Here at South East Asia Backpacker magazine, the team love to squeeze an adventure into our schedules and what could be better than flying through the rainforest on a Sunday afternoon? Seven of us took on the challenge, and were transformed from a group of quivering wrecks into a bunch of screaming daredevils.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epwLuvNsg4I&list=UUeSOqZym2Am_cpDcEkG2uZQ&index=1&feature=plcp[/youtube]
This week, we hit up Flight of the Gibbon for a truly out of this world affair. Just north of Chiang Mai, Flight of the Gibbon organise adventure tours of their spectacular 39 platform course, soaring on zip wires through the rainforest for an exhilarating full day adventure.
The S.E.A Backpacker team all harnessed up and ready to go
Scared? We really were. With one of our team petrified of ‘suspended wooden planks’ after an unfortunate incident in India, the prospect of hurtling through the jungle’s 1,500 year old ecosystem was a scary thought. Luckily, Flight of the Gibbon has a 20 year, perfect 100% safety record, and you can see why. Their expertly trained Sky Rangers made us feel at ease from the start, (when someone can learn eight people’s names in a matter of seconds, while strapping you in like a new-born, you know you’re in good hands). Mix that in with a pick-up from central Chiang Mai, a euphoric three-hour rainforest adventure, a decadent lunch and a tour of a majestic waterfall, and you’ve found a day-trip to surpass anything else in Thailand. Hey, it’s been voted the best attraction in the whole of Thailand – it was always going to be good.
Braving the rickety suspended bridge through the trees
After lots of shaky knees and plenty of profanities, we found ourselves letting go as we flew through the jungle at an incredible pace. The excitement was contagious as each flight left us more exhilarated and leaping around like it was Christmas morning. The course climbed and climbed, until we found ourselves suspended by only a wire, over a mass of dense rainforest- where we found the single longest zipline in the world.
Whizzing through the tree tops on the longest zipwire course in the World
Suddenly, half-way through the course, we were told to “run and jump!”, definitely not something you’re used to hearing as you teeter on a wooden platform suspended hundreds of metres above the jungle. Our Sky Ranger clipped our backs to the zipwire and told us to fly like Superman.
The old phrase our Mothers told us: “If someone told you to leap off a bridge, would you do it?”, sprang to mind instantly. But on this occasion, we put our faith into the hands of our Sky Rangers and did just that, leaping into the air, arms outstretched… The rush was like nothing else. Imagine a bungee jump, held only by the back of your harness, falling directly into a lush rainforest. Flying through the air, we really did feel like superheroes. Moving on through the canopy we came to the ‘honeymoon wires’, on which you could fly through the air attached to a friend, whilst trying to out-scream each other and contort into the best shape possible.
Swinging through the trees like Tarzan and Jane, on the ‘honeymoon wire’
As well as being an adrenaline adventure, it’s the only canopy tour in South East Asia that’s in a real rainforest, meaning you get to grips with the beauty of the natural surroundings; as well as meeting a family of gibbons roaming free in the jungle. The parents were found dumped on the side of the road in 2007, after spending years in captivity. Rescued by Flight of the Gibbon, they soon gave birth to a son, who now lives with them; safely away from poacher’s nets. Watching the family leap between the canopies only made us more envious that we only get to do it for one day!
Mother and baby gibbon swinging freely through the rainforest
Founded by a group of serious nature lovers, not only do Flight of the Gibbon help to promote rainforest conservation and the protection of wildlife, they have even sponsored the planting of 10,000 new trees to aid the food cycle of the rainforest’s wild inhabitants and maintain the quality of its sprawling ecosystem. As you are lead through the jungle, the knowledgeable Sky Rangers tell you about the tropical flora and fauna, from banana trees to local hill tribe coffee plantations.
As part of their Trees for Life project, Flight of the Gibbon is working with the local community to plant trees. Local orphans are invited to help plant the trees, and are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime jungle adventure, ziplining for free! This is all part of their on-going project to educate and engage with people, both overseas visitors and locals, about the importance of rainforest-welfare and the protection of precious ecosystems for generations to come.
The team not only managed to have a serious, adrenaline-pumping adventure, but left happy in the knowledge that the rainforest and its inhabitants were in the safe hands of those who actively conserve and promote its precious ecosystem.
Boss, please… can we go again?
By Alisha Rouse & Laura Davies
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