Gibbons, Up Close and Personal
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? The Gibbon Experience Project began in 1996 with the commitment to save Nam Kan National Park, Bokeo Forest, and the diverse wildlife in Huay Xai, Laos. In the war against illegal logging and destruction of the tropical forest, tourism is winning out, saving the environment and supporting the local community. The Gibbon Experience Project ensures a sustainable future while providing full time jobs for 100s of people.
There’s nothing quite more thrilling than living in the jungle, totally immersed in nature, wildlife and the environment with your very own personal guide who was most probably born in the nearby village and helped build the accommodations. This is for people ages 8 to 80 in good physical condition who are able to walk comfortably uphill for an hour and at an easy pace for about five hours a day. Exploration throughout the park is via zipline and on foot. Here you’ll literally fly around on 10 miles of ziplines to access the world’s highest tree houses where you’ll be staying among the treetops. A photographer’s dream, come prepared to record the sights and sounds you’ll have to remember for a lifetime.
In the world of the Gibbons, you are the guest and they belong there, along with Sambar deer, barking deer, leopards, tigers, wild pigs, a multitude of bird species, civets, giant squirrels, Asian Black bears, langurs, macaques, loris, lizards, and more. You’ll become expert at spotting wildlife all around, through the trees and in their natural habitat.
Along your adventurous spirit you’ll need to bring a quart-size water bottle to keep with you at all times, refillable in each tree house. Your large luggage can stay behind in one of the accessible, launch locations in Huay Xai, Bann Donchai or Luang Namtha. You’ll need hiking boots, a backpack for daily use, hat, sunscreen, and extra plastic bags to take your garbage with you, out of the jungle and into the city to dump. Pack a flashlight or head torch; mosquito repellent (netting for sleeping is provided); camera with charged batteries (there are no electric plugs in the tree houses); binoculars for bird watching; toilet paper (they only use water spray); games, books or playing cards to relax; first aid kit; and earplugs for light sleepers who prefer not to hear the multitude of unusual jungle noises.
Jeanine H., age 67 says, “I know a five-star rating means the ultimate in luxurious accommodations; however, the Gibbon Experience has a five-star rating in my book as one of the most exciting, life-changing things I have ever done. Living in a treehouse, zip lining throughout the forest, and waking up each day to the Gibbons’ serenade was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Best of all, the project is supported and worked by the local community, saving and protecting their cherished environment.”
The best time to visit is between October and April when the weather’s warm and dry. If you’d like to do some water travel along the Mekong River, plan to go between November and January, when the water levels are high. The Gibbon Experience offers three guest options:
Classic: Relaxed schedule emphasizing maximum gibbon and wildlife sightings and experiencing the park, three days, 2 nights.
Waterfall: More active trekking and zip lining with fewer opportunities for Gibbon encounters, three days, two nights.
Express: One night only, two days, steep initial walk, maximum zip lines, and the largest Lao tree but no Gibbon sightings since this is in a different section of the park (minimum age 12 years old). Car transport is provided to meet your guide and enter the jungle.
Dietary needs and restrictions are accommodated. Fees run approximately $100 US daily with children 12 and under half price. The Gibbon Experience staff assists with planning your stay in nearby villages and accessing airports and additional locations: http://www.gibbonexperience.org; Info@gibbonexperience.org.; +856 84 212 021.
This piece is an excerpt from Sheryl Kayne’s upcoming book: Make Great Adventures Happen: Mind, Body, and Soul.
Sheryl Kayne is a writer, editor, educator, and motivational speaker. She is the author of travel guidebooks. Immersion Travel USA: The Best & Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living & Learning Excursions was awarded The Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Best Travel Guidebook 2009 and Volunteer Vacations Across America was named on Amazon’s list of best new travel books 2010.
Kayne travels extensively and works and volunteers where she visits. She was the writer-in-residence at the Everglades National Park, Homestead, Fla. and a writing fellow at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, N.M.
She has appeared on NPR, CNN, CBN, ABC Weekend Evening News, Lifetime Television Network, and MTV, among others.
Visit Sheryl at: www.sherylkayne.com/