Friday, January 13, 2012

January 11th – Above Dominica’s Rainforest

On the beautifully unspoilt island of Dominica, the thing to do is to get out of town and visit the island's lush rainforest. So, today I joined a trip that would give us a different perspective on this – from above.

We drove up into the steep green mountains that characterise the centre of the island, and went to the "Rainforest Aerial Tram" experience. Here we climbed into our tram, (basically a glorified suspended shopping trolley with seats), and were silently carried up into the canopy that clung to the side of the mountain slopes. Each tram had a guide who explained how the rainforest functioned, and pointed out the different plantlife in this incredibly fertile environment.

Our trip was all very gentle and sedate, but once we reached the top, I stupidly volunteered to do some zip lining with a few of the more adventurous passengers – a journey which would take us back down the mountain, a hell of a lot quicker than we went up it. As we had our safety briefing and got into our harnesses and helmets, the tension began to rise – not helped by the guide repeatedly whispering to me, "you're going to scream like a girl!".

I bravely managed not to scream on the first two rides, but the third and last zip line (helpfully called "The Fear Factor"), was over a wide open canyon on a line that was over 400 feet above the valley floor. This is probably as close a feeling to flying as you can get, as you pick up speed and hurtle across the canyon, trying not to look down too much. It all passed in a blur, so it was difficult to take in what was happening, but helpfully they had a photographer at the bottom to capture the moment.

It's hard to believe it from the picture, which makes me look like I'm just hanging there sedately, but this was the point when I'd reached top speed (a terminal velocity that felt like it really could be terminal if I didn't stop soon). The high-octane adventurer angle isn't helped by the fact that I was also forced to wear a lovely green hair net under my helmet, which did take some of the macho gloss off the picture.

Anyway, it was all great fun, and a fantastic way to see Dominica's greatest asset – it's superbly unspoilt natural beauty.