The funky gibbon

Trip Start Oct 17, 2006
Trip End Apr 27, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, February 22, 2007

After a terrible journey (haha!) we arrive in Houei Xai.

This is a bit of a one horse town, basically it sits on the east bank of the Mekong river and is used by travelers as a border crossing into Thailand, to Chiang Khong on west bank.

The only reason we came here was to visit 'The Gibbon Experience'.  This is a French conservation project based around proving to the Lao people and government that they can make considerably more money, jobs etc by protecting the forest and wildlife than from logging or slash'n'burn farming. The Bokeo nature reserve has a number of rare black Gibbons which you have a small chance of seeing, and because you stay in the forest, you should get to hear them 'sing' at dawn.

So, to help with all this gibbon watching we got to stay 2 nights in 2 different tree houses. The houses are around 40 meters in the air and sleep 4 - 8 people. They really are proper tree houses in real live trees - no steel work. You get in and out using zip lines from a nearby hill.  There are also zip lines to cross wide valleys - some of which are enormous 1 allegedly over 1km long! The idea of the houses and lines is that you get a gibbons eye view of the forest canopy, however it is such a fast and exciting way of getting about that it really makes the whole thing.

On the way in we stopped at a kind of 'guide' school where we were introduced to some rescued animals - 2 monkeys and a 1 month old black bear cub who lost his mum to poachers. The bear was really cute and everybody wanted a cuddle, the monkeys were not so cute, attacking humans and bears with equal vigour.

So how many gibbons did we see and hear?
well I saw an 'arm' of a Gibbon on the fist day as it swung away from us... and that was it.

To be fair though, the first tree house was more about the waterfall underneath (see photo) and it was raining the 2nd morning - so no singing.

The second night was quite exciting, there was a storm - thunder, lightning, wind, the works - and just as we settled down for tea we had to evacuate and hide in the cook hut until the storm passed. It only lasted 10 - 15 mins and soon we were back in the tree tops settling down for the night, except another storm came and this time we had to decide for ourselves whether to stay or go - we stayed in the end because the storm went around but a little worrying none the less.  The final storm came just before midnight, the guides woke us up by telling us to stay there - then promptly left! This was discussed at some volume, but by the time a decision looked imminent the storm passed and it was all over - time for bed.

The morning was all calm and mist, very beautiful but alas no gibbons. Just a couple of hours walk back to the village and the bus out.

We've attached some photos and videos to this log entry - one of which is very big (78 Meg), you also need quicktime installed in order to view it. The other smaller video was taken by Seth, another member of our tour group, not me.

Next stop Thailand!
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