Review and photographs by Stephen Curry
When the opportunity came along to visit and review Go Ape, the forest tree top adventure, it wasn't a tough decision. The only part that was unknown was how my 13 year old daughter would take the idea. Now, she's up for a bit of adventure, but also suffers from the teenage affliction called love of technology. I needn't have worried; surprisingly, she was hugely enthusiastic, literally bouncing with delight at the prospect and uttering the word 'awesome.'
There was only one more slight problem to overcome... She really, really does not like heights.
On the day of our adventure we arrived to a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, the personable instructors making sure we were welcomed and had everything we needed from the outset. As there were just two of us, we joined another group and were soon in the training area.
Not surprisingly in this day and age, safety really does come first at Go Ape; if you have any concerns, then worry no more as a very knowledgeable, professional, clear, and friendly hands-on training session followed, covering and trying out everything we'd need to know – from attaching your harness to what to do in an emergency. Then it was into the trees for our 2-3 hours of fun.
The course is divided into sections and offers varying degrees of challenge. The earlier section is almost an introduction, not being too high or difficult, but still offering challenge enough; you'll grow gradually in confidence and sense of achievement. Let’s face it, if afraid of heights, you don't want to be at the highest point right away. You learn quickly to trust the harness and, more importantly, yourself, and before you know it you've negotiated platforms, balanced along logs and jumped on a rope swing into a net – all 30ft high in the trees. The thing is, you're concentrating on what you're doing rather than on looking down.
Each section ends with a zip wire which is particularly popular – especially with my daughter. With just a little trepidation at jumping from a high platform into the unknown, she was off, with just a few squeals (make that screams) of delight and whoops of joy after landing. That one ticked the right boxes.
With a well earned drink of water at the (very thoughtfully positioned) base of the next section, we were set for moving higher up the trees. Fear seemed to evaporate in my baboon (rather apt Go Ape speak for 12-17yr olds) as she clambered around, over and jumped off the varied obstacles; she was pretty much unstoppable... That was until she saw just a rope suspended between the next two trees.
Now, as I’ve said, safety is paramount and she was attached to a cable, needing just to suspend herself in the harness and pull herself across using the rope. Suddenly though, all bravado and confidence had completely disappeared and my baboon found herself at great height clinging to a tree with just a rope for support, and no amount of persuasion (or bribery) would change that. You have two options if you have problems, you're told to simply shout 'help' or blow a whistle for support. I chose the former.
Very quickly, our instructor arrived and climbed up to help. After assessing and discussing the situation, I continued, he then took my daughter (very much a girl once more, all baboon-like tendencies vanished) down and on to the start of the next section, where, confidence regained she continued.
I have to say, this could have been make or break; she could have given up, but the instructor was fantastic with her. He was friendly and helpful, encouraging, not pushy and brought back her confidence. Fantastic customer service. I can’t say that strongly enough.
Talking later, it turns out that every obstacle had somewhere to put your feet... except this one, and that was just too much for her. We all have our limits though, and I’m proud of my girl for testing hers.
From there, it was all uphill (and higher), with confidence renewed and tough obstacles ahead, which she took in her stride. Add some fun, effort and concentration, and even scared of heights it's surprising what can be achieved. With a leap from the final platform, my baboon was off down the final zip wire, shouting with delight.
The verdict? I've completed Go Ape once before and found this visit just as interesting as previously. This is a different few hours; it's physical, though how physical is partly up to you; thought provoking; exciting and ultimately rewarding. You do gain a sense of achievement, particularly if you're not used to more physical adventure or are simply afraid of heights. It's therefore a challenge in many different ways. Should those two reasons put you off? No, there's plenty of help and support from the instructors, and often from your fellow climbers. Other than that it's good old determination, confidence and conquering your fears.
As well as for individuals, Go Ape caters for pretty much every occasion, whether corporate events and team building, including offering conference facilities and host should you require; birthday parties, schools & colleges or even hen and stag do's. Add to this, fully catering for families - extending to little ones with the new Tree Top Junior (age 6 and above) facilities opening at many centres; Forest Segway experience, an hour's off-roading on an all terrain segway - and you're looking at an all-round service.
Go Ape's Tree Top Adventure costs £30-£32 for over 18's, and £24 for 10-17 years (over 1.4m) and is available throughout the country (England, Scotland and Wales). Further details available from: www.goape.co.uk
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