El Paraiso Zip Line

March 2010

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Dona and I had read various stuff about Honduras for things to see and do, and one of them was described as a "Canopy Tour." I'd done a fun Walk in the Trees up in Whitefish with Ian and Trudy a few years ago, and thought it would be really fun in the jungle. So did Dona. This one was at a place called Rawalcala Canopy Tours in El Paraiso, a small village before the seaside town of Omoa. Our plan was to stop on our way to Omoa, or else stay in Omoa and then go back to it the next day.

After a day of R & R around Gringo Bay, Dona and I left Malakii on her mooring at Jennifer's. Chico took us up to Fronteras, where we got bus tickets to El Paraiso, Honduras. Well, kinda. None of the bus people had even heard of El Paraiso, much less knew where it was. So we bought bus tickets to Omoa, and when the bus came we asked the driver if he knew where El Paraiso was. He didn't. So we figured we'd just keep a sharp eye peeled. But we thought we had a bus which went clear to Puerto Cortes, Honduras; we didn't. It only went down to the main highway between Guatemala City and Puerto Barios, where we switched to a different bus that went to Honduras. So we asked that driver if he knew where El Paraiso was. He thought for quite a while and then said yes. We thanked him and said that's where we wanted to get off.

El Paraiso turned out to be nothing but a wide spot in the road with a bus stop sign, a small tienda (store), and a hotel of sorts across the road. We got off the bus and looked around; not much to see. So we went over to the store and asked the lady there if she knew where "Rawalcala Canopy Tours" was, and she pointed to a sign right outside her shop. Doh. The sign pointed up a muddy, rocky, dirt road. She said it wasn't too far, so we bought a couple of snacks and thanked her and started walking. After a short ways we came to the place and met Antolino, the caretaker of 1.2 million hectares of forest, and the main guide. A hectare is about 2.5 acres, so that's a chunk of ground.

Our plan was to see if we could go the next day. The information we had said reservations and a minimum of four people were needed. We told Antolino we were interested in the Walk in the Trees and he asked when we wanted to go. We said maybe tomorrow, and he looked a bit crestfallen, and said something about why not now. We said "Now? Sure!"

Antolino rounded up our second guide, Salvador, and then there was quite a scramble as they went off hunting someone else. After a while a woman showed up, who we assumed was another visitor who wanted to go along also.

Antolino and Salvador took us to a building where we could leave our backpacks, and where they fitted us out with gear -- climbing harnesses and helmets. Then we began a hike up and up into the jungle. Along the way we saw a nice swimming hole in the creek which we thought we might want to visit on the way back, a Squirrel Cuckoo, and a few flowers -- but not a lot, and in terms of flora and fauna it was disappointing.

Waterfall on Creek at El Paraiso, Honduras Blossoms Lobster Claw, Heleconia Rostrada Lobster Claw, Heleconia Rostrada
Waterfall, El Paraiso Blossoms
Photo by Dona
Lobster Claw Lobster Claw

We stopped for a rest after bit of climbing at a place with a nice view, and I could see cables anchored for a zip line. We hiked up a bit further, then stopped and started getting our instruction. It soon became apparent that the "Canopy tour" was in fact a zip line, not a "Walk in the Trees." Fine by me, I'd never done one and thought it would be fun. Dona was a bit apprehensive, but game. Then we learned that the woman who climbed up with us was along as an interpreter for our instruction, as they wanted to make sure we got that part right.

Dona Geared Up for Zipline Dona Geared Up for Zipline Gary Geared Up for Zipline
Dona Geared Up Dona Geared Up Gary Geared Up
Photo by Dona
Zipline Training Zipline Training
Zipline Training
by Salvador
Salvador and
our Interpreter

And then we were off. It wasn't too big a deal for me, having done a lot of rappelling as a climber, but it was a big leap for Dona. Our first zip went to a platform in a nearby tree. We were hoping once we got there we would get some discussion of the jungle ecosystem and the upper story of the forest, but we didn't. Instead, it was just a waypoint to another zipline.

The biggest difficulty I had was that I had too much stuff with me. I was overstuffed. I had my rain gear, as we thought it might rain. I had my binoculars, in case we saw some cool birds. I had my camera, and my camera case. All of which got in the way.

Gary Zipping Zipline Platform Dona Zipping Dona Zipping Gary Zipping
Gary Zipping Antolino on
Zipline Platform
Gary Zipping
Photo by Dona

But we had a good time, and some nice long zips. Our total altitude gain was about 750 feet, and 7 or 8 zips back and forth across the narrow valley took us back down.

Gary Zipping Gary Zipping Gary Zipping
Photo by Dona Gary Zipping
Photo by Dona
Photo by Dona
Dona Zipping Dona Zipping Dona Zipping Dona Zipping Dona Zipping Dona Zipping
Salvador, Zipline Guide Zipline View
Zipline Guide
Zipline View

All in all it was fun, but a bit of a disappointment. Ziplines are a bit of a thrill / sensationalism deal; it was pretty ho-hum for me, and while a thrill and exciting for Dona, both of us would rather have had a leisurely platform to platform walk up in the canopy with some lessons on upper story jungle ecology and a chance to see some cool critters and plants. We're glad we did it, but wouldn't do it again.

Afterwards, we hiked back down to the highway and caught a local bus on to Omoa.