Last weekend my friend Tom, a particularly ape-like fellow, turned 30. What better way to celebrate such an important milestone then, than by swinging about in trees? So off we went to Go Ape in Dalby Forest on a lovely sunny day.
You start off on the ground, learning the procedures for clipping in and out of the different zip wires and safety cables. I was surprised and more than a little nervous to learn that there’s no instructor with you. They show you the ropes (quite literally) and then set you loose in the forest.
Despite a combined age of about 300 in our group, I couldn’t be sure that someone wouldn’t clip on to their own trousers by mistake and plunge to the forest floor. I could even tell who that was most likely to be: some of the boys were already in that taunting and shoving mood where they’re incapable of paying attention to a safety briefing. Instead, they were looking for trees to wobble. They don’t grow out of this sort of behaviour by 30.
The course is very cleverly laid out. There are 6 separate sections and each one is just subtly more daring than the last so that you never feel too filled with terror. In places there are alternative routes for the more timid ape.
You start off small while you get used to clipping in and out, and before long it becomes second nature. The legs stop trembling and you just bounce along between the trees. Even those who are nervous at first seem to get in to the swing of things (sorry) soon enough. If you go and you’re nervous, my advice is to make yourself do the first two before you decide to chicken out.
There are three main types of crossing between trees: crossings you walk or climb along (bridges, tightropes etc), zip wires, and swings. The zip wires are by far the most exciting – 35 metres up over the canopy, speeding along, looking down on mountain bikers and walkers, taking in the smell of pine, legs dangling, perilously close to losing a shoe.
The only down side is the zip wire landing. Many people seem to be able to land on their feet. Not me. Every time I landed I did so bum first. As a result, I spent the day with about a kilo of woodchips in my knickers.
Other than that, I’d highly recommend it. There are Go Ape centres across the country, all in lovely countryside.
It’s an invigorating day out, and if you’re not too scared to look down it’s actually quite a good way to appreciate the surrounding nature.