc) and the safety on the ziplines and for the trek back on the last day was dangerously low. The food was not enough and it was cold and bad. Even with good guides this experience should not have cost more than ~$70 per person. Now we wasted 3 days of our vacation and $580 of our hard earned money. Everyone in our group was disappointed, some furious and actively refusing to help in getting the car back on the last day.

    We would like to warn anyone thinking of going on this trip. Please make proper inquiries and research what different peoples experiences have been.



    @Lonelyplanet, we are deeply disappointed in the way you have promoted this tour as something spectacular. The whole section of you top picks in Huay Xai seems flawed and you should investigate whether the writer of this chapter has been given kickbacks (top pick for Hostel was the most unclean, top pick for bar was the one working together with the Gibbon Experience next door).

    Posted by Alok on 8th August, 2012

  • The Gibbon Experience (GE) is a scam. It's operated by a white person who's just acting as an agent for the Jungle Hotel Paksong (http://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/treetop/treetop.html).

    The GE tells you that money made goes into the conservation of the forest. How? In what manner? Are they affiliated with any conservation groups? No. In actual fact it just goes into his pocket.

    The GE also states that it is 'their' tree houses. In actual fact, after you make a booking with him, he forwards your booking to Jungle Hotel Paksong and eats up all the commission.

    Please just book directly with Jungle Hotel Paksong (which also allows you to 'zip' to the hotel) and save your money.

    Posted by z on 9th June, 2013

  • First time for me to visited Bokeo province from 16-18 Jun 13 for my inspection trip and we had 15minute seat and listing to presentation at Gibbon's office in Huayxay but we do not have enough time to visit this area and I do hope that one day i will visit by myself as private trip but not sure do you have special price for Lao people as i really like The Gibbon Experience. Please advise me,no comment i would like to visit it first as i saw vidio it perfect.

    Thank you very much and have a nice working day!

    Posted by Phouangmalay on 3rd July, 2013

  • A group of 6 of us are headed to the Gibbon experience this November. Anyone had a good experience recently?

    Thanks!

    Posted by Tricia Hart on 15th August, 2013

  • Is ti safe?
    I've heard very mixed comments on the web..

    Posted by Tazzina on 29th October, 2013

Add your comment

Feature story quicklinks


Newsletter signup

Sign up for Travelfish Burp!

Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.

We respect your email privacy