Monkeying around in Cambodia: Flight of the Gibbon


 

The only gibbons we saw were caged in a wildlife rescue center.

The gibbons we saw were in a wildlife rescue center.

flight-of-the-gibbon-logoIn 2007, a group of friends were enjoying one of their frequent rainforest walks in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai, Thailand, when they came across a pair of Gibbons (a type of lessor ape – no monkey – found in the tropical rain forests of Southeast and South Asia) locked in a roadside cage. They had been abandoned to die a horrible death from starvation and dehydration. Shocked and outraged, the nature lovers immediately rescued these rare, officially endangered animals. While slowly nursing the pair back to health, this group of activists started to develop a plan to create positive ecological change in our world…and Flight of the Gibbon was born.

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Now one of the leading global eco-adventure tour operators in Southeast Asia, Flight of the Gibbon offers franchises in Cambodia and Thailand, all which offer truly phenomenal zip-lines, some of the highest, fastest and longest found anywhere in the world. But it’s not all about thrilling adventures; the organization invests 10% of their profits in primate re-habilitation, re-forestation projects and ecological education programs.

Cambodia 2015, Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, backscratch for a hairy friend WM

We were not surprised to see that the site in Siem Reap was operated by an Aussie. We arrived very early, hoping to get our morning adventure complete before the oppressive heat and humidity of the Cambodia day set upon us. We arrived so early that we were able to witness just how rigorous their safety checks and “sky ranger” morning brief actually were. As our rangers (guides) told us during our tour, since the jobs created by Flight of the Gibbon pay so well and are considered skilled and “fun,” they are highly sought after. Thus, there is no issue getting the locals to follow the strict protocols for safety, operations and maintenance demanded of such activities.

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Kevin and Jody

Likewise, it’s no surprise that the courses were designed and engineered to exacting standards by a world-class international team of experts in Europe. Structurally speaking, Flight of the Gibbon uses the safest zip-line engineering methods used anywhere in the world. At the same time, however, the zip-lines are constructed in such a way to avoid harm to the trees which physically support the course.

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, smiles

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, zipping through the jungle 2 WMCambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Kevin hooked upThe group of like-minded thrill-seekers we were supposed to fly with were running very late, and after chit-chatting with our new Aussie friend, he decided that we would go as our own group as soon as morning checks were complete on the course. Not ten minutes later we were gearing up with our own private “sky rangers,” two young men in their very early 20s who spoke fairly decent English. The Sky Rangers are not just there to help ensure everyone’s safety. They also act as eco-tour guides, explaining various aspects and elements of the jungle as you move through the upper reaches of its canopy.

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Jody on the way down WM

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Kevin zipping through the Angkor jungleCambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, kiss on the honeymoon lines 2Flight of the Gibbon in Siem Reap is unique in another aspect: it is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Archeological Park. Located minutes away from the majestic Khmer temple of Angkor Wat and massive complex of Angkor Thom, it easy to combine a couple of hours swinging in the jungle with an afternoon of touring the local pagodas. Your reservation comes with roundtrip transfer, park entrance (if you don’t already have a pass), bottled water, and a rustic Cambodia meal, and is currently $109/pp. That price also includes a full $20 credit to be used in the on-site store, a fantastic marketing ploy. We walked away with two rather high-quality tee-shirts and a couple of drink koozies.

Rest Break high up in the Treehouse!

Rest Break high up in the Treehouse!

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Jody on a long-line WMI have been ziplining around the world, from sites in the American Rockies, to mountain tops in Costa Rica, to Japan (see Zip-a-dee-doo-dah for the experience available on Okinawa). I have more than a few experiences under my belt. The course at Angkor is mid-sized, consisting of ten ziplines crisscrossing over and through the jungle canopy. There are also four hanging bridges, a rest break at a treehouse perched high above the surrounding jungle, and an 150 feet rappel descent at the very end. But what makes this adventure so spectacular is the shear height of the course, most of which occurs well above 125 feet. The view from and cool breeze found at the treehouse is exceptional, and is exceptionally located at what we were told was a full 70 meters off the ground!!

