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Flight of the Gibbon: A Zipline Chiang Mai Adventure

6 reasons why you should make ziplining through the rainforest part of your Northern Thailand vacation.

Duke and Wally on one of the two double ziplines at Flight of the Gibbon

Duke and Wally on one of the two double ziplines at Flight of the Gibbon

Diesel, Wally, Mr. O and Duke still feeling the rush from their ziplining excursion

Diesel, Wally, Mr. O and Duke still feeling the rush from their ziplining excursion

When we got back from our trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of the first things people asked was, “What was your favorite part?”

There are so many to choose from — my monkey mind buzzes through dazzling, bejewelled Buddhist temples to getting up close and personal with rescued elephants. But one adventure  races to the top, so to speak: ziplining through the jungle at Flight of the Gibbon.

Yes, it’s as intense as it sounds. The ride was so long I had time to panic…and then calm down.

Making it all the more memorable is the fact that the morning we were there happened to be my birthday.

Here are six reasons why you should choose Flight of the Gibbon as a part of your Chiang Mai itinerary.

 

Flight of the Gibbons will pick you up and transport you to the jungle

Flight of the Gibbons will pick you up and transport you to the jungle

1. A driver picks you up right at your hotel.

They recommended the early morning time slot, as the rainforest tends to be cooler and the gibbons more active.

The downside is that it was too early for breakfast at our hotel. When you’re used to a hearty meal to start your day, as we had become accustomed, it’s jarring to skip any sort of sustenance — not to mention our caffeine fix!

We recommend making sure you’ve got something in your belly before your pickup.

Duke pointed out a pair of engraved buffalo horns in front of our seats in the van with rather angry-looking rats carved onto them. “They just look that way because they haven’t had a cup of coffee,” I grumbled.

The ride takes about an hour and half to the village of Mae Kampong.

Duke and Wally are all geared up and ready to hit the jungle course! (The harnesses are a bit snug in the crotch region, FYI.)

Duke and Wally are all geared up and ready to hit the jungle course! (The harnesses are a bit snug in the crotch region, FYI.)

They’ll hook you up with harnesses and helmets

They’ll hook you up with harnesses and helmets

2. Safety is their number-one priority.

We’ve done ziplines and treetop obstacle courses where you’re responsible for hooking yourself in. There’s a fail-safe where the device locks to assure at least one clamp is connected to the wire.

What’s so great about Flight of the Gibbon is that you don’t have to worry about any of that. At every station, there’s an attendant (they call them sky rangers) at either end. One sets you up, straps you in and gives you a push, and the other reminds you to put your feet up and helps catch you, stopping your momentum, at the end of the zipline.

“We want our customers to have fun and be safe, but safety is our first priority,” said Diesel, one of the staff.

 

3. The sky rangers are hilarious.

As an added bonus, the guys who work there are so goofy, they really set the tone for an enjoyable excursion, allaying any initial fears you may have.

I get vertigo, though there’s something about being strapped into a harness and wire that allows me to actually stand on narrow wooden platforms high above the ground. Maybe it's just that I love the thrill of ziplining so much I don’t allow myself to succumb to vertigo.

At one of the first stations, though, the platform jiggled and I started to panic a bit. But then Diesel came zooming across, doing stunts, his legs on the wire above him.

“I think he’s part gibbon,” I told Duke.

I quickly let go of any fear and gave into the pleasure.

And it wasn’t just Diesel who could have a second career moonlighting as a comedian. At a resting spot, a few groups converged, and we heard another ranger repeatedly calling a British guy Harry Potter. (At one point he even said the levitation spell: Wingardium leviosa!) And when a bright metallic blue beetle buzzed by, he broke into a refrain of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

A family of gibbons, including this mother and child, swing in the branches high above you

A family of gibbons, including this mother and child, swing in the branches high above you

4. You’ll meet a family of gibbons.

Duke has a thing for primates, and after watching a National Geographic special on Thailand called The Living Edens, he became obsessed with gibbons.

At one point, you do a little hiking. And just when we were getting a bit tired, Diesel called out, “You’re going too fast for me! Let’s take a five-minute rest.”

A roly-poly rolls up into a ball — and became ammunition for a prank amongst the sky rangers 

A roly-poly rolls up into a ball — and became ammunition for a prank amongst the sky rangers 

He took the opportunity to teach us a bit about the flora and fauna of the rainforest. He spotted a roly-poly bug, and when he picked it up, it curled into a tight armored ball. Diesel palmed it and kept trying to get other sky rangers to shake his hand and get a surprise bug as part of the deal. Like I said, a real kidder.

Up a hill, you head off to see a group of trees where a family of gibbons resides. There’s one female, with light fur, and three dark-furred males.

Diesel explained the difference between a gibbon and a monkey: Gibbons don’t have tails. Their long limbs are what allow them to swing from treetop to treetop.

Duke is also fond of their distinctive “whoop whoop” call, which we heard in full force later in the morning.

5. One of the ziplines is half a mile long!

At 800 meters, it’s the longest and fastest of the bunch. And, yes, it’s as intense as it sounds. The ride was so long I had time to panic…and then calm down.

