Brevard Zoo’s Treetop Trek, a new attraction at the zoo, is actually a network of aerial ziplines. Visitors are rendered speechless as they careen through the trees over swampy wetlands, alligators, and crocodiles at speeds of up to 40 mph. Ziplines are relatively new to the U.S. but have become extremely popular since their introduction about ten years ago.
While it is unclear who invented the commercial zipline for canopy tours, the idea began with the Tyrolean traverse, a method used by mountain climbers for decades to cross through free space in the mountains. Biologists Donald Perry and John Williams were among the first to develop the contraption in Costa Rica during the 1980s. They modified a ski lift into an aerial tram that could carry them between treetops without a need to return to the ground. Through their experimentation the modern zipline was born and is considered today to be an essential portion of any Costa Rican vacation.
Today ziplines are being used for both personal use — usually in playgrounds and backyards — and commercial use. They can be found on six continents and are most common in rainforest areas. Colorado boasts zipline adventures over canyons and rivers, while Tennessee promises breathtaking views of the mountains and wildlife. Advertised as the ultimate entertainment with breathtaking views and thrilling rushes, professional ziplines can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The fastest recorded line, the only one claiming speeds of 100 mph, is the Zip 2000 located in Sun City, South Africa. This zipline is a record 6,561 feet long suspended at a height of 918 feet.
The Zip Rider at Icy Strait Point in Juneau, Alaska, is a comparable ride. With cables 5,300 feet long and 1,300 feet high, the line travels at 60 mph. Costa Rica and Hawaii are famous for zipline canopy tours that take visitors into remote jungle areas. The first commercial zipline in the U.S. was built in Maui in 2002.
Treetop Trek at Brevard Zoo
Brevard Zoo’s Treetop Trek, a $500,000 zip line attraction carries harness-clad thrill-seekers through a network of tightropes, swinging bridges, “crab walks”, nets and slides up to 40 feet above ground.
“It’s all tree-to-tree. There’s no towers. It’s all taking place within the forest itself,” described Keith Winsten, Brevard Zoo’s executive director. “It’s a very organic, natural experience.” A Quebec company designed the structure and attached elevated wooden platforms to tree trunks across the northern, undeveloped portion of the 72- acre zoo.
The zoo is always seeking ways to update itself to ensure consistent attendance. Thanks to some of their very creative ideas, annual attendance has grown an amazing 87 percent since the zoo opened in 1994. Once the animal hospital is complete, zoo officials will kick off a $6 million to $8 million expansion of the Wild Florida loop, featuring an amphitheater and enlarged carnivore exhibits. Although there is an additional change to ride the zipline, the amount saved by purchasing a zoo membership would help offset the cost.
Zoo guests with serious neck, back, or joint injuries or chronic heart problems are advised to use their own discretion about their capabilities to safely participate in the zipline activity. Regardless of the location, warnings are posted that urge anyone with who has had recent surgery, especially on ankles, knees or their back, to not participate in ziplines. Although every effort is made to ensure customers are comfortable both physically and mentally, some degree of impact on joints or some degree of customer anxiety about zipping is unavoidable.
Read about more things to do on our sister publication, Space Coast Events Examiner and Space Coast Life.