After reading several negative reviews online, I was worried that The Gibbon Experience would disappoint. I think it was good to know the negative feedback in order to fully enjoy the experience. Keeping complaints in mind, I thought the 3 day 2 night waterfall experience was excellent and would definitely recommend it.
Some people have said that general organization is poor, the guides have little to no interest in interacting with participants, and the wildlife was difficult to deal with. I will address these issues and then give my personal feedback.
I did have some problems with initial email communication before reserving my spot, but a little persistence on my part led to prompt replies and answers to all my questions. Upon arriving, I found the women at the desk to be more professional than expected. The guides were young men and were obviously shy with us. They didn't provide much information about the jungle, wildlife, etc., but I think that was mostly due to limited English rather than an absence of knowledge. After some gentle prodding and encouragement, I found them to be kind, accommodating, interesting, and fun. They gave all kinds of information about Lao culture and their own backgrounds and answered questions regarding our surroundings as best as they could. I got the impression they've been put down by many people on past treks regarding their English ability, and I think it's important to remember that they are often self-taught with little experience in formal English learning. They are locals who are very familiar with the jungle and trekking, and I never felt unsafe, lost, or disappointed while they were guiding us around the jungle. That being said, I think it's best to keep in mind that English will be limited and it will take some effort to get them to open up and feel comfortable around you. As for the wildlife, I did not do the trek during the wet season and had no issues with bugs, etc. Remember that this is the jungle, not a zoo or an exhibit, and you should expect to encounter things like leeches. I had one leech bite and several leeches attached to my shoes and socks, but they don't hurt and I didn't find them difficult to remove. The guides were quick to point out if someone had a leech and were helpful in getting them off.
I can't say how difficult the trekking was because everyone is at a different level of physical fitness. I felt that some short bursts were exhausting and difficult but recovery times were frequent and restful. Again, I didn't go during the wet season, and expect that would be much more difficult. We all wore good shoes for hiking and high socks, but our guides wore flip-flops and had no issues getting around. Footwear is up to you. We saw no gibbons but I heard some singing on the first morning, which was beautiful. The zip lines were great- varying distances and views, no matter which experience you decide to do. The second day and third morning my group and I went out on our own a few times to go on extra zip lining circuits without guides and had no problems with safety or with finding our way around. Some complained that the food was repetitive or tasteless, but I found it simple, filling, and delicious. There was a lot of rice- welcome to Asia. Not a lot of meat was provided but there were plenty of vegetables. To each their own when it comes to food, but I have no complaints. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and even local wine were provided and prepared by the guides, as well as fresh fruit and snacks. The tree houses were very comfortable and allowed everyone in the group to get to know each other. The guides brought us an extra bed the second night as there were 9 of us and only 8 futons at first. The bathrooms are quite nice considering they're up several dozen meters above the forest floor, but expect cold showers (I found it refreshing after hours of trekking). You can drink the tap water and refill your water bottles with it. Towels, bedding, mosquito nets, cutlery, etc. were all provided. Make sure to bring a flashlight, a small bar of soap, one set of clean clothes for when you want to relax in the tree house and not feel filthy, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Don't expect this to be a fully guided tour of the jungle, and don't expect the guides and other workers to cater to your every want and desire. I agree with other recent reviewers in that you will get whatever you put into this trip in regards to interacting with guides, experiencing the jungle, and meeting the other trekkers. I had a fantastic time the whole way through and am very very happy I made the decision to fork over the money. There might be other tours similar to this, perhaps with more thorough and detailed information about the jungle, but I have no complaints about the Gibbon Experience and highly recommend it to anyone who's interested (and who has an adventurous and accepting personality).
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