If you’re looking for a wild adventure, but want to make sure it’s being done responsibly, Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai just might be what you’re after! This was actually not my first time going to Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai, as I took my mother back in 2012 for her first zip line experience a few years back. At the time, though I was always a responsible traveller at heart, it wasn’t something I would look for exclusively in an adventure of this nature, and other than some tree-planting, it wasn’t really a strong focus for the Chiang Mai zip lining company either. This trip, however, would be different! With a much stronger value set to look for in a tour operator, I came loaded with questions – and to my surprise, they were able to deliver the answers I hoped for!
Over the last few years, Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai has developed a much stronger presence in the local community of Mae Kampong. It’s not just about zip lining anymore (though that is the main draw for most people, and I’ll get into my experience with that shortly). Recognizing the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit) as not only being a good business model, but in reality, the only sustainable model any business should focus on, this tree-top adventure company has really stepped up their game! In addition to being Thailand’s original zipline canopy tour, and the extensive list of other optional tours such as white water rafting, rock climbing, cave rappelling, kayaking and more – we opted for a Mae Kampong village homestay along with the Ancient Village Artisan Tour, so we could see how locals were being impacted by the tour company’s presence. We were really impressed by what we saw.
Not only does Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai employ many of the local young men as “Sky Rangers”, the tour guides for your day zipping through the canopy, they have also employed many of the village locals to do other jobs such as preparing lunch for all the guests, and playing traditional music… and that’s just for the zip lining portion! Working with the villagers to set up home stays has brought in a new, steady and sustainable source of income for the locals, while being able to provide other traditional services such as home cooked meals and thai massages – which were both AMAZING by the way!
Additionally, during our Village Artisan Tour, it was discussed with us how many old artisan traditions are being lost due to being labour intensive with low financial return. Take a traditional sticky-rice basket for instance. From cutting down and shaving the bamboo stalks, to weaving the whole basket from beginning to end, this process can take upwards of one full day just to produce a single basket! Now even at the bottom side of the spectrum, minimum wage in Thailand would earn an employee at least 300 THB a day (roughly $10 USD). One of those baskets wouldn’t sell for more than 50-100 THB. This means that it has become completely unsustainable. This goes along with some other artisan practices, such as fermented tea leaves (a local caffeine booster) and tea bag deodorizers – great to put in your shoes to pull out the smell! Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai set up projects with willing workers to pay them a decent wage simply to continue doing what they know and love, regardless of if people buy their products or not. This is helping to conserve local traditions which otherwise would have been lost to the sands of time, and made for a very enlightening and cultural visit through the village.
Now even if you don’t stay for the overnight exprience, and the cultural sustainable projects just aren’t for you, the zip-lining itself was top notch! With dozens of adrenaline packed courses, and challenges (doing the superman jump, where you lunge headfirst off a platform over a massive drop nearly made me die from fear and excitement – but the endorphins infused adrenaline gave me the ultimate feeling of accomplishment – I’m terrified of heights!). With rope bridges, to superman jumps, to rappelling down trees, to a zip line nearly 1 kilometre long, Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai continued to deliver through the entire course.
One of the top highlights had to be the gibbons themselves, though! In the middle of the course, right before your 1 kilometre zip line of death (it’s not really called that, but this scaredy cat nicknamed it that), a family of gibbons lives in the nearby trees. When we first approached, they seemed pretty unenthusiastic about our arrival. “Great! More helmet-apes”. But within a few minutes, they began to sing to one another. As we stood there in awe, it amplified, and we began to hear gibbons calling back from far away trees! Our mouths dropped at how beautiful the sound was, and we watched the family swing from tree to tree. It was incredible. One of the most beautiful wildlife experiences I’ve had, as we all sat in silence for nearly 10 minutes listening to the gibbons call to each other.
Of course – Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai is also responsible for the gibbons reintroduction to the jungle here, and is working on helping them grow their numbers in a responsible and sustainable way.
I have to really tip my hat to them for the incredible program that Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai set up here. Not only was it refreshing to see a company doing so much for their local community and environment, but they offer a high quality product too! I’ll definitely be checking out their other zip line courses and projects around South East Asia whenever I get the chance!
