Zip Lining, Leeches and Sleeping in Treehouses at the Gibbon Experience

Our treehouse high above the ground at the Gibbon Experience
Our treehouse high above the ground at the Gibbon Experience

Located in the Bokeo Nature Preserve in Northern Laos, the Gibbon Experience was one of the highlights of our trip so far. For three days and two nights we alternated between trekking through the jungle and ziplining above it before settling in for the night in a treehouse. It really was one of the coolest things ever…except for the leeches.

Leeches are a sneaky species that, I have determined, have no point in the circle of life except to annoy hikers. The jungle floor of the Preserve was covered in these slithery little guys, all just waiting to climb up your shoe and quickly find some skin to bite on. Sock in the way? No problem for the leech.

Shoe inspections were constant affairs and any time we stopped it was a safe bet that we all had new ones to scrape off. Still, some of them managed to get by and I wound up with got two bites on my ankles, a girl in our group got one on her knee and, the highlight, one gal found a leech on her ass that had nearly quadrupled in size thanks to feeding on her.

Me ziplining
Me ziplining

Except for the leeches the trekking part was pretty standard. Along with three other girls and two local guides that spoke very little English, we walked through the lush forest, up and down steep inclines, across rivers and in and out of the blazing sun. However, unlike other treks, when we went up we knew that at some point soon we would have a reward other just a steep walk down. That reward…ziplines!!!

Ziplines are cables that run high above the treetops, often from mountain to mountain or in and out of treehouses. Ziplining is putting on a harness and attaching rollers to the cable in order to dangle and zip your way across the cable with the forest on both sides. Looking down usually revealed a massive valley of some sort with a river, stream or jungle below. We would hike for a while, then zip to the next part of the path, then hike, then zip, and so on until we arrived at our tree house for the night.

Our treehouse at the Gibbon Experience
Our treehouse at the Gibbon Experience

Basically a giant circle, the treehouses were made of wood and had a shower, running drinkable water, beds for six, mosquito nets and a bathroom that drained onto the canopy floor. Ziplines were the only way to get in or out, and at random times our guides would zip in to say hi, make us tea or deliver the day’s dinner. Once in the tree house, which was usually by 3 or 4pm, we were allowed to use the zipline network by ourselves. Can you imagine that back in the States? I think I went for nearly 20 extra zips on my own. Too fun.

As for the name of the trek, The Gibbon Experience, we did not see a single gibbon the whole time, though we did hear a couple at night. One early morning we went on one walk to see if we could find them, but we left too late and they were already gone. The next morning we opted for sleeping in. We did, however, see thousands of fireflies from our tree house window flying around in the pitch dark as well as dozens of tarantulas looking down on us from their home in the roof. Never have I been more glad to sleep under a canvas sheet.

A 360 view of our Gibbon Experience treehouse followed by a zip out and me crashing

Carrie zip lines into our treehouse

Ziplining into our treehouse