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 show you scenery that can't be viewed from the ground. Before you hook onto a line and start zipping, however, reputable zipline tour operators give you basic training, which may include a fast ride on wire close to the ground.
Time Required: 30 minutes to a few hours
What is a zipline tour?One zipline lover describes it 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 20- to 80-feet off the ground and, literally, flying between the trees at a height in jungles where birds and monkeys hang out on the branches.
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. At some mountain resorts, the zipline experiences are near the base of summer-green ski slopes 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 while zipping on a cable. 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.
Who enjoys zipline tours?Many zipline experiences can be enjoyed by entire families. But before you book, ask about the number of ziplines and the heights at which they are strung to make sure you are comfortable with the heights for both you and your children. Also, make sure of the age, weight and height limits.
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 secured. 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. Some tours 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.
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 tour to the site where the ziplines are set up and lunch. They can cost as little as $45 for just the zipline experience up to $120 or more for a zipline experience and other activities.
Companies offering zipline toursZipline tours are offered in many places around the globe from Whistler and Alaska in North America to Hawaii, Costa Rica and New Zealand. Canopy Tours, Inc. has a directory of Zip Line tours around the world. With Kauai Backcountry Adventures you can zoom down a mountainside on a series of 7 ziplines.
How do you find zipline tours?Start at Top Zipline and Canopy Tours. If you already know where you are vacationing, many vacation packages offer a zipline tour option and other countries 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.