The platform stands approximately 36 feet above the ground, but I can’t even see it as I wait for my turn to hook into the zip line. Instead, there is a wide canopy of trees above me and below me—which I assume would cushion me should I fall.
But falling isn’t an issue here. This is my first experience with zip lining, and I am blown away by the safety precautions the Monkey Trail Canopy team at Gumbalimba Park takes to ensure I’m going nowhere but right down the line to the next platform.
For the first time since arriving on Roatan—a small island off the coast of Honduras—the sun is threatening to peak its head out from behind the lingering clouds. I’m not complaining; I’m beyond ready to shed my rain jacket.
After a short safety briefing—sit back, cross your legs, never touch the safety harness (only the guide does that) and, of course, have fun—one of our guides hooks in and heads down the zip line, where he’ll meet each of us as we come flying in.
There are only a couple of us in the group who have never been zip lining before, but “fear” is not a four-letter word that appears in any of our vocabularies, so we all eagerly zip from one platform to the next—the longest line is 780 feet long and the next platform often can’t be seen from the current one. At each platform there is a sheet with information that notes the height of each platform, length of the zip line and difficulty of the line—that is, how hard a person needs to brake. Before taking off on each line, though, the guides tell us where along the line we need to begin applying pressure to safely slow down.
According to our guides, there is no age or height restriction on the lines. They have, in fact, had children as young as three years old ride along the zip lines. People who weigh less don’t go as fast on the lines as those who are heavier, so understanding how to brake properly considering each person’s weight takes a little bit of practice. Go too fast and people risk running into the platform below. Go too slow and they could stop halfway down (requiring extra muscle power to pull themselves toward the next platform).
The zip lining course is 13 lines long, the highest of which is 82 feet above the ground. I squeal with delight as I fly between platforms. At one point, there is a break in the trees and I can see the Caribbean Sea. On one of the last lines I sail in over the macaw sanctuary. I feel myself grinning, and I love knowing that between the platforms I am completely alone in my exhilaration.
When I’m given the opportunity to zip down a line “super chica” style, I jump at the chance. I hang back for the last guide, who braces himself as I hold myself up with the line then tentatively loosen my grip until I am laying in midair above the gaping ground below me. As we zip down the line, it really feels like I’m flying.
Despite the fact that zip lining takes minimal physical exertion, I feel myself sweating about halfway through the course. I’m standing on a platform, waiting for some of the people I’m with to hook in, when I glance through the tree tops. The sun has finally broken through the heavy clouds and Roatan has reclaimed its status as a Caribbean island. I unzip my jacket and tie it around my waist.
“Ready?” The guide looks in my direction.
I smile. Yes, I am.
Entrance into Gumbalimba Park is $20 and the zip lining experience costs $45. For those interested in visiting the park and zip lining, a canopy/park combination pass for $55 can be purchased.
My zip lining experience was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but all opinions are my own. Photos courtesy of Tim Shisler, founder of Plus Ten Media.