Zip lining is such a freeing experience. The sense of weightlessness as the wind rushes your face is a thrill to say the least. I was skeptical at first when I ran across a ropes course and zip line adventure in St. Augustine during my research. Having been on mile long zip lines above forest canopies and through mountains, I had high expectations of what a zip line should offer. Flat Florida does not seem like a great zip line destination, but with a ropes course as an added element, I was intrigued. The more I researched, the more I knew that it would be a must do event. With 11 zip lines and over 50 obstacles, the Nile Course at Crocodile Crossing did not disappoint.
Knowing the Florida heat, I opted for the 9 A.M. tour on the longer Nile Course. The course begins with a safety briefing. An instructor adjusts the leg and waist straps that will be the support for the zip lines, hands you a pair of gloves, and demonstrates how to clip on and off of each safety line. One by one we were asked to show that we paid attention and demonstrate that we could in fact maneuver all the obstacles without help. This is a self-guided ropes course. The instructors are not allowed to touch your equipment, and if they do have to, you will not be allowed to continue upon the course.
Cori and I were first to head out for the day. We climbed a ladder and were off on our first test of balance, a tight wire walk. I tentatively placed one foot on the wobbly cable hoping I would have the upper body strength to complete this course. The second foot followed, and I was pleasantly surprised that I found that I felt relatively stable as I made my way across to the first platform.
With one obstacle down, I found my groove of clipping onto and off of the red safety line. While awkward at first, my fingers found a rhythm and I started flying through (at turtle speed instead of snail speed) the obstacles.
Then it was time for the first zip line. As mentioned earlier, I was not new to zip lining. Geoff and I have zipped in Mexico, Antigua, and Canada. Each location always had an employee hooking and unhooking the gear though. This was the first time my safety was truly in my own hands. Mentally I went through the checklist of what our instructor had showed us. Pulley on. Clips on. Gloves on. Hands up. Release. And just like that I was soaring through the air over a pit of crocodiles. Briefly, I felt like Indiana Jones before I gracelessly slammed into the platform at the other end.
This went on for awhile. We would encounter balance-challenging obstacles like swinging boards, creaky bridges, rope ladders, and nets. All of which had us zigzagging over crocs, alligators, lemurs, and birds of all kinds. Then, just as my arms began shaking from trying to keep balance, I would be rewarded with a relaxing zip line.
Well most of them were…
On my sixth or seventh zip line I was trying to control my landing and pulled on the wire too hard stopping my momentum about 50 feet from the platform. I was then forced to spin around and pull myself in hand over hand. It was exhausting. But I felt like I was in an episode of American Ninja Warrior.
Throughout the entire course one instructor followed me and Cori. From time to time she would indicate which way we were to go on the course, but other than that there was no interaction. However, the one moment when I needed interaction, the instructor was nowhere to be found.
On zip line 8 or 9, I got in a little bit of trouble. I came in too fast and hit the padding on the platform pretty hard knocking my shoe off. (I completely understand their no flip flop rule.) I was above an alligator enclosure at this point, and I really didn’t want my nice Asics becoming a mid morning snack. Somehow I managed to kick my shoe up to the platform while I dangled over the alligator infested pond below. In this maneuver though I had moved my hand in front of my pulley trapping both my glove and a finger. I was dangling and my weight paired with gravity was pinching my finger and not allowing me to remove it. Somehow I managed to pull my hand out of my glove and swing myself up onto the platform. As my feet gained purchase, my glove was not so lucky and floated down into the alligator pond. I watched in horror as an alligator bee lined for the yellow bait and swallowed it without a thought. Adrenaline coursed through me as I was thankful to have both my shoes and not have to test my alligator wrestling skills on this particular day.
Since our instructor was nowhere to be found, I had to call 60 feet down to a maintenance worker and explain how I had lost my glove into the alligator enclosure. Finally, the instructor came over our way and informed me that I would need to do the next zip line with only one glove. Then she would be able to give me another one at the next platform. Careful not to use my bare hand to stop the zip, I made it to the next platform without incident, was handed a glove, and continued to finish the course.
I loved every minute of this 90 minute course. It was challenging and fun. The only thing that I did not like was the 96 degree temperature and high humidity. I would love to visit Crocodile Crossing again, but perhaps wait until say November or December when my clothes won’t be absolutely soaked after five minutes.
If you are unsure about trying out a longer ropes course, they offer a shorter course with five zip lines and it maxes out at about 20 feet versus the 60. It also only takes half the time. With the Nile course entry to the Alligator Farm is included. I highly recommend visiting early so that you beat the mid afternoon heat and have time to explore the Alligator Farm as well.
Where is the coolest place you have been zip lining?
Thanks to Crocodile Crossing for hosting me on the Nile Course. All opinions are my own.