‘Welcome to the jungle,’ Mr Panha, Sky Ranger, greets Barry and I with a huge smile. He knows what’s in store for us. We slip down a discreet path in a jungle, past a spirit house and stumble upon the practice and safety demonstration zip line. Our tour for two (the customer service focus means nobody is kept waiting for stragglers if the staff can help it) are given a full safety briefing and a rundown of what we’d experience for the rest of the morning.
My mild fear of heights climbs the first staircase with me and I start to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. But our Sky Rangers, Mr Panha and Mr Nan, put me at ease with their jokes and attention to the safety rules. I’m soon comfortable and before I know it, I’m clipped to the zip line, unclipped from the safety line and I step off a platform high above the jungle canopy.
I whizz through the air and squeal with delight.
My stomach comes with me but the fear stays behind.
Barry follows with a smile.
From here, Barry and I have an awesome time, zipping our way through trees, climbing staircases for an ever higher thrill. The only time I feel nervous is when we cross the shaky (but ultimately safe) sky bridges, and not when I’m suspended to a wire by another wire. The views are spectacular, especially from the tree house rest stop. It’s hazy but I’m told that on a clear day, you can see all the way to Phnom Kulen.
The smell of the jungle is fresh and trees are beautiful. Our Sky Rangers are knowledgeable on the flora we can see from up here, from wild orchids to bitter and sour leaves used in traditional cooking. They answer every question I think of.
My favourite line comes after the tree house. 300 metres of flying like a gibbon.
We reach the end of the last zip line (zooming through the air doing Gangnam style moves) but are still high above the ground on a platform wrapped around a tree. Instead of a boring staircase descent we ‘abseil’ to the ground. Mr Nam carefully lowers us down a rope, safely into the waiting hands of Mr Panha.
We are then taken on a short walk through the jungle. Our Sky Rangers are just as useful on the ground. We are shown different kinds of trees; spiky ones, edible ones and ones that produce a sap that was once used to waterproof boats. We spy some large geckos and their eggs and the webbed hole of a tarantula’s home (thankfully no spiders greeted us).
It took us 2.5 hours to fly our way through the course (it would take a little longer with a larger group). We were looked after well at every step of the experience and it’s easy to see why the course is growing in popularity, particularly among families.
Flight of the Gibbon, Angkor, is nestled in the jungle in the middle of the Angkor Archaeological Park (it took 2 and half years to get approval to build the course) but you’d hardly know it was there. A small sign near Ta Keo temple lets you know you’ve arrived. An electric powered, open sided van collects you from the paved road and takes you deeper into the jungle until you burst into a clearing housing the welcome area, lockers for customer use, large picnic tables and myriad safety equipment.
I found the environmental credentials impressive. A suspension system involving chocks of wood and wire was used to build the course so weight is distributed around the tree trunk and no nails penetrate the trees. I was told that when the tree grows, engineers move the platforms.
Safety is the number one concern of the company and standards exceed stringent international regulations. Engineers run the course every morning before it opens to the public and Sky Rangers must sit a strict safety and fact based test, which explains their vast knowledge of flora and fauna! The big smiles told me that the staff love their jobs. I was particularly impressed that the Sky Ranger’s followed their own rules and didn’t swing wildly through the trees with their months and years of experience.
But what about the gibbons? Although I didn’t see them, a pair of gibbons was recently re-released into the wild (with the assistance of the Wildlife Alliance) and 10% of profits go to gibbon rescue and breeding programmes.
Flight of the Gibbon was began in Thailand where it has two locations, in Chiang Mai and Pattaya. Angkor, Cambodia (near Siem Reap) is the first international site. You can visit their website at www.treetopasia.com/cambodia-holiday/angkor.