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Wednesday, December 2

NZ's tree-top flying fox zipped for take-off




New Zealand’s latest tourist attraction - a mix of adrenalin buzz and a dose of environmental awareness - is about to launch in the country’s adventure capital, Queenstown.

Ziptrek, a sophisticated type of flying fox, will send patrons soaring high through the trees dominating Queenstown’s dramatic skyline on a two-hour adventure that puts them in close contact with the natural environment.

Getting the tourist attraction off the ground has provided a four-year challenge for Ziptrek Ecotours, but director Trent Yeo says it will open this month.

Bob’s Peak
Ziptrek’s flying fox operation begins and ends at the top of the Skyline Gondola on Bob’s Peak overlooking Queenstown.

It takes guests on a fully-guided journey over the alpine forest flying on a series of cables suspended between observation platforms sitting 25m up in the tops of tall Douglas fir trees.

Specialist infrastructure has been required to avoid any damage to trees during construction.

The flying foxes operate on heavy cables 240m long and anchored between the tree-top platforms. Guests are fitted with a climbing harness then attached to the cable.

Panoramic views
Once they have stepped off the platform, they soar over the trees enjoying panoramic views of Queenstown’s scenery with the freedom to move around and position themselves in various ways in order to get the best angle.

At each tree-top platform, Ziptrek guides provide an interpretive commentary on Queenstown, the surrounding area and the forest - an uplifting story with a strong ecological focus.

The sustainability message and educational perspective is based on The Natural Step, an international not-for-profit organisation dedicated to sustainable development.

Whistler and Queenstown
The Ziptrek idea was born in Whistler, Canada where it became an award-winning adventure eco-tourism business.

Company director Trent Yeo says Ziptrek is known for delivering an awareness and appreciation of the natural environment, along with a good dollop of adrenalin, and Queenstown was specifically chosen as the ideal place to develop the company’s world venture.

He says believes Ziptrek Ecotours will be a "fantastic addition" to Queenstown’s adventure portfolio.

The Queenstown operation will retain strong ties with Whistler as both places were recognised as four-season resorts and their tourism and adventure markets had key similarities, he said.

"Like Whistler, Queenstown is a ski and mountain biking mecca and also shares a community will for sustainable practice and a huge affinity with the natural environment," Yeo said.

Eco-exhilaration
The Ziptrek adventure is suitable for families, corporate groups, individuals and anyone keen to enjoy the forest and its sensitive development. The activity is rated as an adventure but not high adrenalin, he said.

"We like to refer to ourselves as an all-weather, all-abilities, all-year operation offering eco-exhilaration. The business is low impact and promotes respect for the environment and being immersed high in the forest is special," Yeo said.

He said Ziptrek was about harmonious integration with nature and having fun in the natural environment.