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“Amazing trip”

The Gibbon Experience
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Huay Xai
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed October 15, 2013

We did the two day trip with one night in a tree house. I can quite honestly say that this was one of the most wonderful experiences of our entire time in SE Asia. My wife wasn't very pro in advance due to a fear of heights but even she ended up absolutely loving the experience. Great guides, great accommodation (unlike anything ever stayed in before) and felt very safe the entire time. Cannot recommend this enough. Writing this quite late on as we visited Oct 11 but date don't go back that far, but still thinking about it. 2 years ago today!

Thank kiltedmuppet
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 14, 2013 via mobile

We took the 3 days 2 night classic tour although we specifically requested the waterfall tour around the eight. Somewhere around got lost in translation and the eight became a classic tour. Apart from this minor setback we had a brilliant time. We took the tour at the very end of rainy season so the 4wheel drive from the road into the park was interesting on its own.

After the car trips a good long walk follows where you walk straight through the jungle for at least 2 hours if it is dry. You gradually meet longer ziplines until you arrive at your treehouse. Which one this is, and thus how much walking and zipping, depends on groupsizes. After you arrive at treehouse you have some fruit, ricecakes, coffee and tea. The rest of the daylight, somewhere between 2 and 3 hours is for talking and enjoying the jungle. In our case this when we actually saw the gibbons!

Next day is more walking and zipping, but great! After lunch around 1 you are free to zip more or relax. The third day allows some time for zipping again and then you head back.

Some notes...

Food is very reasonable, please consider that you are a three to four hour walk inside the jungle
Rainy season might yield very different levels of happiness
Even classic is no walk in the park
Earlier reported safety issues have either been solved or we have not seen the issues. We felt safe all the time

1  Thank flijten
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 4, 2013

I have so much to say about The Gibbon Experience, but will try to summarise so I don't write 10 pages to sift through! Please also bear in mind that we did it in wet season.

Firstly, I will say that this is not for the faint hearted. There are two options, the Classic or the Waterfall. We picked the Classic, as it said on the website a few hours hiking per day & you pretty much choose your own program & do what you want when you want. We chose it because neither my partner nor I are particularly fit after our lengthy travels! Well the description is quite far from the actuality of how much work is involved!

There is a shop across the road from The Gibbon Experience office in Huay Xai which is run by a young man & his sister that has a sign out front saying it sells everything needed for The Gibbon Experience. Well, I strongly advise you to please go there & buy what he says as he knows exactly what you will need & it is much more than they tell you to bring.

We arrived at the office on time, the other people booked didn't turn up, so we watched our safety video & went & got in the 4WD. Well they dithered around for a while & we finally left, my partner & I crammed in the back with another guy & our bags & 3 guys crammed in the front & at least 6 people in the back! We drove for about an hour or more to get to the first stop, you walk for about 10 minutes until you get to a dirt track, then a 4WD picks you up & you do the most insane 4WDing you have ever experienced (especially if it's wet like it was when we did it). Honestly the guy who got us there deserves a medal because if he can't make it, you walk & some of the areas he made it through were completely & deeply rutted and muddy as hell. He was amazing! So after at least an hour of 4WDing into the reserve, you get to a little village, then you hike and hike and hike for about 2 hours depending on rain & your fitness level until you get to the kitchen, then you get your harness, etc. and keep walking, then the ziplining begins. This is completely amazing & worth it, but some of the stretches of hiking with my bag on my back like that first few hours made me feel like giving up, it was hot & I wasn't prepared for it thinking we'd taken the easier option.

The treehouses are simply amazing, your dinner gets delivered to you by zipline, you have amazing views of the jungle. Our guides were Tjeuja (hope I spelt that right) and Mee & they were the greatest. They were so patient & so helpful & when anyone was tiring, they never made you feel like you were a pain or that you were slowing the group down. If the guide can get you a bamboo walking stick to assist when it's wet, this is good, because some of the paths were unbelievably slippery & all sludge. Prob would be better in dry season though.

The food was quite simple but yummy, they know what to feed you to give you sustenance.

I saw some gibbons in the morning one morning & we heard them singing which in itself to me was a wonderful experience, but we didn't get any photos. Regardless of this, I feel that the experience in itself is worth it.

There were some things I had a gripe with :
- Sheets/pillows/blankets looked like they had not been washed in a very long time. Knowing that they sit out there in the treehouse & also that there are other people who have slept on them, that really grossed me out. (possibly bring a sleeping bag liner or something light)
- The mosquito nets for the beds were sheets, so it got really hot at night, especially because you had to be completely covered in clothing & repellent! All the same, you sleep well because they exhaust you during the day.

