By Doug Kish, MA
Described as a “flightseeing” expedition that will have you soaring past animals grazing and basking in the sun, landing in a wildflower garden oasis, Wild Zipline Safari will not disappoint adventurers of all ages. Located 70 miles east of Columbus in Cumberland, Ohio, Wild Zipline Safari is situated within the 10,000 acres of land known as “The Wilds,” a private, non-profit wildlife conservation center. The Wild Zipline Safari is a professionally-guided tour over 10 ziplines built on a series of observation platforms. The highest ziplines reach 70 feet in the air and you travel a distance of 3,000 feet over the course. The day we visited, our guides were Mac Masterson and Allyson Schwartz, both of them courteous, personable and knowledgeable in all aspects of ziplining and information about the resident animals.
After gearing up with a seat harness, chest harness, trolley system, lanyards with safety clips, gloves and a helmet, fitted individually to each person, we proceeded to the practice area. At that point we received instructions about how to take off and land, how to slow down, and what to do if you stopped short and had to pull yourself in to the tower. Each member of the group completed a short zip and passed their practice session, and then we moved on to the first tower. There were four people in our group, although groups can be as large as nine people, and there are always two guides on every tour.
After climbing the steps to the first platform, all guests were immediately tethered so no one was in danger of falling. Lead guide Masterson gave a bit of an overview of this zipline and then zipped off to the receiving end on the next tower. The first zipline, located high on the top of a hill, is fairly short so guests have an opportunity to get familiar with the equipment and what to do. Schwartz then hooked each individual to the zipline where we took off and landed one by one, eventually meeting up again on the next tower. With only one guest on the zipline at a time, guides are in constant contact with each other by walkie-talkies confirming when each person takes off and confirming when they land safely on the other side. On arrival at the next tower, each person is again tethered to the platform for safety. After assisting everyone, Schwartz zipped over to join the group.
Our next few zips took us through the wooded area, until we flew out of the trees and were amazed to see the beautiful view of animal watering holes, lakes and pastures below. We continued on our tour, some lines over water and some over land dotted with rare and endangered animal species roaming the open hills. The longest zip is 760 feet over the water and was the favorite of most of our group. Continuing with his narrative of each zip, Masterson relayed that one zip with a lower elevation allows individuals to get close to the deer below; so close, in fact, that sometimes the deer are encouraged to move away from the zipline due to the size of their antlers.
At the end of the ninth zipline, the landing area is on the lower portion of the platform. Guests are then required to climb the “50 steps of fun” to get to the takeoff platform for the final zipline. Near the final tower, observers can climb the steps to a platform which is the best place to take photos. Passing over a lake that is home to numerous species of fish and lots of turtles sunning themselves, we landed on the final platform. There are no steps to exit the final tower and each person is given one last adventure of rappelling themselves over the edge 30 feet to the earth below.
Although we hoped to see the giraffes at some point on our tour, we were told they rarely leave their heated barn until the temperature remains at least 70 degrees. We did, however, enjoy seeing the camels, takin and ostriches roaming their areas freely, although separated by fences. Preparing to zip one of the lines, I saw a number of Sichuan Takin in the pasture below, noting that their faces are similar to bears. Masterson told us they are native to Western China, which is the same area inhabited by the well-known giant panda.
The minimum age for the zipline tour is 10 years and children ages 10 and 11 must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations are recommended. For more information about Wild Zipline Safari or to schedule a zipline tour, see their website zipthewilds.com.
If ziplining is not on your bucket list, there are several open and enclosed vehicle tours of The Wilds which enable visitors to see these endangered animals up close. One tour even allows you to feed the giraffes. For more information about those tours, visit their website thewilds.org.
The Wild’s Zipline Safari