With Bangkok shrouded in a thick pollution haze this time of year, it makes perfect sense to get out of the city, especially with the kids. And one easy destination from Bangkok includesthe old-growth rainforest on the borders of Khao Chompoo Wildlife Reserve in Chonburi province. In addition to housing the Khao Khiew Open Zoo, the forest serves as home to Flight of the Gibbon, an immersive zipline experience where you are literally sailing through the canopy over the lush undergrowth down below. Relish the sensation of flight, get an adrenaline kick, and soak in the sights and sounds of the rainforest (as well as the wonderfully earthy scents and ultra-fresh air!).
The day began with a 1.5-hour drive from Bangkok via Flight of the Gibbons’ convenient pick-up and drop-off service in an air-conditioned van; away from the Thai capital, the skies considerably brightened, resuming their baby blue hues. The morning was sunny, but pleasant with cool breezes.
At Flight of the Gibbons’ facility, friendly guides welcomed our group, and arranged another van to take us up to their rustic lodge in the rainforest. There, we were promptly suited up in harnesses and other safety gear, and briefed on the zipline course comprising 23 different platforms of differing lengths and heights among the trees. Thanks to triple-bolted construction, each line functions independently. Also, participants are clipped to a safety line or doubled clipped to the zipline the entire time, conforming to rigorous international safety standards.
The two Sky Rangers who accompanied our group of five through the activity made it clear that safety is a cornerstone of the company, in operation since 2007. They outlined the protocols for safe ziplining, including how to take off and land at a low practice station. After a brief hike into the rainforest, we reached the beginning of the course. With the excitement (and a touch a bit of fear!) building, we did the fairly low first zip, to get used to flight – and importantly, to let go of any trepidation and simply enjoy the rides.
Anyone healthy and over 100 cm (1 metre) in height and under 125 kilos, from children to seniors, can participate, making this unique activity ideal for families. Sky Rangers can accompany younger children over the longer glides, with 300 metres being the longest distance between stations. There really is no way to describe the feeling of soaring through the trees other than exhilaration. The kids exuded pure joy as they whooped from station to station, with arms outstretched or backs arched, illuminated by the forest’s dappled sunlight.
After about 1.5 to 2 hours, we returned to the lodge, happy and ready for a break. Flight of the Gibbon’s package also offers lunch, consisting of several Thai dishes, at a nearby restaurant overlooking a lake with views of painted storks nesting in the trees. The trip also includes a visit around the Khao Khiew Open Zoo where the children can feed the most popular residents: the giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos and deer.
In addition to the Chonburi facility, Flight of the Gibbon operates in Mae Kampong, Chiang Mai, where they highlight their environmental conservation and education efforts. In fact, the original idea for Flight of the Gibbon was sparked by its founders’ efforts to rescue and rehabilitate a pair of gibbons that were abandoned in a cage near a roadside in Chiang Mai.
Today, a portion of profits help fund ongoing projects such as reforestation and tree aftercare and maintenance. The gibbons that inspired the business, Tong Lorde and Tong Dee, were rehabilitated alongside the ziplines in Chiang Mai, a site that resembles their natural habitat. Two offspring born in the wild have since joined the family.
Nothing beats the adventure of zipping along the treetops and across expansive, lush gullies. The set up was fantastic, with the experience enhanced by the great care and playful banter from the Sky Rangers as well as the company’s approach to ecological responsibility and education. “Best day ever,” surmised by one child before she fell asleep in the van during the ride home.
For more information, please visit www.flightofthegibbon.com.