1 Zip wires can give travellers a new angle
Is it a bird? Is it a shrill plane? No, it’s someone zooming through the sky on travel’s latest adventure craze! But should all locations be fair game for the zip wire?
The world’s wildernesses all have familiar sounds: the crack of a calving glacier, the rustle of sand whipped up by a fierce desert wind, the chattering of monkeys in a rainforest canopy. Increasingly, though, the whoops and cheers of another variety are being heard – those of someone hurtling along a thin wire in search of new thrills.
Zip wires are the current buzz trend in the adventure travel industry – a length of steel cable stretched over an area that whizzes you from A to B. They were originally invented as a necessary means of transport across rivers but are now seen as a must-do experience for adrenalin-seekers in some of the world’s wildest places. But why?
“It further enhances our mountain, beach and desert offerings,” says Haitham Mattar of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, which has just opened the world’s longest zip wire (2.83km), sending people soaring off its tallest peak, Jebel Jais (1,934m).
The Emirate can already boast the Middle East’s first commercial via ferrata and many hiking and cycling routes. But a zip wire is seen to add something unique for visitors – a different kind of experience.
“Where else can you go for an early swim, safari in the desert, then zip line supermanstyle over the mountains?” adds Haitham.
The views as you’re whizzing through the sky may be impressive, but such attractions are not always welcome, says Andrew Hall of the Campaign for National Parks, who helped fight a recent proposal to build one of the UK’S longest zip wires in the Lake District. “In Thirlmere, the peace and beauty of the valley were qualities that would have been at risk from a zip wire’s installation,” he says.
But it’s a case-by-case basis, admits Andrew: “Zip wires absolutely have their place, but we must ensure they are in the right place.”
In Snowdonia, for example, a disused quarry has been transformed for the better with a zip line. Here, user’s wails echo out only over barren, scarred rock, rather than ruining the experience of others in more serene places like the Lake District. It’s not only a clever way of taking back damaged land, but perhaps a blueprint for how zip wires can take our travels to new heights.