Seychelles offers a swinging good time for thrill seekers.
The Seychelles is all about lazing on exotic and palm-fringed beaches. But it is here, on this Indian Ocean archipelago, that I faced my fear of heights and found myself scooting above a tropical jungle.
“It’s important that you do something completely new every year to challenge yourself and stay young,” says our guide with SMAC Adventures, Richard Robert on Mahé Island in the Seychelles.
I had already entered a parallel universe of turquoise waters, pristine powdery beaches and towering granitic outcrops. All seemed possible and effortless in this surreal natural world, so beautiful it looked Photoshopped. Why else would I, who hates heights and ponders decisions, leap into the unknown?
I breezily signed an indemnity form and found myself zipping along a 90-metre-long cable, suspended above a vast green forest canopy, during my fifty-something birthday month.
Adventure sports sound ultra-appealing when you are in the hands of two Hoedspruit-born adrenalin junkies, Wynand de Bruyn and Johan ‘Crunchie’ Cronje. Their can-do attitude and meticulous attention to safety were reassuring. Friends since the age of eight, De Bruyn and Cronje had spent years freelancing for others in adventure travel.
Their interest in zip lining was piqued when Cronje worked with Paul Myburgh, a multiple award-winning documentary film-maker: He set up zip lines for Myburgh to get remarkable close access to crowned eagles, even getting a kill on camera.
The intrepid pair decided to go it alone and set up their own adventure sports experience company.
While zip-lining is now a must-do Seychelles activity, the concept was initially greeted with some scepticism.
Several luxury hotel group managers turned down the proposal, but the Constance Hotels and Resorts hotel group gave the thumbs-up for a rock climbing, abseiling and zip-lining operation at its Ephélia Resort.
Set within almost 300 acres of tropical landscape, and overlooking the Port Launay National Marine Park, it’s a stunning location.
The project took three months of planning, plus one month of gruelling construction work.
The 51m practice run was a shoo-in. Finishing the first 90m-long zip, my compadres whooped and cheered in their adrenalin-pumped euphoria.
I unclipped myself and stared across the 75m of line two, with the treetops and rock outcrops far below. A lone fruit bat swooped above. My hands trembled. I felt like a 1920s climber on the flanks of Everest, at a time when it was considered unsporting to use oxygen.
I decided it was best to come clean and admit the watery patches on my face were tears, not sweat from the humidity. Luckily for me, I then sped across the lines (initially with eyes closed) linked to guide Darius Robert, with his cousin Richard waiting for me at the other end.
So I managed to complete the full eight lines, although not as flamboyantly as Richard who’s a fan of Afro-Brazilian capoeira (combining martial arts, dance and music). He traverses the lines upside down for entertainment.
I did indeed fulfil De Bruyn’s guarantee that I would have a big smile on my face when I finished, but it was partly relief because of those heights. But the final run, when terra firma was a lot closer, had even me considering doing it again.
For more information, visit www.smacadventures.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +248 2536029. The trip was sponsored by Air Seychelles, Mason’s Travel, Constance Hotels and SMAC Adventures.
First published in the Weekend Argus 31 August 2013.
Images Judy Bryant and supplied