Zip lining in Mabira rainforest

Saturday February 16 2019

zip lining

A man waves to friends behind him as he moves along the zip line at Mabira Forest, Uganda. PHOTO | DERRICK KABUYE 

By JONATHAN KAMOGA
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Tourism in Uganda is largely understood as visiting game parks, and that is how it has been sold both locally and internationally.

However, a new trend is sweeping through the sector with many locals and foreign tourists opting for activities other than game drives.

Activities like bungee jumping, quad biking, whitewater rafting and other activities are slowly gaining popularity in the country.

Zip lining has become popular with daredevils, and is now a good business for operators and investors.

A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable between two points, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on a slope and trees to enable a person to propel themselves by gravity.

Places like the Kavumba Recreation Centre and Busiika Adventure Park have installed zip lines on their premises.

So I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Fridays are not busy for me so it was the perfect day to accompany a friend on the adrenaline-packed activity.

I have previously gone white water rafting on the Nile, wall climbing and paintball shooting at the Extreme Adventure Park and bungee jumping in Jinja.

This time, we decided to go zip lining, although I have a fear of heights.

We took a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Mabira forest camp, where the country’s largest zip line is located: 44km east of Kampala and about eight kilometres off the Kampala-Jinja highway.

The dusty drive takes you through a large sugarcane plantation before you reach the camp, which is sandwiched by tall trees in Uganda’s largest natural forest.

The camp was set up by the Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organisation to encourage ecotourism.

We arrived just in time to catch a briefing session for a small group that was ahead of us, which included a Kenyan and an American family in Uganda on holiday.

Foreigners pay $50 and Ugandans pay Ush60,000 ($16) for zip lining.

None of us in the group had gone zip lining before; some were excited, others seemed to get cold feet as we moved closer to the starting point.
In a distance we could hear the loud screams of people ahead of us.

After trekking for close to 20 minutes, we reached our starting point — a huge 12-metre tall tree with hinges on which we had to climb to get to the first zip line platform. I opted to climb after everyone else had gone up.

The 250m line goes through ancient trees. It has five platforms with lines running above the tall trees and the river. Soon, it was my turn.

“Bend your knees and squat, and then release yourself,” the instructor told me. “I am going to give you a little push.”

“Push? Do not push me,” I replied, with a grin on my face.

His assurances that all would be well fell on deaf ears as I pictured how I would die from a long fall to the ground.

My colleagues were already at the second stage, urging me to go over and that all was safe.

I looked across to them and among the group were two little boys, probably not more than five years of age. If the young boys had done it, so could I. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, said a little prayer and I went flying.

The anxiety decreased gradually for all of us as we moved from one platform to the next.

At the second platform, I was confident enough to pose for the camera, on the third I let my hands free not grabbing onto my gear. However, I could not work up the confidence to take a selfie on the rope.

Finishing the whole course takes about three hours of fun, tension and your heart wanting to jump out of your chest. Apart from zip lining, which is the main activity here, the camp’s rugged terrain offers hiking and biking options.

One can also track monkeys in the forest, like the Uganda Mangabeys and the red tailed monkeys, or go birding to see vultures and the fish eagle.