Zipping through the trees east of Chiang Mai may not be the most authentically Thai experience, but it was fantastic fun.
Flight of the Gibbon lived up to the excellent reviews and Lonely Planet recommendations online and proved a superb family attraction.
We and others in our eight-strong group agreed that at 4198 TBH each (around £100), it was one of the most expensive activities we were likely to do in Thailand, but the standards of transport, safety and food were uncharacterictsically high for this part of the world and it was value for money.
It was also a relief to find a company that appears to take its social responsibility seriously and tells of how it is investing in forest conservation. It is surprising how many ethical dilemmas travelling throws up in terms of potential harm done by some tour operators and us eager tourists to environment, animals and even local people.
Some zipline courses of this type are a mix of high-up obstacles – like stepping stone pillars – and zip wires. Apart from a ‘rickety bridge’ structure, which, as with other similar courses, was still totally safe due to always being attached to safety lines, this was all ziplines. For younger or nervous participants this is probably better as the obstacle type structures are, in my opinion, often more hair-raising as it goes against your instincts to trust in the harness to catch you if you fall.
My son loved Flight of the Gibbon and even though my husband and I have done a few courses of this type in the past we found it exhilarating too. With the longest stretching to 300m, these ziplines are outstanding.
The course is set in an attractive rainforest area and the journey to it, included in the trip cost – in a well maintained minibus complete with seat belts and air con (not something that always comes as standard in our experience of South East Asia to date) – was pleasant in itself.
Added value came in the few snippets of information offered on our short walk to the start of the course when we were shown tea and coffee plants; the traditional live music that accompanied our delicious included lunch in a very attractive restaurant setting and a short self-led walk up a hillside beside a waterfall before home time.
We were fortunate to also catch a glimpse, albeit at a distance, of an actual gibbon, though the tour operators are open in pointing out that whilst you may see them it is certainly not guaranteed. Being the first group of the day may have worked in our favour. It also meant no waiting on platforms for the previous group to clear. We were told this can extend the length of the course by up to an hour for later groups.
In a sense this kind of activity is the kind of thing we have tried to resist on our family gap year as being a fair sized investment into something similar to things available to us much closer to home, but regardless of that it is still sure to be one of our most memorable days in Thailand.
A guided cycle ride through Chiang Mai proved a great way to find out about the history and culture of the city: Family cycle ride around Chiang Mai, Thailand