Thursday, 4 August 2016

The top 5 zipwires in the world

Photo: Gatorland Orlando

I had my first zipwire experience when I was about 5, coming face to face with the zipline in Tonbridge Park, and it's not something I've forgotten. We were there first thing in the morning so there were no other kids around (yes!) and we got down to business. As I sailed from one dock to the other, my bum no more than 2ft off the ground, feet kicking the air with excitement, I really felt like I was flying...until I hit the ground.

I wasn't the sort of kid who cried, so when I cried, you knew something was wrong. My friend Holly knew this, and went tearing across the park to where our mums were sitting. My mum also knew this, which is why she came over in such a panic.

"What's wrong? Where does it hurt?"

"I broke my hairclip" I wailed, holding up the many parts of my brand new, multi-coloured, flowery hairclip as evidence.

Clearly it's not a trauma I've forgotten (I was fine, by the way), but I feel it's time to move on to bigger and better things (sorry Tonbridge Park) with a look at some of the best zipwires in the world.

The brand new one

I went to Niagara Falls when I was a child of about seven years old on a family holiday. I'm sure it was a great experience, but as  a seven year old, a load of water pouring over a cliff just isn't that impressive. We did the Maid of the Mist boat tour - I might even still have the poncho somewhere - but my resounding memory of that day is my dad spilling his lemonade in a cafe once we were back on dry (American) land.

Although it may not have been a life-changing experience, I've never felt the need to go back to Niagara Falls as an adult. Until now. Until the announcement of the new Mistrider Zipline, a 200ft zipwire over the Niagara Falls Gorge, reaching up to 40 miles an hour as you whizz through the spray. Now THAT is how you get me to go back to a place.

Mistrider Zipline, Niagara Falls, US/ Canada border.

The time-travelling one

Photo: Limite Zero
On the sleepy Guadiana River, which forms a watery border between southern Spain and Portugal, is Limite Zero. It's a 720m zip line, reaching speeds of 70km an hour - but because of the time difference between the two countries, you also travel through time.

A ferry ride back across the river is included in the ticket, which is jolly decent of them.

Limite Zero, Sanlucar de Guadiana Huelva in Spain and Algarve, Portugal.

The 2km long one

Photo: Zip 2000
While most visitors to South Africa's Sun City pay attention to the wildlife in the nearby Pilanesberg National Park, it's worth paying attention to what Sun City itself has to offer -- including what claims to be one of the world's longest zipslides.

I even went to Pilanesberg in 2012, and didn't even know it existed at the time -- that trip may have panned out differently if I had.

Zip 2000, Sun City, South Africa

The one with the hungry alligators beneath

If flying 65ft above captive alligators and crocodiles is your thing, you're in luck. Gatorland theme park and zoo in Florida lets you do just that on the Screamin' Gator Zip Line. It's what the crocs like to call 'breakfast in bed'.

Screamin' Gator Zip Line, Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

The one in the UK

Photo: Eden Project

Cornwall's Eden Project is home to plants galore, some groundbreaking horticultural science, and probably the best zipwire in the UK (although I'm happy to be proven wrong on that one -- let me know of other contenders in the comments below). Either way, it claims to England's longest and fastest, zooming straight over those famous biomes.

Zip wire, Eden Project, Cornwall.