Of course, as you’ve gathered from the post above, Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai offers a considerable amount more than their well known zip line experience. Some of the other activities being offered include:
– Ancient Village Artisan Tour
– Wet Gibbon™ – White Water Rafting
– Cave Explorer Gibbon™ – Cave Rapelling
– Rock the Gibbon™ – Rock Climbing
– Kayak Gibbon™- Kayaking
– Gibbon Glider™ – Segway Tour
– Gibbon on Wheels™ – Mountain Biking
I imagine this list is only going to continue to grow – and with these kind of values behind their tours, I hope they do!
Though from personal experience, I would definitely recommend the homestay in Mae Kampong, I do recognize it’s not for everyone. There are some great choices around Chiang Mai for places to stay. Here are some of my favourites: Budget Heuan Pak-Dee [email protected]– Location is everything, and this hotel did it right when choosing theirs! A few minutes walk from the iconic Wat Phra Singh, this hotel is in the centre of the old city where all the action is. With a variety of rooms, both private and dorms, there’s a nice balance of social atmosphere here, without being a party hostel. Mid-Range Sri Pat Guest House– Located right in the heart of the old city, close to famous Sompet Market, the Sri Pat Guesthouse brings comfort and class together, with northern Thai charm, and at an affordable price. The Deluxe rooms are worth the little extra to get the beautiful teak floors and balconies! High End Rachamankha Boutique Hotel – One of the most stunning hotels in Chiang Mai, the Rachamankha has dazzled the old city with it’s historic artifacts, exceptional service, and gorgeous rooms. There aren’t many hotels which can compare with the high standards the Rachamankha exhibits in almost every capacity.
Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai includes meals with their experiences, though you may have some spare time (or a bottomless stomach) and want to explore more options too.
Personally, the best food I had was the food we ate in the homestay, and the food served right after the zip line experience! They were both delicious, and I knew that they were locally prepared.
The village has a few options which are pretty good and interesting, if you’ve got an insatiable hunger. Just up the road from Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai, we found a local restaurant which our friend Dwight from BKK Fatty managed to document in this short video:
Though Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai are open all year, and will operate in the rain, the best time of year is likely going to be between November until March, during the dry months, and June through August, though rainy, everything will even more lush and green!
Of course, zip lining comes with an inherent risk and cause for safety concerns. One of the main reasons I chose Flight Of The Gibbon Chiang Mai was for their solid safety record, and care in training both their sky rangers (guides) and the quality of the equipment and international standards being followed. Here is a quick video on their safety:
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate travel medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Each package varies in cost, and it’s best to get updated prices from Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai’s website directly.
Our village and zip line package when bought as a combo was actually the same cost as doing the zip lining alone at 3999 THB (roughly $100 USD)- so it was a no-brainer, though this special may change. You can see updated specials and promotions online too.
Of course, the majoirty of this post is talking about the responsible practices of Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai, and you can get an updated list of their Conservation in Asia online, but that doesn’t mean that you are off the hook too. We recommend all the regular responsible practices when visiting natural habitats. No littering!! Bring reusable water bottles to reduce plastic waste. Be kind and interact with locals whenever you get the chance. A smile goes a long way, and helps break down the ‘I’m a tourist – you’re a local’ stigma, where you can both see each other for humans interacting with one another. Protecting the people and the planet will ensure they’re around not only for our kids and their kids… but heck, even just long enough for your next visit too!
Though this high adrenaline activity may sound amazing – I’m terrified of heights (as was someone else in our group)… and you go VERY high up in those trees! I would like to say that I do feel pretty much anyone ‘can’ handle a day with Flight of the Gibbon Chiang Mai, it may be a bit outside some people’s comfort zones. I personally love pushing my comfort zone (that’s where the magic happens after all), but know your own limits. If you are going to get sick from fear, maybe this isn’t the right experience for you (or maybe it’s the perfect experience to help you overcome that fear). Either way, make the decisions that are right for you. I had a blast, and think most people would – but not at the expense of self inflicting terror. If you DO decide to go, even with your own fear of heights, know that you’re in very safe hands with trained professionals who will help and cheer you on the whole way!
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.
From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He's since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. Follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries!