I’ve always been fascinated by forests. So when I went on my first expedition into Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest, I knew that keeping two feet on the ground wouldn’t be enough. You see, the cloud forest—a type of rainforest—has four layers: the forest floor, understory, canopy, and emergent layer. Different wildlife and plant life flourish on each forest layer, including tree frogs and leopards in the understory, and toucans in the canopy. To to get the full picture, I would need to go at least 300 feet up. I would need a zipline tour.
The zipline may be high, but it’s not scary.
Zipline tours are a fantastic way to explore the canopy, and one of the most adventurous things to do on a vacation. Most ziplines start at heights ranging anywhere from 30 to over 1,000 feet. Mine was right in the middle at 328 feet.
Actually learning how to zipline isn’t hard. To get to the top, I rode an open air gondola to a wide steel platform. There, the team fitted me with a helmet and gloves, then they told me to cross my ankles and hold onto the handlebar. They then lifted me into the harness, which fastened around my legs and waist, carrying my weight in a reclined seated position. Luckily, the professionals adjusted the straps and safety cables every time to ensure that I was always secure. All of these safety procedures kept me at ease as I glided down every zipline track, each of which gave me a view of the forest that even a flying squirrel would envy.
Whatever you do, don’t shut your eyes.
Before my guide pushed me out onto the line, he gave me the most important zipline tips: keep your eyes open. The zipline runs right along the treetops, which means seeing the forest from a whole new perspective. Up there, it is easier to spy tropical birds, waterfalls, and breathtaking mountain views. I even spotted two scarlet macaws hiding in the foliage, though I couldn’t take a photo. The risk of losing a camera or smartphone is too high, and it’s best not to take loose objects on a zipline.
The ride itself goes by quickly. Cables average about 1,500 to 2,500 feet long and take at most 60 seconds to reach the next platform. In that minute, I had just enough time to quickly scan the trees and search out the forest floor below.
You’re in control the entire time.
In the end, no matter what kind of adventure I was looking for, ziplining accommodated. I was in control the entire time thanks to a handy brake system—which the guides showed me how to use. This allowed me to speed up or slow down, so when I saw something interesting in the trees, I could take my time. If I wanted a bit of thrill, all I had to do was release the brake and fly. Don’t worry, though: automatic braking slows riders down for their landing, so there’s no chance of turning into a human fastball.
There’s always a reason to go ziplining.
Remember, a zipline tour is as safe and controlled outdoor activity that almost anyone can do. You don’t have to travel out of the country, either. Ziplines are all over the place, so keep them in mind whether you’re on vacation or just looking to plan a fun day trip.