by Darren Rosenbaum
For an escape, there’s almost nothing more exciting than zip-lining. Today, you can find these high-speed thrillers all over the place. On eco-tours throughout the Americas. At ski resorts in the Rockies and New England. Even at EverBank Stadium during half-time. And while they’re all fun, there’s only one I know of that has you zipping between massive oaks over hundreds of gators and crocs and that’s Crocodile Crossing at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.
If you haven’t visited the Alligator Farm recently, you might not know of Crocodile Crossing, an attraction added in 2011. As the folks at Alligator Farm tout, Crocodile Crossing is a “one-of-a-kind experience, (where) participants zip over the entire park, literally seeing live crocodilians, lemurs and tropical birds from a new perspective.” There are two courses; The Sepik Course which takes about 45 minutes to complete and has 3 zip-lines and the Nile Course which takes about 90 minutes start to finish, reaches heights of 60 feet and boasts 9 zip-lines! Topping it off are the dozen or so moving aerial obstacles that connect the zip-line platforms.
Recently, my son Josh and I took the challenge. After signing in, everyone sits for a mandatory 15 minute lesson given by one of the park safety operators on the features of your waist harness, safety lines and trac-pulley. Ours was skillfully taught by Assistant Manager Bobby Delong, who eased the concern of many by assuring us that the Petzl gear strapped to our waist could hold the weight of a small car.
As soon as we were done learning the basics, we thanked Bobby and were off! Josh headed out first and scrambled over the aerial obstacles to the first platform with the self-confidence of someone who’d done this since birth. At the first zip-line he secured his trac-pulley and safety lines, jumped up to release his weight to the harness, and ‘flew’ like a pro, zipping through the air at high speed. Kids! Then it was my turn. Not one to be outdone by their teen, I double checked my safety lines, swallowed hard and… Woo hoo! What a thrill! And, unlike 45 seconds of fun once an hour at a theme park in central Florida, I still had 8 more chances to fly over gators and crocs on the Nile Course!
Part of the enjoyment of any outdoor adventure comes from meeting people along the way. I was lucky to meet Alyssa and Charlie Woodbury, a local couple who thought ‘outside-the-box’ and celebrated their 6th anniversary with an afternoon of zip-lining! While Charlie said he’d mountain climbed and rappelled and wasn’t nervous, Alyssa was ‘nervous going into it’, but said Bobby’s pre-course training helped her ‘feel at ease with the process’. After completing the course, both said they would recommend Crocodile Crossing as an exciting activity for friends and family.
As many of you know, a day spent at the Alligator Farm makes for a great time. Maybe it’s watching Maximo the 15 foot croc feed, visiting the fossil exhibit or walking through the bird rookery that brings you back time and again. Now, with the addition of Crocodile Crossing, it’s game, set, match for the Alligator Farm. As for me, I can’t say enough about the thrill of zip-lining at Crocodile Crossing. Except for… Woo hoo!
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