It wasn’t until I completed the first few challenges that a huge grin appeared on my face. I was getting the hang of the clicking and unclicking of the “smart belay” system. The ducking and dodging and balancing and climbing became more comfortable and familiar. I was learning to exist in another world–an arboreal world high above the ground full of pulleys and wires and intricately designed floating obstacles. The rush from accomplishing previous challenges drove me forward, and the anticipation of the challenges ahead manifested in a big, defiant smile that said “bring it on.” I was hooked.
When I first heard a “ropes course” was being installed at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, my first reaction was “ropes what!?” I had never heard of a ropes course. I had an idea that it might be some kind of obstacle course, but I never envisioned the otherworldly treetop labyrinth that is Jungle Ropes Safari. When you head to the Safari Park and see it for yourself, you’ll know what I mean. It’s pretty impressive. I was lucky enough to be offered a sneak peek at Jungle Ropes Safari, and I can safely say it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done.
After suiting up in a super-stylish harness and watching a quick safety briefing, I was let loose on the course. It took me a few minutes to get in the groove, but soon I was brachiating with the best of them. I could say I felt like a monkey or an orangutan, but I’d be lying. I was way too clumsy with my awkward, bipedal human body that was clearly adapted for ground dwelling. It didn’t make me feel like an arboreal ape, but it gave me A TON of respect for them. Honestly, an orangutan wouldn’t bat an eye at Jungle Ropes Safari. Child’s play.
When I was about halfway through the course, I noticed a peaceful feeling falling over me. Sure I was breaking a sweat and trying not to fall, but after a while I forgot about all that. I was focused on nothing but finding my next footing. It was just me and the trees and the course as I conquered challenge after challenge. It was an unexpected kind of meditation, but very welcome.
I finally arrived at the zip line portion of the course. It’s nothing compared to our Flightline Safari zip line, which is 2/3 of a mile long, but it’s a nice breather from the rest of the course. You get to sit back and enjoy the ride to the next platform without expending much energy. I clicked my smart belays onto the line and attached my trolley. I knew where to put my hands, almost like second nature at this point–one on the trolley and the other on the straps. I leaned back and pushed off the platform. Gliding through the lush canopy with dappled sunlight lighting my way, I found myself thinking, “I could do this all day.”
Jungle Ropes Safari opens to the public on July 20, 2012.
*Due to the strenuous nature of this aerial adventure, children must be at least 7 years old to participate. Safety restrictions require that only guests who are between 50 and 275 pounds and have a reach (measured from the sole of the foot to the up-stretched tips of the fingers) of 55 inches can take the Safari. We don’t have a price solidified yet, but we’ll keep you in the loop.
Matt Steele is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Garden Fest Insect House Tweet-up.