The jungles of Belize are among the places where high-flying adventureers can take a canopy tour.
The Original Canopy Tour

What's That Line?

Mahogany Park Costa Rica
Mahogany Park Costa Rica (The Original Canopy Tour)
By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005

The mind is an amazing instrument.

For example, I'm terrified of roller coasters and won't get on them even when I know they've been developed and tested by stellar engineers and are maintained by famous, responsible companies like Disney.

Yet here I am in a forest in Mexico, standing 72 feet in the air on a platform less than two feet wide. I'm ready to leap off and zip along a cable high above the forest floor for hundreds of feet until I come to another tree, where I'm trusting a total stranger to keep me from crashing into it, should I fail to slow myself by gripping the cable with the right amount of tension.

But my mind, you see, has accepted the illusion that I have control, because one of my gloved hands is holding the cable, and the other hand is holding a rope attached to both the cable and a harness I'm wearing. Not only am I not terrified, but I'm rather enjoying it.

So are a lot of other people.

About a million have lined up to take an Original Canopy Tour since 1997, when Darren Hreniuk opened his first in Costa Rica. Since then, other companies have opened similar adventures, which they sometimes call sky treks or zip line tours.

Currently, there are dozens, and they've spread from Costa Rica, where they were first popularized as a tourist attraction, to Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, Jamaica and Africa. Watch for more: It's a hot trend about to explode.

Original Canopy Tours is working on a second tour in Mexico and one in Puerto Rico. Moreover, other companies that have experience in building challenge courses are eyeing the canopy tour -- which basically takes one or more elements of a challenge or obstacle course, pumps them up, then plunks them in an exotic or otherwise tourist-friendly area. Expect to see them soon in the United States.

"We're in negotiations with seven or eight ski resorts" to bring in tourists during the off-season, says Scott Hornick, president of Grip-It Adventures. Grip-It will keep its core business of traditional challenge courses while adding zip line tours.

Hornick's firm is also working on putting zip line tours in the trees of Kauai, Fiji, Dominica and St. Lucia. He anticipates that two of them will be completed by November and open to the public by Christmas. A lot of other companies, he adds, are either considering or already moving into the field.

For now, you can zip through tropical rain forests or jungles, over an extinct volcano or within view of waterfalls. It requires only a leap of faith.

Zipping Through Mexico

After many years working in fur-trading posts in the wilds of Canada, Darren Hreniuk came back to civilization -- Vancouver, to be exact. In his words, he "joined an investor's group and became a mutual fund and insurance guy."

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company