You can now pre­tend to be Tarzan in a for­est in Dubai. We’re not kid­ding.

We’ve writ­ten be­fore about zi­plin­ing and ex­pect to see more of th­ese pop­ping up across the re­gion, but were sur­prised to find the lat­est one in a for­est. In Mirdif. Fri­day sent its in­tern, Nouran Salahieh, to the new Aven­tura Park to see if she could stay

Friday - - Contents -

Yes, there’s a for­est of ghaf trees on the edge of Dubai. That’s not all – in it you’ll find hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal climb­ing walls, rope course chal­lenges and zi­plines. It looks like a whole other world, and it’s hard to be­lieve it’s in the city’s Mushrif park.

‘We wanted to build Aven­tura in the midst of na­ture, but we wanted to con­serve na­ture as well,’ says Hadi Fakhoury, co-founder and manag­ing di­rec­tor of the park. ‘We used 71 poles of vary­ing heights, 6km of ca­bles, and made bases and foun­da­tions ac­cord­ing to safety stan­dards that went as deep as 8km un­der ground.

‘We wanted to fill a large gap that we felt ex­isted – we wanted peo­ple to lead a life­style that was sporty and ac­tive,’ he adds.

Lina Malas, Aven­tura’s co-founder and di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate devel­op­ment, adds, ‘We be­lieve that ex­pe­ri­enc­ing na­ture is a ba­sic hu­man need. Es­pe­cially for young­sters who need per­sua­sion to switch off their tablets, or adults who are look­ing for some­thing to help them es­cape their daily rou­tines. What bet­ter way is there to do that, than with a thrilling zi­pline through the ghaf tree for­est?’

Heart pound­ing in my chest, I stood be­fore high struc­tures with ca­bles, nets and lad­ders that blended in with the desert sand and trees. The first step was to put my safety har­ness and gear on. The har­ness fas­tens around your thighs and waist, and the two safety ca­bles with hooks are hung to the front of the har­ness. Feel­ing like a cool char­ac­ter from Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble, and al­ready feel­ing like I was work­ing out be­cause the gear was a lit­tle heavy, things started to look up.

The sec­ond step was to head over to a train­ing ses­sion with Noe Munoz, a park op­er­a­tor, to learn how to use the gear, and how to ma­noeu­vre around the course. I learnt the cor­rect method of hook­ing my ca­bles on to the bars, so that if I slipped, the ca­bles would catch me.

The ca­bles are re­as­sur­ing; un­hook­ing one cable means that you can’t un­hook an­other, ex­cept at cer­tain spots of the course. This means that you’ll al­ways be sup­ported by the ca­bles when nec­es­sary. I also learnt about hook­ing my­self on to a zi­pline, sit­ting down to be sup­ported by the gear, and hold­ing on cor­rectly. When zi­plin­ing, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber to never put your hands on the zi­pline it­self. That’s a com­mon mis­take that can re­ally hurt!

Af­ter the train­ing was done, it was time to climb up and get started. Safe to say that I was very clumsy at first, and hook­ing the ca­bles up took a few tries, be­cause all I heard in my head was ‘don’t look down’ on re­peat. Fi­nally hav­ing man­aged to get up on the plat­form, it was time to strap my ca­bles on to the rail, and bal­ance on thin pan­els of wood to get to the other side. Con­sid­er­ing I can’t walk straight on nor­mal ground, this felt like a bit of a chal­lenge. I threw caution to the wind and got started. And guess what? It was sur­pris­ingly easy, and I no­ticed I wasn’t even that high up.

Zi­plin­ing came next. I used the method Noe taught me to se­cure to the line – hook one cable on to the line, fol­lowed by the zi­pline ap­pa­ra­tus on your belt, and then an­other cable. Now that I was sure I was safely se­cured, I sat down, and, ig­nor­ing echoes of in­ter­nal scream­ing, kicked my feet for­ward, and zipped through. That was amaz­ing; I felt like Tarzan!

My in­ner child was jump­ing up and down yelling “again, again!” I went through the rest of the course, try­ing to bal­ance on tight ropes, jump on to plat­forms, pull my­self up, and, you know, not fall down. The best ad­vice I could give some­one go­ing through the course is to not over­think things.

Be­ing strapped on to safety ca­bles, it would be dif­fi­cult to re­ally in­jure your­self. It’s best to re­lax and have fun.

‘We have had an al­most unan­i­mous re­sponse from peo­ple leav­ing the park. Peo­ple say they felt amaz­ing and chal­lenged af­ter go­ing through the course,’ ex­plains Hadi.

Granted, I was prob­a­bly clutch­ing on to the safety rails and ropes much tighter than Tarzan or Mis­sion’s Ethan Hunt would have done, but it was still a great new ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you’re any­thing like me – which means you would im­me­di­ately re­ject the thought of any ac­tiv­i­ties that in­clude heights and sports – zi­plin­ing is a great way to start chang­ing that at­ti­tude.

Of course, be­cause you’d be go­ing to an ad­ven­ture park in Dubai, re­mem­ber to put on sun­screen. Also, dress in com­fort­able clothes, and sports shoes. Flat ten­nis shoes would be hard to find your bal­ance in. En­try is Dh150 for adults, and Dh125 for chil­dren whose height is above 1.15m.

Mushrif park is in a great area on the out­skirts of Dubai; chil­dren are wel­come on the cour­ses

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