An adventurer mid-tree surf. (Enchanted Adventure Garden/Facebook)
Last decade’s adventure is today’s old news. That’s always been true, but now the bar is rising more quickly than ever. In the past year alone, thrill seekers have set crazy records, BASE jumping off the tallest building in the world and free climbing El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, widely considered the most challenging climb in the world. The Wall Street Journal just reported that record numbers of cyclists are riding Bolivia’s “death road,” said to be the most dangerous anywhere.
So a harnessed-up activity like ziplining? Hardly even interesting. Especially now that there are courses all over the world and anyone so inclined has tried it. Which is why we’re now onto tree surfing — call it ziplining 2.0.
The Tamar Trails Centre, in Devon, UK, has a family-friendly package called Tree Surfers that can include a zip line, a high ropes course, and something called the Leap of Faith, a nearly-40-foot free fall that ends when the wind from a big fan slows your speed for a gentle landing. But leave it to the Antipodeans, those innovators in so many mainstream-ish adventure sports (bungee jumping, Zorbing), to push tree surfing to the extreme — by combining all those things and more, on a minimally supervised, self-guided course.
When I signed up for the Australian version, I wasn’t entirely sure what tree surfing was. It sounded like fun, though. I like trees and I like surfing. I’ve ziplined often enough that I’ve come to find it a bit boring. The last time I did it, in Costa Rica, the instructor saw how blasé I’d become about it and sent me down the remaining runs upside down and backward, dangling below another guide.
But in Australia people are gung-ho about adventuring — sharks or crocs or long drops to the earth be damned. I knew it had potential to be more adrenaline pumping. Even though (or maybe because) Australia is filled with animals that can easily kill us, there are no half measures here. This is not a country where you can reconsider, change your mind, or wuss out on anything.
You said you’d try tree surfing? You tree-surf.
Even if, like me, you don’t know quite what that entails. (And if, like me, you’ve spent the first half of the day enjoying the more traditional pleasures of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, an easy day trip from Melbourne: wine tastings and a winery lunch.) “So, it’s like ziplining?” I confidently asked my host at Enchanted Adventure Garden, located among the wineries of southeastern Australia. Kind of, he said. Turns out, the self-guided zipline ride at the end of each course is merely the dismount.
Tree surfing at Enchanted Adventure Garden (silly name be damned) involves traversing rope bridges and navigating your way across swinging platforms. It came about three years ago, when the owners, who have run a more traditional, family-friendly amusement park with hedge mazes and tube lines, decided to expand their basic zipline setup into a tree-based, high ropes course with five levels of difficulty and 50 ropes challenges.
The kids’ course. (Enchanted Adventure Garden)
It’s an activity that’s recommended to groups and families of all ages. For everyone on it, whether they’re terrified of heights or, like me, they fly trapeze but are used to a certain degree of being harnessed up (here it was just a couple of carabiners), the ultimate goal is to confront fears. If you make it to the fifth level, the course eventually culminates in a Tarzan-style swing on a 26-foot rope over a valley and into a net. That primordial vault was so scary that even I, trapeze girl, yelped out loud — but so much fun that I did it three more times.
Sometimes jumping into the unknown with both feet results in a great adventure.
WATCH: Treetop Ziplining in New York