15

Oct
2018
Be cautious: Not for those who have a severe fear of heights
Posted By : Threeland Travel / Travel Guide

The Gibbon Experience in northern Laos is like a childhood dream realized. This unique project within the Nam Ka National Park lets you stay overnight in tree huts up to 40m above the ground — and then soar above the jungle canopy using a combined 15km of zip-lines.


It’s a thrill to glide from one side of a valley to the next while getting a drone’s eye view of the canopy below. But I thought it was equally delightful just to wake up in one of the tallest treehouses in the world and seeing a glorious vista of a misty rainforest.

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Gibbon experience - Nam Ka National Park, Laos


What to expect

You’ll fly through the forest and stay in amazing treehouses. The Gibbon Experience is mostly about having a unique immersive jungle adventure. The Nam Kan national park is home to many gibbon species, though the Gibbon Experience is less about the ‘gibbons’ and more about the ‘experience’.


So far, there are 3 options of Gibbon Experience tour:

  • Classic (3 days): most relaxed overall schedule with easier trek, maximum gibbon and wildlife sightings.
  • Waterfall (3 days): more trekking and zip lining in a stricter schedule 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, you swap tree houses overnight, and have slightly less gibbon encounters.
  • Express (2 days): one night only, steeper initial walk, maximum zip lines, the biggest Lao tree, and no gibbon.

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Laos tour: Gibbon experience zipline

 

Best time for high chance seeing gibbons? 

Gibbons are free in the National Park; we are visitors in their environment. It is not guaranteed that you will see gibbons. Gibbons are relatively easy to spot in the morning at any season because they sing, if you’re lucky, the elusive gibbons will be singing their songs in the early morning which definitely makes you feel like you’re in a wildlife documentary. Heavy rain or severe cold will discourage them from singing even though they remain in the same area. To maximize gibbon sightings, you should choose the Classic option as the pace is quiet and you have more time to be on the lookout for wildlife in general.


Not only gibbons, you can also observe other wildlife lives in the forest such as: Sambar deer, barking deer, leopards, tigers, wild pigs, over 100 species of birds, civets, giant squirrels, Asian Black bears, langurs, macaques, loris, snakes, lizards, etc.


Still, the real purpose of the Gibbon Experience is to see the jungle from a different perspective. You know that expression about not seeing the forest for the trees? Well, that also applies quite literally to forests and trees. It’s often difficult to see much of the jungle when you’re smack in the middle of it. But when you’re high above the canopy, you can appreciate it so much more.

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Laos tour: Sunset from tree house in Gibbon Experience tour

Overnight in the tree house:

After day of trekking and zip-lining, you will relax rest of your day in a tree-house at 30 – 40 metres (100+ ft) height, that you can observe the forest canopy from your bed. No five-star hotel… but sometimes a thousand stars at night with open roof! You will be sleeping in canopy level tree house only accessible by ziplines and share your tree house with other guests from your group. Each mosquito net provides semi-private room for 2 people. In the morning, you’ll wake up to some stunning vistas of the rainforest with morning mist forming layered silhouettes.
There’s thankfully no internet and there’s not much to do at night but to simply chat with your fellow travelers and play some card games. You’ll be having family-style meals delivered via zipline by your cook. 

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Laos tour: Tree house in Gibbon Experience (Photo: indietraveller)


The bathroom deserves a 5-star badge. It’s on a platform just one level down from the living area. There’s a curtain behind you but ahead of you it’s fully open, so you’re just standing naked 30 meters above the ground in front of a glorious 180-degree vista of a rainforest. Below you is just a slatted platform, and then nothing below but some distant foliage. Having a shower just as the sun was setting, seeing the golden glow while tropical birds zipped past from left and right is incredibly amazing.

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Laos tour: A nature-open bathroom in Gibbon Experience


Is the Gibbon Experience worth it? 

If you can afford it, it’s worth it.
The price for each trek is around 100 usd per day, with seasonal variations is not that cheap, particularly when considered by local standards. A frugal backpacker could use the same amount of money to travel around Laos for two weeks or more.


One essential thing to keep in mind when considering the price is that this is an ecotourism project! At least half of the revenues go to reforestation and aid projects, ranger operations, wildlife conservation, and the generous salaries for the guides which help to support many local communities. The guides and staff all come from the local villages. Some of them used to be a logger, but now they work helps to protect the forests instead. It’s difficult to think of anything more poetic than that.

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Laos tour: Meals are brought using zipline by the tour guide

The ecotourism element here doesn’t seem to be just a convenient marketing hook. It’s genuinely set up as a project with a mission, unlike some other similarly named ziplining businesses in the Southeast Asia region. These other ziplining parks may be cheaper, but don’t include any treehouse accommodation nor do they spend a significant portion of the funds on sustainable development and conservation.

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Laos tour: Esay trekking before getting into the jungle


PRO TIP: If you’re coming from Huay Xai, you can leave your bags at the park entrance. After the tour, you can pick them up again, and flag down any bus heading to Luang Namtha. This saves you having to backtrack to Huay Xai!