In 2007, a group of friends were enjoying one of their frequent rainforest walks in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai, Thailand, when they came across a pair of Gibbons (a type of lessor ape – no monkey – found in the tropical rain forests of Southeast and South Asia) locked in a roadside cage. They had been abandoned to die a horrible death from starvation and dehydration. Shocked and outraged, the nature lovers immediately rescued these rare, officially endangered animals. While slowly nursing the pair back to health, this group of activists started to develop a plan to create positive ecological change in our world…and Flight of the Gibbon was born.
Now one of the leading global eco-adventure tour operators in Southeast Asia, Flight of the Gibbon offers franchises in Cambodia and Thailand, all which offer truly phenomenal zip-lines, some of the highest, fastest and longest found anywhere in the world. But it’s not all about thrilling adventures; the organization invests 10% of their profits in primate re-habilitation, re-forestation projects and ecological education programs.
We were not surprised to see that the site in Siem Reap was operated by an Aussie. We arrived very early, hoping to get our morning adventure complete before the oppressive heat and humidity of the Cambodia day set upon us. We arrived so early that we were able to witness just how rigorous their safety checks and “sky ranger” morning brief actually were. As our rangers (guides) told us during our tour, since the jobs created by Flight of the Gibbon pay so well and are considered skilled and “fun,” they are highly sought after. Thus, there is no issue getting the locals to follow the strict protocols for safety, operations and maintenance demanded of such activities.
Likewise, it’s no surprise that the courses were designed and engineered to exacting standards by a world-class international team of experts in Europe. Structurally speaking, Flight of the Gibbon uses the safest zip-line engineering methods used anywhere in the world. At the same time, however, the zip-lines are constructed in such a way to avoid harm to the trees which physically support the course.
The group of like-minded thrill-seekers we were supposed to fly with were running very late, and after chit-chatting with our new Aussie friend, he decided that we would go as our own group as soon as morning checks were complete on the course. Not ten minutes later we were gearing up with our own private “sky rangers,” two young men in their very early 20s who spoke fairly decent English. The Sky Rangers are not just there to help ensure everyone’s safety. They also act as eco-tour guides, explaining various aspects and elements of the jungle as you move through the upper reaches of its canopy.
Flight of the Gibbon in Siem Reap is unique in another aspect: it is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Archeological Park. Located minutes away from the majestic Khmer temple of Angkor Wat and massive complex of Angkor Thom, it easy to combine a couple of hours swinging in the jungle with an afternoon of touring the local pagodas. Your reservation comes with roundtrip transfer, park entrance (if you don’t already have a pass), bottled water, and a rustic Cambodia meal, and is currently $109/pp. That price also includes a full $20 credit to be used in the on-site store, a fantastic marketing ploy. We walked away with two rather high-quality tee-shirts and a couple of drink koozies.
I have been ziplining around the world, from sites in the American Rockies, to mountain tops in Costa Rica, to Japan (see Zip-a-dee-doo-dah for the experience available on Okinawa). I have more than a few experiences under my belt. The course at Angkor is mid-sized, consisting of ten ziplines crisscrossing over and through the jungle canopy. There are also four hanging bridges, a rest break at a treehouse perched high above the surrounding jungle, and an 150 feet rappel descent at the very end. But what makes this adventure so spectacular is the shear height of the course, most of which occurs well above 125 feet. The view from and cool breeze found at the treehouse is exceptional, and is exceptionally located at what we were told was a full 70 meters off the ground!!
Although new to Cambodia, Flight of the Gibbon was quick to introduce their first reforestation project in Cambodia by planting 5,000 new trees within the Angkor Park in 2015. And they have even bigger plans when it comes to apes: the white-handed gibbon has been lost to the forests of Angkor for decades now. But in 2013, Flight of the Gibbon helped fund the reintroduction of a pair of mating gibbons within the jungles of the Angkor Archeological Park. Their first babies have already been born, the first live, free births in those forests in almost a century. Although the website talks about a chance to see the wild gibbons, don’t count on it. Those apes have no need for ziplines, and no doubt stay well clear of most of humanity.
But what about those abandoned Gibbons found roadside in Thailand? After their rescue, Tong Lorde (“Golden Straw”) and Tong Dee (”Good Gold”) were rehabilitated and re-released in Thailand, but only after having been taught how to look after themselves in the wild. They too have had their own babies, born free in the wild. And maybe one day soon, we all will be able to hear their calls and even catch a glimpse of them swinging through the rainforests of Angkor.
For now, Flight of the Gibbon is as close as we can get. The eco-adventure is well worth the cost and a visit!
Contact for Cambodia:
Int’l. Phone: +66 53 010 660
Cambodia Phone: 096 9999101