Course Map

Course Map

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, zipping through the jungle WMCambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, high treehouseAlthough new to Cambodia, Flight of the Gibbon was quick to introduce their first reforestation project in Cambodia by planting 5,000 new trees within the Angkor Park in 2015. And they have even bigger plans when it comes to apes: the white-handed gibbon has been lost to the forests of Angkor for decades now. But in 2013, Flight of the Gibbon helped fund the reintroduction of a pair of mating gibbons within the jungles of the Angkor Archeological Park. Their first babies have already been born, the first live, free births in those forests in almost a century. Although the website talks about a chance to see the wild gibbons, don’t count on it. Those apes have no need for ziplines, and no doubt stay well clear of most of humanity.

Off on the Double "Honeymoon" Zipline!

Off on the Double “Honeymoon” Zipline!

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Jody bridged WMCambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, kevin bridged WMBut what about those abandoned Gibbons found roadside in Thailand? After their rescue, Tong Lorde (“Golden Straw”) and Tong Dee (”Good Gold”) were rehabilitated and re-released in Thailand, but only after having been taught how to look after themselves in the wild. They too have had their own babies, born free in the wild. And maybe one day soon, we all will be able to hear their calls and even catch a glimpse of them swinging through the rainforests of Angkor.

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, Kevin on the way down

For now, Flight of the Gibbon is as close as we can get. The eco-adventure is well worth the cost and a visit!

Cambodia 2015, Flight of the Gibbons Zipline, peaceful break in the course's treehouse

Contact for Cambodia:

Int’l. Phone: +66 53 010 660

Cambodia Phone: 096 9999101

Email: info@treetopasia.com

http://www.treetopasia.com

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah: Onna’s Forest Adventure Zip Line Park


Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A, My oh my, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine heading my way, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, entering the Forest Adventure Park in Onna Okinawa

Not just for thrill seekers, Forest Adventure (“Mori No Bouken”) Park in Onna, Okinawa, promises wholesome fun and a bit of exercise too, all among the scenic hillsides near Cape Maeda. Billed as an adventure sports park coexisting with Okinawan nature, the park involves ten substantial zip lines over and through a sample of Okinawa’s lush greenery, but also includes many “adventure” obstacles, such as cargo net climbs, narrow vertical “apple-picker” ladders, and hard to navigate swing rope and wooden bridges!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody ready to tumble

Print ads don't mention the snakes!

Print ads don’t mention the snakes!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Kevin on a shaky wooden bridge in the jungleIn a classic “lost in translation” from native Japanese, a description online loosely reads, “The nature coexisting adventure sports & park of Okinawa nature Japanese version “Mori No Bouken” (Forest Adventure). This is the same famous forest adventure in Europe which lets you swing from tree to tree using their exclusive harness (life rope). Take a skywalk looking down the East Asia Sea from 30m high sky. There are 33 activities which challenges (sic) your courage and let you have a thrilling time. The nervousness you feel as a action hero does will change to a feeling of accomplishment after you get across from one tree to another. It is the 4th oldest and located on the southernmost in Japan. Forest Adventure in Onna is the largest adventure sports & park of natural symbiosis style in Japan in terms of width, length and height of facilities….”

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, managing the early beginner obstacles

While one literally doesn’t swing from tree to tree – the obstacle and zip line platforms are all mounted on steel trunks artificially placed in jungle-cleared ground, and the “life rope” are all actually all steel cable and carabiners, one can take in amazing views of the East China Sea while flying through the air as a de facto action hero!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, zipline backwards landing in the wood chips

The park’s main office is located just off Route 6, well past the Renaissance Hotel (~3km), and a few hundred meters past the turnoff for Maeda Point. Stop here first for paperwork and payment, then continue on to the business’ parking lot, where a bus will pick you up for further transport up to the actual Forest Adventure site.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody coming in for a zipline landing!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Adventure Course net bridgeOkinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody survives the Tarzan Swing but now has to do the Scramble NetReservations are required to confirm a time and your slot, as are closed-toe athletic shoes. You’ll get dirty on this course, particularly during the zip line landings, so wear light athletic clothing and bring a change of clothes! Personally, I recommend long pants, although plenty of people there were successfully navigating the course in shorts. Oh, use the bathroom before you leave the office; the facilities at the park are, well in a word, rustic. Thankfully for us it was mostly cloudy during our adventure, which helped to moderate what could be a rather steamy time in the jungle.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Kevin and Jody in the hills of Onna Village

