EDIT: June 2019. In April 2019, a Canadian man died on the zipline at Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai. The company said there had been “metallurgic failure on a swing”. Until the details of the accident are known, I cannot recommend any of the locations of Flight of the Gibbon.
I stand at the edge of the platform. The rainforest floor is many many meters below me.
“I just step off?”
The Sky Ranger nods. And grins.
So I step off.
I fall two meters. And yelp. Twice.
Then I feel the pulley (attached to my back this time) start to zoom along the zipline and I soar over the jungle.
I’m at Flight of The Gibbon in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
It is beautiful here. We’re about 50 minutes outside the city and there are huge trees everywhere. You get an entirely different perspective being up in the trees, looking down at the treetops rather than looking up into the canopy.
I feel perfectly safe. I’ve been outfitted with a hard hat and a harness and I’m almost always clipped onto a safety line when I’m not attached to the zipline itself. Flight of the Gibbon uses triple-bolted construction, its lines are all attached independently, and they exceed the highest international safety standards. Three Sky Rangers accompany our group of nine. They’ve given us a thorough safety briefing and check both our equipment and our nerves before each zip. They adapt their techniques to each guest, dependent on their comfort level, their height and weight (especially for kids), and whether they are using a still or video camera.
There are seven kilometers of ziplines on the Chiang Mai course. We start with a couple short easy ones, just to get comfortable. And then we’re off.
I don’t know whether I feel like a flying gibbon, a bird or superman as I zip along through the air. Whatever the simile, I feel wonderful.
One of the women in our group is afraid of heights, but after the first two ziplines, she says she feels wonderful too.
My favourite zipline comes early in the course. It is 800 meters long and fast. My adrenaline surges.
Many more zips follow, including some doubles and the (optional) yelp-inducing one where you step off the platform. There are also several shaky (but safe) sky bridges to cross, some short hikes through the trees, and, near the end, two abseil descents to get back to ground level.
It takes a few hours to get through the 18 ziplines and 33 platforms that make up Flight of the Gibbon. Included in the ticket price is a delicious Thai meal before you’re driven back to your hotel in the city.
Did I see any gibbons? No. There is a family that lives on the course, but I imagine they watch the tourists flying by while staying well hidden in their treetop home. The one pictured here lives at the Chiang Mai Zoo.
2015 update: You can zipline in winter too! Superfly Ziplines in Whistler, British Columbia has the longest zipline in Canada. You can’t soar like a gibbon but you can … fly like … let’s see … one of Santa’s reindeer! Lots of fun at over 100 kilometers per hour!
Note: I was a guest of Flight of the Gibbon and Superfly Ziplines, but all the opinions are my own, and no one from the company reviewed or approved my text.