Wednesday, 7th December 2016
Experience the wildlife of Laos at the Bokeo Nature Reserve
If you are an animal-lover who enjoys surrounding themselves with nature, there are few better places to visit than Laos. It is here, in the far north-west of the country, you will find the Bokeo Nature Reserve and its accompanying Gibbon Experience, which is an absolute must-see for anyone who adores exotic wildlife.
The reserve was initially set up in 1996 to protect the black-crested gibbon, a species that was previously thought to be extinct but is now listed as critically endangered. It also manages the forest, employing local people to help conserve an environment under threat from illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming and many other practices.
So, why should you visit? Well, in addition to helping the conservation efforts of Bokeo Nature Reserve's staff, you will also be treated to one of the most wonderful experiences of your life: a stay in some of the tallest treehouses in the world, amongst the wildlife of the jungle.
Built 30 to 40 metres off the forest floor - enabling you to look out over the forest's canopy - the houses are built on top of or suspended from some of the jungle's largest trees. To get to and from them, a network of over 15 km of ziplines has been constructed. This is a low-tech way to get around, but it is safe, easy and fun!
The packages the Gibbon Experience offers include several days of trekking in the jungle to spot some of the exotic wildlife that lives there. First and foremost, there are the gibbons. You will see the black-furred males and yellow-furred females swinging through the treetops, looking for food and raising their young.
Black-crested gibbons live in family groups, each one consisting of a male, a female and usually no more than five of their children. You can spot the babies by their white fur, which gradually turns black or yellow by the time they reach one year old. You will usually hear them as well as seeing them, as they are known for their loud songs.
These wonderful creatures spend the vast majority of their lives up in the trees, where they move from branch to branch using a process called 'brachiation'. This essentially means swinging using only their arms to carry their weight, which is something that few other apes or monkeys do. Black-crested gibbons can move at around 35 mph using this method.
The Gibbon Experience is available to you in three packages. You can opt for the Classic experience, which is the best option for those most interested in spotting the gibbons. This lasts for three days, so you get two nights in the treehouses. You will trek for roughly an hour to get to your lodgings, then how you spend your time is up to you as there isn't a strict schedule.
For a more immersive experience, another option is the three-day Waterfall package. This involves a daily trek along the Nam Nga River, which involves a freshwater swimming pool and waterfall. The treks usually take between two and three hours, so you are advised to be in good shape to attempt this one.
Finally, the two-day Express experience offers more excitement, but a smaller chance of spotting gibbons. A tour of the park will take you up steep terrain for around an hour, and from this point you will use the ziplines to get around the forest. On the way, you will see the largest tree in Laos.