Ready to soar like a bird from tree to tree in a rain forest? Zipline or canopy tours give you a bird's-eye view of the forest, move you across canyons, and give you a glimpse of scenery that can't be viewed from the ground. Before you hook onto a line and start soaring through the air, however, reputable zipline tour operators give you basic training, which may include a fast ride on a wire close to the ground.
Time Required: 30 minutes to a few hours
What is a zipline tour?One zipline lover described the experience as "being as close as you can get to flying across the top of the jungle." Participants don a harness with a caribiner that is attached to a wheel on a cable strung between trees. You push off from a platform on one tree and zip along the cable to a platform on another tree. You can be anywhere from just a few feet off the ground to a hundred fee for more in the air, literally flying between the trees at a height were only birds and climbing animals typically dwell.
Different types of zipline toursZipline tours vary both in length and style. Many tours in Costa Rica, and other countries with jungles or rainforests, include a jeep tour to the zipline site during which a guide tells you about the wildlife and flora ahead of time. At some mountain resorts, the zipline experiences are near the base of ski slopes during the summer, and the first zipline is reachable via a chairlift. Some experiences only have five or six ziplines; others have many more strung between trees.
What does the basic training include?Ideally, the experience will include some "how to" information plus a safety briefing. You'll learn how to put on the harness, latch onto the cable, and how to brake if you want to slow down mid-flight. After you learn the basics and watch a demonstration, you may get a chance to practice once or twice on a short zipline that is just a few feet off the ground prior to heading off to the actual zip course.
Who enjoys zipline tours?Many zipline experiences can be enjoyed by entire families, but before you book be sure to ask about the number of ziplines and the heights at which they are strung. That way you can ensure that your entire party is comfortable with the experience before setting out. Also, be sure to insure about any age, weight and height restrictions too.
What do I need to wear and bring?You should wear long pants and gym shoes or hiking boots. Shoes must not have open toes. If you have long hair put it in a pony tail. Use a strap to keep your glasses secure. Don't have any sharp objects, such as keys or pens in your pockets. Keep your camera in a case close to your body, not dangling on a strap. The company should provide the harness, a helmet and gloves. But, confirm that they provide all three.
Do I need to be in great physical condition?The answer depends upon the tour. A basic zipline experience requires little physical exertion, although it's not for anyone who has a serious fear of heights. If the tour you want to take includes hiking, mountain biking, kayaking or other activities, you'll have to be in the proper shape to participate.
What's the minimum age?Always verify the minimum age before you book the tour. Most tours will accept kids over 6 years of age, but some require participants be 18 years or older.
Are there minimum and maximum weights?Brad Morse of Canopy Tours, Inc., says that anyone on the big side concerned about fitting into a harness properly should check in advance with any waist-size requirements and ask if there is a chest harness or full body harness. Usually there are maximum weight allowances for the cables as well, so ask ahead of time if that is a concern.
How much do these tours cost?Prices vary dramatically depending upon whether it's just a zipline experience, or if the zipline tour is part of a longer tour that might include a jeep safari to the site where the ziplines are set up and lunch. Prices vary substantially based on what is included, the length of the experience, and other amenities provided.
Companies offering zipline toursZipline tours are offered in many places around the globe and these days it is possible to find one just about anywhere. Top destinations include Whistler and Alaska in North America, as well as Hawaii, Costa Rica and New Zealand. Canopy Tours, Inc. has a directory of Zip Line tours around the world.
How do you find zipline tours?Start at Top Zipline and Canopy Tours. If you already know where you are vacationing, many travel packages offer a zipline tour option and in many places you can usually book them through the hotel concierge or front desk. You can also book before you go directly with a company via its Internet site.