Let me start with one of the coolest things we did on our last journey to Laos: ziplining through the jungle and sleeping in tree houses! This adventure is offered by the Gibbon Experience. This organisation is a tourism based forest conservation project. By taking part in this you support the conservation of the Nam Kam National Park forest area, give jobs to hundreds of locals, and support sustainable agriculture in the area, while flying through the forest at mind blowing speeds!
The Gibbon experience offers three main tours, the classic, the waterfall and the express tour. The classic tour involves less trekking and ziplining,but promises a higher chance of spotting gibbons and other wildlife than the other tours. The waterfall tour, on the other hand involves more ziplining and trekking through the forest. It also includes a swim at a waterfall. Who would have guessed? Being the adrenaline junkies that we are, and Abby firmly believing in her animal spotting capabilites (apparently, she showed rangers in Africa how this is done correctly), we chose the waterfall tour.
We started the tour from the Gibbon Experience office in Houayxay. People and houses faded away as we drove deeper into the rainforest. The road became more bumpy and at some point, we had to cross a river with our jeeps. Eventually, we arrived at a small village. We were brought to a large house with a leaf thatched roof, built here by the Gibbon Experience. If you climb up the stairs you can enjoy your first view over the treetops of the forest from the roof. We were introduced to our guides and recieved a tasty meal, before departing. After several hours of hiking we arrived at a beautiful little waterfall, where we took a refreshing swim, before continuing our grueling treck through the dense forest (okay it wasn’t that bad).
We came past a house where we recieved our ziplining gear and were shown how to use it. This is also the kitchen, where the meals are prepared before being brought to the treehouse. After some further trecking we reached the first zipline. Clip the harness onto the line and off you go! The feeling of flying so high over the treetops with that view is exhilarating. If you brake to much, you might not reach the end of the line and will have to do „the monkey“. Watching Abby do the monkey pretty much got me over the disappointment of not having spotted any gibbons yet!
After an exhausting day of trekking and ziplining, we finally reached our stay for the night, accessible only via zipline. The treehouse was open on all sides and you could rejoice in a 360° view of the jungle. Overall our group consisted of 4 couples. Each couple got a mattress with a mosquito net. Our guides went off to get the food. In the meantime, we enjoyed a shower with a view. If you feel a little exposed, just remember that you are the only people around for miles. The gibbons, on the other hand, see you even if you don’t see them;)
We heard the distinct buzz of the zipline, signalising the arrival of our food. The meal was delicious. After drinking some Laotian home made whisky with us, the guides left us for the night. In the morning we were woken by the deafening noise of the jungle. The insects here are much bigger,much louder and much more plentiful than what we were used to. The mornings are also a good time to watch out for animals in the trees. After a hearty breakfast we were on our way.
The second day is the most tiresome of the tour, involving alot of hiking, but also more ziplining, with some amazing long zips of up to 500 m in length and 70 m in height. The second treehouse that we stayed in had a second sleeping floor for one couple. Obviously, we grabbed this before the others noticed. On the third day, you have more ziplining with a ziplining circuit.
Overall, this was an amazing experience with a good cause, which can recommend and would definatly do again.