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Flight of the Toucan

I can safely say that this was one of the best experiences I could have signed up for, and not just because it turned out to be a private tour.

Run from Hacienda Baru, a private reserve near Dominical, restored from an old cocoa and banana plantation, Flight of the Toucan combines both a nature tour through secondary and primary rain forest with a 9 wire zip-line trail. The guides are from the local area, and know the forest like the back of their hands. Each group is accompanied by both a guide and a spotter. The guide will walk you through the ecology of the area, along with the history, showing you how the area has developed since returning to rain forest. The spotter will usually walk ahead, set up his scope, so that when you finally catch up after a fascinating insight into the cultivation of banana trees, you can look straight down the scope into the eyes of a three toed sloth!

The walk up to the 'take off' point takes around 45 minutes once you account for all the animal spotting. After grabbing a gulp of water, we gear up and get ready to clip on. The spotter goes first, 'to catch me' apparently, not necessarily the words you want to hear as you're about to throw yourself over a 80 ft drop, but I assume the meaning is lost in translation! Feet up, go-pro on, and I start to fly! The sensation of whizzing through the canopy of the rain forest with the ground far below you can not be described. It is possibly one of the most exhilarating thrills I have ever experienced.

The nature spotting takes a step back as we complete the remaining 8 lines, which is not a problem as my attention is fully captivated by dropping in and out of the canopy. Each line has its own unique qualities, my favourite being, the 2nd to last line, which, after just coming in and landing on a wooden platform suspended 150ft above the ground, you look out over the entire forest to the coast before setting off on a 700m line back into the canopy. The views from this are breathtaking (as is the drop...)!

The final line, is much shorter, and lower, in an attempt to bring you back down to earth after your lofty heights, however, to throw one final adrenaline rush into it, you do it backwards! There is very little quite so nerve-wracking as throwing yourself backwards off a platform, suspended on a wire, but the invigoration you get hurtling through the trees backwards is worth the initial fear factor.

The walk back to the reception is shorter, partly due to the route, and partly due to the fact that the guide has already explained most things.

After the tour, you are permitted to explore some of the routes of the hacienda yourself, with a map in hand you can set off on the 3k, 5k or extension walks. These are through the new and old rain forest on small natural trails, which at points, you can barely see where they go. I would highly recommended this if you have a few spare hours and an athletic mindset...

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