See that glow on our faces? That’s the post-ziplining bliss

See that glow on our faces? That’s the post-ziplining bliss

Wally is giddy — ziplining through the jungle was a fab way to spend his birthday!

Wally is giddy — ziplining through the jungle was a fab way to spend his birthday!

6. It’s the thrill of a lifetime.

There are 30 stations, the majority of which are ziplines — with the highest one almost 100 feet up! 

A map of the 30 stations you’ll work your way through at Flight of the Gibbon

A map of the 30 stations you’ll work your way through at Flight of the Gibbon

Whee! Duke rappels at one of the stations

Whee! Duke rappels at one of the stations

If you’ve never been ziplining, it's high time you tried. If you have, then you probably understand the rush of adrenaline that comes when you soar through the treetops. It’s the closest to flying I’ll ever get. –Wally

The Most Incredible 360 Panorama Virtual Reality Pics Ever

AirPano’s aerial photography and VR videos of the world’s most famous landmarks reveal sights you'd never see otherwise.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, are the largest waterfalls in the world. The AirPano photographers said that filming them has been one of the highlights of the project.

The photos are immersive. They engulf you. You almost feel as if you’re there. You can swoop around a famous site you’ve always wanted to see — only now it’s as if you’ve developed the ability to fly as well as teleport.

These 360-degree aerial panoramas are thanks to AirPano, a Russian not-for-profit that features 3,000 of these impressive images.

Two of AirPano’s photographers, Sergey Semenov and Sergey Rumyantsev, answered some questions about this ambitious, one-of-a-kind project. –Wally


How did the AirPano project get started?

In 2006, we learned how to take spherical panorama shots on land. In those years, this was not an easy task: It required a special panoramic tripod head, a sufficiently deep knowledge of shooting panoramas, and it demanded a lot of manual work.

At that time, we also had a lot of experience in photography from helicopters and airplanes, and suddenly Oleg Gaponyuk, the founder of the AirPano project, got an idea: Why not break all of the existing laws of taking panorama shots on land, and try to do it in the air?

We figured out how to take a spherical shot in the sky, where it is impossible to use a high-precision panorama head, because the helicopter can shift by many meters while shooting, due to the blowing of the wind.

After several unsuccessful attempts, we finally figured it out, and the result exceeded all of our expectations. The effect was stunning, and the viewer felt like they were sitting in the helicopter and seeing the surrounding landscape with their own eyes.

The AirPano team


What's AirPano’s mission?

When we realized what a stunning impression aerial panoramas produce, we decided to do a project called “100 Places on the Planet Which You Should See From a Bird’s-Eye View.”

We wanted to share with the audience fantastic, awesome, incredible impressions, inaccessible to most people.

After shooting the first 100 places, we didn’t stop there, and now on our website you can find panoramas of more than 300 places of our planet — from the North Pole to Antarctica.
 

Why is this project so passionate for you?

Few people have the opportunity to see the most interesting places on our planet from a bird’s-eye view.

First of all, it would require a significant amount of time spent traveling. Secondly, the best spots are far from civilization, in places with no airplanes or helicopters nearby. Thirdly, the most popular places have restrictions on flying, and lastly, it’s too expensive. Our project gives this opportunity to everyone, regardless of their location or wealth.

As photographers, we have visited over 100 countries around the world, and we have seen unbelievable scenery with our very own eyes. When it became clear that everything can be shown to people in a new way, we decided that we should do it. But back in 2006, Andrei Zubetz and Gaponyuk, the founders of AirPano, had no idea that the project would be so successful.

 

How has the project grown?

In the beginning we had a goal to capture the most 100 beautiful places of the world from above. We have captured all of them and we couldn’t stop. So our current goal is to keep shooting.

Technology evolves, so we come back to places where we’ve already been, but capture them in new format with high resolution. For example, we have now created 360-degree videos of some of our favorite waterfalls.

Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe


How do you get those amazing panoramic photos and videos?

We shoot our air panoramas in a variety of ways: large helicopters and a radio-controlled “flying” camera. We use a typical SLR camera with a wide-angle lens. The process is not very long and it takes 30 seconds to shoot a single sphere.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

Antarctica


What’s the most interesting thing that has happened on your travels?

We’ve been in 300 places around the world, so it’s difficult to choose the most interesting thing in all these journeys. We’ve been on the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica, on South and North Pole. We’ve seen a volcano eruption. And we’ve also created aerial panoramas from the stratosphere.


Were you ever in any danger?

Yes. We’ve walked by lava pipes. We’ve captured footage of wild animals on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and in Africa. We’ve met angry elephant in the savanna, who were following our car. When we were capturing rafting on the Zambezi River, one of our operators fell from the boat.


Courtesy of www.AirPano.com

The Raja Ampat archipelago in Indonesia



We’ve embedded footage of your favorite spots. What did you like best about them?

We are landscape photographers; we love beautiful views. There are the most spectacular views from above and from the ground of these places. There is a powerful energy and untouched nature.


Where would you love to go that you haven't yet?

The main places where we’d like to go are the United Kingdom and Japan. We have tried a lot to get there, but we have problems with getting permissions for aerial shooting. Also we love volcanoes, waterfalls and tropical beaches, so all these directions interest us.