The day we were supposed to go to Sapi Island it rained in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I love beaches (after mountains) and I was disappointed. However, the visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village which we did in lieu turned out to be wonderful! Our guide John Prudente called the Coral Flyer Zipline in the afternoon to see if the zipline was open but we had no luck. So, whether the island to island zipline happened or not was in the hand of rain gods!
The next day I woke up to some clouds and rain. We got a message from John that the zipline was open and we were going to Sapi Island. He collected us from Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu where we were staying for two nights. The third night we stayed at Le Meridian, Kota Kinabalu. We went to Sutera Harbor to take a speed boat to the Sapi Island. We walked around the harbor till it was time to board the speedboat.
The sea was a bit choppy. The speedboat was landing with a small thuds on the waves. Suddenly John who was sitting at the front of the boat was lying on the floor in pain. He hurt his back on one of the landings. We were all worried and concerned. The boat dropped speed. John was able to walk once we reached Sapi, but we could see he was in pain. He took a painkiller and sat in a corner. He told us to go ahead on the zipline, he would wait for us. We walked around Sapi Beach. It was crowded. Due to the bad weather the ferry service was suspended the day before, so the tourists were out in number.
Soon it was our turn to head to the zipline. A speedboat took us to the nearby Gaya Island. The zipline is between Pulau Gaya Island and Pulau Sapi. It is 250 meter long. It is the longest island to island zipline in the world. Pulau means island in Malay.
Once we landed at Gaya Island we could see the signs to follow for the zipline. It involves climbing uphill for a short distance. There is a harness station mid way. The staff put a harness over me and handed me the pulley. Then the staff at the main platform did further checks before letting me loose on the line! As it is a double line, two people can go in tandem.
A group of five people were going before us. One girl was almost in tears before the start but she did fine! Soon it was our turn. Taking pictures is always tricky on ziplines. Luckily one member of our team, the most senior too, had a deep pocket where he kept my cell phone after clicking my picture! That is how I managed to have one picture of mine on the zipline. One boy in the group ahead did the zipline holding his GoPro in one hand. And to his credit he did not drop it.
The ride happens on tremendous speed, it gets over in less than a minute. The view from the line is spectacular. At the end of the line are brakes for slowing the speed. Except them and you would be fine!
We walked back from the landing point to the Sapi Beach again, all in high spirits. Though we were anxious about John. When we saw him, he was still in pain. The weather was turning bad. After a while the zipline was stopped again due to the rains. I saw the instructors zipping back in the rain to Sapi.
The sea looked entirely different by now. We were wondering how we would go back. But the folks at the island organized a speedboat for us with John so that he could lie down while going back. He was talking to the organizers in his own language but I could guess John was asking to arrange raincoats for us. I told him none of us needed raincoats! We started back with the boat going with extreme caution.
We could not see the shore in any direction. It was quite unnerving. However, we got to see the building around the Sutera harbor after a while. We were in safe waters.
John messaged later that he has been ordered bed rest for 3 months. His back was injured. I felt so bad. I wish him a speedy recovery. Even when he must have been in so much pain he was worried about raincoats for us!
If you plan to go on the island to island zipline make sure that it is open that day. The Coral Flyer is a lot of fun but it is weather dependent.
PS. I was on this trip to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia with Silk Air.
When I heard that we were taking a 45 minute drive out of Chiang Mai (Thailand) to experience a zipline, I was not too sure what we were up to. I have done ziplines before. I agree they are a lot of fun while they last, which is often less than a minute. I was not sure I wanted to travel for 45 minutes to do it. But then it was before I encountered Flying Squirrels beyond Chiang Mai.
Flying Squirrels is a two and a half hours adventurous course made of 32 stations. It has 17 ziplines, 1 abseil, 6 walking steps, 2 climbing nets, 2 sky bridges, 1 Tarzan Jump, 1 skateboard, 1 bicycle zipline and 1 slider. Their website gives a very good map of the various activities on offer. June was the manager for Flying Squirrels who joined us for the group photograph.
It was quite an experience to zip through 17 times over a canopy of green. It was fun to glide over the giant tree tops. The rest of 15 courses kept me completely engrossed as well. In fact I was so into doing the activity that I hardly noticed the lush green surroundings. I have enjoyed them more through the pictures I clicked.
If you wish to carry a cell phone or a camera on the lines, you need a way to secure them. The camera can’t be held in hand because one is bound to drop it while zipping through. The folks at the Flying Squirrels gave me a pouch to carry my cell phone. I am really thankful for their suggestion or else I would have missed out on so many fun pictures!
The longest zipline is 600 meters. It is so long that if you are light weight you might not reach the end of the line! It happened to our lightest colleague. One of the flight instructors had to go and fetch him from the line where he had stopped on his own!
Every group has two instructors; the first one would send you on the line securely. The other instructor would receive us at the end of the line and help us in landing. At the landing they often asked us to raise our legs. The help was needed also to avoid collision with the trees that stand firm at the landing stations.
The platforms for the ziplines are quite high and sometimes narrow. As soon as I would land on such platforms the instructor would secure me to a line firmly. It is imperative that we do not unfasten from the line while waiting for others to land. It was drilled into us to leave the lines well alone, only instructors would touch them.
As Thai names are quite difficult the nicknames of our instructors were Pong and Kishan. Actually Kishan was not the nick name but it was easy for me to remember. For the entire course we were in their good hands.
We were a group of five people plus two instructors. One of us left the course after maybe 5 stations! Amongst the rest I was declared to be the most fearless. About half way through the course I started wondering why was I not scared when everyone else was. It was only later in the evening I realized that I too was quite scared till I was securely clipped to the line. Most of the platforms are high and I would not step up till Pong snapped all the three security lines in place. But once I was secure, letting go was easy and fun for me.
At one platform Pong asked me if I would like to get my picture clicked hanging in the air. I was game for it. If you look at the picture closely, you can see that I am still clipped to the line. But there is another picture of mine, taken by their professional photographer where I actually left my hands while going on the zipline! They give that photograph to me as a souvenir.
Our instructors were fun. For them it was not enough that we were doing the 32 courses. They would tug the line while we were hanging on it. They sometimes shook the walking steps too. For me that was good fun but I am not sure everyone would agree with it.
The last obstacle is a steep slide where they put you inside a sack and let you zoom through. We were all smiles after doing the entire course successfully.
I had gone in wondering why someone would drive for 45 minutes to do a zipline! After two and a half hours I knew exactly why. The day ends with lunch being served at the Flying Squirrels headquarters if you are doing the morning course. After experiencing the Flying Squirrels I would never think of a zipline as simply a zipline! Who knew ziplines could be so much fun!
PS. My trip to Thailand was sponsored by TAT New Delhi!
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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