As somebody who has always been afraid of heights, I had always been nervous about the prospect of zip-lining. I know the solution to this quandary is simple: Don’t go zip-lining. That’s not how travellers do it though is it? If something scares you, that gives you even more reason to try it!
With that in mind, I decided to face my fears! I told my boyfriend, Tim, that I wanted to go for it and we arranged a zip-lining trip in Baños, Ecuador with Takiri Travel.
Why Takiri Travel?
The thing that appealed most about Takiri Travel was their ethos. Their main aim is to deliver high-quality tours which empower local communities and promote responsible travel. With so many tour operators about, it is really important that we as backpackers choose carefully and invest in ethical experiences. Plus, at the time we booked with them, Takiri Travel were operating out of the wonderful Community Hostel, where we were staying in Baños. (They will soon be moving to their own office in town.)
What to bring zip-lining?
The good thing about zip-lining is that there isn’t anything in particular that you need to bring. Be aware that you will be exposed to sunlight so make sure to lather up with suncream beforehand. Owing to the mountainous jungle setting of the zip-lines, it is also worth making sure you have some insect repellent on.
The whole trip was easy to arrange and we were picked up bang on time by a driver from the zip-lining park that we would be visiting. The location of the zip-lining was only a twenty-minute drive outside of the city so before we knew it, we had arrived!
Equipment and safety talk
When we arrived at the zip-lining park we were fitted with our harnesses and given the rest of our equipment. Both helmets and gloves are supplied. The gloves are made of thick leather so that you are able to use them to slow your descent if necessary. All kitted out, we headed over to the first zip-line where we were given a safety talk by two of the guides. This was delivered promptly and the recommended positions were acted out for us so we knew exactly what to do.
Baños Zip-Lining Park
The zip-lining park that we went to has six lines, which with the exception of one, get longer every time! There are three positions that you can try out although some of them can only be performed on particular lines.
The first of these is the standard sitting position with crossed legs, this is good for taking in the surrounding view. There is also the Bat position which sees you travel the line upside down (not for the faint of heart) and then finally the Superman, where you go down on your front. This was my favourite of the positions because it is the one in which you really feel like you flying!
The first and shortest of the lines is 150 m and the last and longest is 550 m in length. During this final zip-line, you can reach speeds of up to 80 km per hour – pretty hair-raising! Of course, the highlight of the trip is taking in the spectacular canyon landscape of Baños. You will see waterfalls, rivers and if you are lucky, even some huge birds of prey soaring over you.
During the course, you will begin your ascent 20 m above the Pucayaco River and ride your last line at an altitude of 160 m over the Ulba River Canyon. Whilst some of the zip-lines are very close together, there are two which require an upward hike. Despite being short in length, this can still be pretty hard-going, so I wouldn’t recommend going zip-lining the day after a big hike. Your legs will definitely thank you for a break in between! These climbs can be exhausting, but luckily water is provided upon arrival at the next line and you are given time to recover before getting strapped in!
Facing my fear!
When I was getting clipped in for the first line, I couldn’t help but feel really nervous. However, the safety equipment all appeared to be well maintained and the guides were thorough when strapping us in. As we set off, a small squeak escaped my mouth but I was surprised by how safe I felt.
The first time I flew in the Superman position I was pretty apprehensive but this quickly became my favourite way to descend the lines. You have your hands free so you are able to take a video or simply just appreciate the views below you. Whilst Tim was brave enough to film the surroundings, I was still too nervous for this so instead held my arms pinned to my body like a traumatised T-Rex!
Another good thing about the park is that line 5 gives you the opportunity to go down with somebody. You are strapped to each other as well as the line which is a nice touch, especially if one of you is pretty nervous!
The last line was by far the most spectacular, not only owing to the views but also because of the sheer speed that you are able to achieve. By this point I had stopped squeaking but only because this noise had evolved into a full-on scream. At least I was keeping the guides amused!
Zip-lining is a unique way in which to take in the fabulous scenery that Baños presents and maybe even spot some wildlife on the way. The tour in its entirety lasted around two hours and also included our transport to and from our accommodation. This makes it a great option if you are short of time in the area. With departures throughout the day, you can organise a trip to fit perfectly into your own itinerary.
All in all, whilst I am definitely still afraid of heights, I had an amazing time doing zip-lining with Takiri Travel and would definitely recommend it to other travellers. Zip-lining gave me the opportunity to face one of my long-standing fears and whilst I might not have smashed it, I definitely made a good sized dent!