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, harnesses (impact B&W)Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody's thread of life while on the courseAt the park itself you’ll have a chance to stow your personal belongings in lockers which cost ¥100. Cold drinks are also served for a small fee. The staff will fit you into a harness; don’t be shy about your junk at this point – the harnesses are no joke and will squeeze, squash and otherwise spill your business in maybe some rather awkward ways. Let’s just say there are no camel toes indigenous to Okinawa, and I prefer to reserve my personal circumcision status for a more intimate audience.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Kevin away on a zipline!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, gettting schooled in Japanese!Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody tops out on a rope ladderOnce properly adjusted, the staff will show you basic hook and clip operation, then after a short walk to a proving course, will provide a short brief (most likely in very broken English), and then you’ll have a chance to demonstrate your prowess by completing a “test” climb and zip line before being turned loose on the course…ALONE. Yeah, that’s right – you move through the course on your own, at your own pace, which is one of the best things about this park. This type of freedom, and dare I say “trust” in others’ own personal responsibility is really a refreshing relief from the “it must be someone else’s fault” overly litigious society back home. While there is a staff member at one particular point on the course (for which you’ll just have to figure out why), we only saw one or two other staffers along the course, no doubt helping to ensure safety and rule following.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody likes steep and narrow ladders

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, rules and rocksOkinawa Forest Adventure 2014, many dangersSpeaking of rules, some of the rather pathetic rules the park has – and I’m sure because they have to deal with ugly (drunk) Americans behaving in such ugly ways – if you appear intoxicated you will be subjected to being breathalyzed, and after a warning the first time you take your shirt off, you be expelled on the 2nd such offense…. Unfortunately, we happened to butt up against a Marine Unit outing, which I simply could not tolerate their brazenly bad language. Although I didn’t want to, I felt it necessary to confront these rather poor examples of American citizenry, out of respect for the elder (civilian) couple in our group, let along the Japanese National couple traveling through the course with us.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, taking the Log Swing after enjoying the Trazan Swing

Midway through the course is a complimentary cold drink case, where we got to choose between orange or grape soda – 1 per customer, please! This was a nice touch, although we drank up quickly to keep ahead of our rather Neanderthal North American cousins who were hot on our heels.

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Tarzan Swing into a cargo (scramble) net

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, pussies need not attempt!Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, zipline landing for JodyThe last section of the park is a giant-sized multi-level jungle gym for adults, complete with swinging board bridges, swaying rings, and the final zip line of the day. There’s a special surprise here, one I’ll not spoil, but let’s just say that if you can’t jump within 3 minutes, GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY! This entire part of the park is a hoot!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Jody and Kevin GOAL!!

After reaching your “GOAL,” you’ll be offered an opportunity to travel back through the course. It seems if the park is not busy, this is a rather standard thing, which adds a tremendous amount of value to the $35/person (¥3500) entrance fee. We, however, elected to pass, partly due to the company we would choose NOT to keep, but more so because we had a lunch date at a terrific restaurant in Onna called Casa la Tida, worthy of its own blog in the near future!

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A, Wonderful feeling, Wonderful day!

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, Onna's forest adventure map

 

Okinawa Forest Adventure 2014, map to the parkReservations: 098-963-0088

Open: all year 9:00-18:00, summer season 8:30-Sunset; the park will close for bad weather!

Must be over 140cm/55inches tall, and under 130kg/286lbs weight

http://www.forest-adventure-onna.jp

Tuesdays and Thursdays are “Lady’s Days,” where women get a ¥500 discount; under 18 is ¥2,500, family of three is ¥8,000, family of four is ¥9,500, and family of 5 is ¥11,000. Yen Only!!