Hey Hey We're the Monkeys
Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
124Trip End Oct 22, 2012
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The GE is based in Bokeo National Park in Laos and was set up in an attempt to prevent logging and hunting of the gibbons by starting canopy tourism to protect the rainforest. The project was set up 5 years ago and seemingly the area of forest they use has since been declared national park as a direct result of their action. We turned up at their run down little office in Huay Xai and were asked to read and sign a form to effectively sign our lives away so they aren't liable for any injury death etc and agree to be bound by the courts of Laos etc etc... eek! In the safety video I was disappointed to note that 20% of our $270 goes into profits and 44% to salaries (clearly not the Laos guides - I suspect more the French owner). With 10-15 people going each day that's a tidy sum going somewhere in a country where the average income is a lot less than $1000 / year
The GE have a series of zip wires set up in the rainforest to enable you to hang out in the canopy and see the wildlife from their own perspective. You stay in tree houses 100 feet up in a tree accessed only via a zip wire and with awesome views over the canopy. At night you can lye in bed and listen to the jungle orchestra of cicadas crickets bats birds and god knows what else! In the morning you can hear the gibbons singing to each other. At GE one of the zip wires is 1000m long, and many are over 200 m long. It is pretty cool zipping over the canopy and you do feel pretty privileged seeing nature from that angle.
Now, it is actually rainy season here right now and the night before we left Huay Xai for the Gibbon Experience there were monsoon rains all night and a massive thunder storm. So we were warned in advance that the truck might not get us all the way to the nature reserve. We left at 9 am and drove on proper roads for 2 hours crammed into the back of an open truck. We were dropped in the arse end of nowhere by a shop and were led behind the shop to a rickety wooden rope bridge all carrying the food for our 3 day adventure. Only 4 people were allowed on the bridge at a time, which had huge holes in it
so I'm not surprised. On the other side we had to trek through rice fields and rivers to meet a second truck which would take us along the track to base camp. Alas, it started raining heavily again and the truck struggled and eventually stopped up pone of the hills and so we started the 6 hour hike to camp with only one 10 minute break after 4 hours. It was definitely the longest and toughest walk I've ever done! Also for the last hour the walk is though the rainforest and we had to keep picking leeches off each other
As the truck was left behind, so was our food. So all the fresh bread, meat fruit wine etc. We arrived wet, muddy smelling and exhausted and checked into our tree house (Will and me had our own). We spent 3 days eating nothing but sticky rice and vegetables as the truck couldn't get to us the following day either. We were stuck in the tree house for the first night and following morning listening to the still relentless rain, our guide telling us it wasn't safe to zip in the rain as the breaks dont work and the paths would be slippy. Finally though it eased and we got to go zipping which was awesome!
We were really unlucky with the weather and also weren't able to do half of the zip lines including the 1000m long one, nor see the gibbons but we did hear them and they were close by. We did meet some cool people though and thankfully only had to walk 3.5 hours on way back before the truck came to get us. I'd definitely recommend the gibbon experience but if its raining its no good and they don't tell you before you go that you cant zip in the rain and that the food wont reach the village. All in all a massive adventure but kind of for the wrong reasons.