I would have to say in summary that this was one of the toughest, but greatest experiences of my life. I wouldn't do it again, but I am so glad that I did it & don't regret doing it. Their ziplines are very safe & they always ensure you are doing things safely & correctly. Make sure you check your harness though, the first one I got was slightly damaged so I got given another one. It's up to you to check your own harness for signs of wear.

Advice
- listen to the guy at the shop as I said above & make sure you have long socks because when it's wet there are leeches, most are only small, but once you see one on your shoe, it kinda freaks you out & I'd rather look silly wearing long socks than have leeches sucking on my ankles :-) and I didn't have any issues.
- ensure you have loads of repellent as it's good for mozzies & leeches & there are lots of bugs.
- most importantly don't let what I've said put you off, that's not my intention, it is just to ensure you are more prepared than I was!!!! It is amazing!

6  Thank Kureah-san
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 26, 2013

We did the 2 days, 1 night express visit. There is limited information on the different types of trip on the Gibbon website or in LP, so this is a rough breakdown of the shorter trip. It's long, but i hope it helps!
You start at 8.30am at the Gibbon office in Huoy Xai. You are shown a quick video explaining the project and what it gives back to the community (100 jobs, protecting jungle and education programs) as well as a break down of how the $160 trip cost is spent; which is reassuring. There is then a safety video. Watch carefully as the emphasis is on personal responsibility and asking guides when you are in doubt, rather than the guides specifically reminding you of safety. That's fine, as its not too complicated and video is clear.
We then milled around the office for 15 mins before being put in trucks. The office is really chaotic and poorly organised (though they are efficient at processing payments and answering pre booking questions). Don't let this put you off as the tour gets better. There are about 5 staff in office, but no one issuing instructions or looking approachable and its unclear who works here and who is just trying to hitch a lift in the trucks. Useless. You are meant to get gloves at this point. Ask for them if not. We, and two other couples were missed in the office confusion and thus didn't have gloves for trip, which is a pain as the zip rope can burn if you accidentally touch it when breaking. Even better, bring some gloves from home as the ones you are given are just woolen with some grips.
Eventually we were bundled into open top trucks. It was torrential rain and so we got soaked in the open jeeps. Even if it isn't raining, do bring a rain jacket as it may rain next day and you will get cold and wet when exposed to elements during the 45 min journey back. Also bring a change of clothes as we were all wet and muddy within 2 hours of the trip!.
The confusion continued when we arrived at start point of trail. We were split between 1 night / 2 night groups in a village and the 1 night group left by a shop. No instructions for 15 mins until 2 of the guys in shop suddenly jumped up and introduced themselves as guides. Again, confusing and frustrating but once we had our guides from then on, they were great and trip was clear. Gibbon just needs to sort out the first 2 hours!
We were given our safety harnesses in shop. You trek with these on as zip lining is part of the jungle trek. In fact first zip line is 5 mins into walk as you go through a village and then immediately zip line across a river. It's a short one and felt safe. One guide goes ahead to help you land and the other stays back last to check you attach yourself to line correctly. i had a few safety questions and the guides answered these and checked my harness, knots and procedure for attaching to the line, so I felt safe and adequately guided. You just need to be proactive and ask and guides assume you are ok unless you state otherwise.
It's then a 2 hour walk uphill in jungle. We were lucky as it was a cool day and so walk was fine but it is steep, so take lots of water if its hot. The Gibbon gives you lots of chocolate bars and a water at start of trek you will need another 1 litre at least. You get lots of rest stops and walk at pace set by guide which is relatively slow, so all ok. You also stop for a chicken sandwich lunch around 1pm. The first large zip line is 2 hours in. Again, guides check you on and give instructions as to whether its a fast line, whether you need to break or can lean back etc. I felt fully informed and again, safety felt ok. Admittedly no helmets, but this is Laos and so not European standards. Plus risk is crashing not trees with your legs, not head and if you are cautious and correctly break this is highly unlikely to happen.
From the first main zip, there are a further 8 zip lines every 10 mins or so until you reach the treehouse. Group size is thus crucial as each zip takes roughly a minute or two per person and so bigger group, more wait time. Max is usually 10 people but we had 11 and so there was a lot of waiting around queuing for the zip lines and then waiting for group before progressing. If you can, ask about group size before booking. You may be better off with 2 nights/ 3 days this goes further into jungle with smaller groups and so there is less waiting.
Tress house is lovely, though small. It's a proper treehouse. You zip in and it is very high up. There are 4 open plan double beds on one level and a further 3 beds on a higher level. They are very tightly packed but each double has a dark mozzie net over it, so you have some privacy. It's important to get in with the group ( ours was great) as you eat and sleep in very close quarters. Voices travel! There is one squat toilet on bottom level, with a cold but powerful shower. All open so sounds carry and people tried to avoid using bathroom where possible...though its perfectly clean.
We arrived at 3pm and had some snacks of oranges, peanuts and rice cakes. 45 mins downtime to enjoy treehouse. We read but again it's a squeeze with 11 people so don't expect quiet! Then we did some more zipping as there is a route of additional 4 lines in a square around treehouse.
Dinner was at 6.30. Very basic; sticky rice, cabbage, carrots and a bland meat stew - but extremely filling and given that all ingredients are carried in by hand up the trail, pretty good stuff. You share food from communal pot and dinner is a good bonding experience. Guides go to sleep in a camp elsewhere and group stays and chats (no beers allowed though!) before bed around 9pm or when last person stops talking. Sleep quality was ok. The beds are hard and once it started raining, the sound of pelting rain on tin roof kept us all up. However the mozzie nets are great and also keep out light so my sleep was better than expected. Should also mention they provide the linen and towels, so no need to bring.
It's then up at 6.30am for snacks and coffee and then the zip lining square again. Slightly repetitive and I personally was done with zipping at this point, but many of group loved it. Breakfast is at 9; sticky rice, eggs, cabbage and French fries. Arguably the saltiest meal I've had in ages but very filling and kudos to our guides for carrying fresh eggs up the trail!
You then head back at 10am on an adjacent route to one you came up. There are 6 zips on way back; the 600m one across open canopy is spectacular. After zips, it's a 1.5 hour fast walk back to village. Guides didnt lead as route back was simple so our group set a very fast pace back; something to note if you are a slower walker. Over river for final zip and then we reconvene in shop by 2pm and are given another chicken sandwich. Guides then leave us and we are taken back by trucks. We are then back at Gibbon before 3pm so you can catch evening bus. Reception is again useless but there is a shower behind building -which they dont tell you about - so ask them to open it if you need to freshen up before bus (and you will, jungle humidity is bonkers)

