So this is what ZIP means?
Edited from an article by Liz Janes-Brown,
Maui News staff reporter, www.mauinews.com.
Photos: Skyline Eco-Adventures except where noted.
I’m afraid of heights. So why was I on my way to do a story about zipping over gulches as deep as 75 feet? Maybe it was one of those “face your fears” moments; maybe it was that Danny Boren, owner of Skyline Eco-Adventures, sounded like an intelligent and sane individual in our earlier phone conversation; or maybe it was that the brochure pictures made the whole thing look like a lot of fun.
A short walk leads to the first platform.
Skyline Eco-Adventures is located at the 4,300-foot level on the sprawling Haleakala Ranch, one of many farm- and ranch-based operations letting in a little tourism to ensure a little income from something besides the ever-uncertain agriculture. Skyline opened for business on March 1, 2003, a first of its kind for Maui as well as for the entire United States.
A Maui boy who left the islands just long enough to graduate from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in entrepreneurship, Danny Boren first saw ziplines as a tourist attraction in Costa Rica and thought it would work on Maui with minimal effect on the environment. Danny has committed to donating 10% of profits from Skyline to local ecological organizations. But since the business is still too new to be making a profit, he has devised other ways to give back in the startup phase.
By offering free zipline tours to anyone who volunteers for a total of four service trips for designated ecological groups, Skyline is already helping out the Maui Cultural Land Trust’s Project Malama, Auwahi Forest Restoration, and the Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi rain forest service. Skyline also maintains a small reforestation area for native koa trees near the company’s headquarters.
Skyline guide, Lukas Leddington, got us suited up, while emphasizing how safe and strong the equipment is. I focused on my mission: to hurtle through the air and live to tell about it.
The harness, made of nylon webbing that can hold 6,000 pounds, is secured around the legs and waist. “It would hold your car if you could figure out a way to get it up there,” Danny quipped. Complete with snugly fitted helmet, we began the quarter mile hike into the blue gum eucalyptus forest, the pulleys attached to our harnesses clanking as we walked. I couldn’t tell if I was out of breath from the altitude or the anticipation.
Platforms are carefully designed for safe landings.
To learn more about the Alala, check out Hawaiian photographer Jack Jeffrey’s personal observations about rare birds in the Islands. Jack Jeffrey
Soon we faced our first zip, named for Alala, the Hawaiian Crow. Since the experience somewhat resembles flying, each of the four crossings is named after an endangered Hawaiian bird, Guides share facts about showcased species at its designated stop.
The first zip is designed to be gentle, to “ease you into the experience,” Danny says. Wooden platforms have been erected at each end of all the zips to facilitate taking off and landing. Lukas demonstrated, smiling all the way. It looked pretty easy – for him, anyway. Though hooked up and ready, somehow I couldn’t quite bring myself to step off the platform. Having already had experience with wusses, Danny suggested I sit down in the harness and he gave me a bit of a push.
Yikes! I was zipping across the gulch, eyes closed at first, then watching the landing platform zoom closer with Lukas ready to catch and unhook me. I didn’t quite have the nerve to look down.
The second crossing is named for the Akohekohe or Crested Honeycreeper. Only 3,500 of these birds remain in native forests around east Maui. They’re important, Danny says, because they pollinate the native ohia trees, another increasingly uncommon floral species.
Now that we had our wings, so to speak, we were ready for this zip, 150 feet long, 70 feet above the ground. The sit-and-push technique still worked for me! Akohekohe was a longer, faster zip than Alala, with the added challenge of rectifying a spin. I landed backwards. Lukas set me straight without even laughing.
Each successive zip gets longer.
Annette Kaohelaulii, a 64-year-old grandmother and owner of Annette’s Adventures in Hawaii, www.annettesadventures.com, could hardly wait to try this new tourism option. “A zipline gives you the opportunity to experience the sensation of flight,” she says. “I like the challenge of doing something most of my friends and certainly my children would never do …. a great confidence builder.”
Gaining a little more confidence, I headed to the third zip named for Po`ouli, another type of Hawaiian Honeycreeper. This highly endangered bird species, Lukas explained, has only one male and two females known to exist in Hanawi Valley. Those trying to capture the birds and help the species recover have a challenging time finding them because the birds’ calls sound like the drip of water. Now that’s hard to distinguish in the middle of a rainforest!
Now we’ve got the hang of it!
If the Po`ouli could make the kind of sounds we did as we swung through the trees, it would have been snared easily by now. It’s almost obligatory to yell; actually, it’s almost impossible not to. Cables are securely attached to giant eucalyptus at either end of each zip and trees grow in the gulches so you do experience a kind of thrilling communion with nature. It’s one thing to sit quietly under a tree and meditate on the beauty and wonder of creation; it’s quite another to experience it fast forward.
The final zip, now that we had become seasoned hurtlers, had a little extra rush of adrenaline mixed in. There’s a good reason it’s called I`o, the Hawaiian Hawk. It’s a heart-stopping, high-speed ride, but, unlike the hawk, you’re going backwards. At the end, a huge bungee cord (which also, we were assured, meets stringent safety standards) shoots you back out like a rock out of a slingshot.
To learn more about the I`o, check out Hawaiian photographer Jack Jeffrey’s personal observations about rare birds in the Islands. Jack Jeffrey
For wusses, this final ride provides a kind of exhilaration that can only come with complete abandonment, along with the knowledge that your will is up to date and that the company carries a lot of insurance with one of the America’s premier challenge course insurers. The whole experience, during which my life passed before me, took about an hour and a half. And here I am to tell about it!
Skyline EcoAdventures: tel: 808-878-8400; www.skylinehawaii.com. Ages 10 and up are welcome; people over 50 years young make up the largest client age group. Weight requirements are from 80 to 280 pounds.
Maui Visitors Bureau, www.visitmaui.com.
Fly Hawaiian Airlines with about 100 daily jet flights between the islands, as well as flights to the U.S. mainland, American Samoa and Tahiti, www.HawaiianAir.com.
For more adventure articles and information on experiencing Alternative Hawaii, check out the complete Travel with a Challenge collection, www.travelwithachallenge.com/Travel_Themes_Hawaii.htm.
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