So in conclusion, this trip is great is you want lots of zip lining. some of the zips are truly amazing; really long and with stunning views. They also serve a purpose as they shorten walk to jungle and so this tour is much better than the ones in Chang Mai where you just zip around between platforms in a confined area. A really unusual, once in a lifetime experience. However you don't see Gibbons or learn much about jungle. The guides (whilst chatty and friendly) don't really guide you so much as check you are on the zip safely. They occasionally point out a millipede or buttferfly, so if you want wildlife definitely do the 2 night trip as its deeper in jungle, so theres far more chance of seeing a gibbon. Also if you at your own space or are worried about composition of group, then 2 night may be better as groups are smaller. The demographic for this tour was late 20s backpackers, which suited us fine but something to note if you like your space or are worried about fitness levels and keeping up with large group trekking. Overall, we did enjoy this trip and would recommend it. it's not exceptional value for money, but we understand where the money goes and is on balance worth it for a different experience and the positive impact the project has on community.

8  Thank HazamM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 2, 2013

We did the express (two day, one night) Gibbon Experience at the end of August (in wet season). Reading other reviews we were concerned about the length of trekking and the mud.

However our experience was excellent, despite heavy rain overnight and on our second morning, which is to be expected during the rainy season. We trekked for 2 hrs on the first day (largely uphill) but they have thought out the set up well, and there were benches to take breaks about every 15mins (you will need them in the humidity even if you are fit!).

We're travelling for several months in SE Asia on a tight budget, so were keen to get value for money given the price. We felt Gibbon Experience was definitely worth it, despite not seeing gibbons. The views across the jungle while zipping from peak to peak are stunning, the treehouse, and particularly the shower platform, are the stuff of childhood imagination.

It pays to be prepared however; there will be mosquitos (one fellow traveller seemed to be surprised by this?!), the cicadas and other insects are loud at night (so if that will bother you - consider earplugs) and the food options are limited that far from town (we took our own red curry paste to spice up the admittedly bland 'tourist-friendly' dishes). Their mossie nets are more like tents, which we found very hot, so we actually slept under our own net, open to the elements.

We got a good tip beforehand and took extra sandwiches. I'd especially recommend this if you are a meat lover. These came from Tom on the main street in Huay Xai, you'll probably see his sign saying "I have everything you need for gibbon experience". The bread was good and 10,000Kp was a good price for what we got.

We were provided with gloves when we booked, so no need to purchase those in advance. Our guides were friendly and attentive, and we have fun tackling the language barrier. We felt safe, even though the rain made ropes slick and breaking more important, we were never out of control.

5  Thank Vanessa P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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