By ATD’s Florida experts Susan & Simon Veness
Fans of adventure activities in Orlando will be delighted to know there is a new game in town – one that takes you up to tree-top level and delivers a whole lot of climbing, swinging and ziplining fun!
It’s called Orlando Tree Trek and it features a fabulous array of aerial adventure courses for both kids and adults, from beginner level to pretty challenging. You’ll need to allow at least two hours for the full experience, and don’t wear your best clothes. But do be ready for an exciting time, with quite a few testing thrills thrown in.
For those who have never seen an aerial adventure course, it is an obstacle course set among trees with a natural environment surrounding it, so you feel like you are out in the wilds. The course consists of ladders, rope-bridges, net climbs, tightropes, cable bridges, suspended logs, ziplines and more, and they can vary from fairly simple to outright difficult.
The brand new Tree Trek has a good cross-section of courses, with the top two – Silver and Red – definitely at the more challenging end of the scale. For children aged seven to 11, there are two separate courses featuring 21 different elements, while there are four courses in all that are fully suitable for ages 12 and older.
Simon agreed to give it a try while Susan took the photos, and the adventure lasted almost two full hours, even though Simon didn’t make it all the way round the last two courses. We had to admit, the Red Course was pretty intimidating, but plenty of people did try it out while we watched, and the adrenalin levels were pretty high.
Those brave enough to complete both Silver and Red definitely had the most excitement, and you could tell their sense of achievement was especially high!
It all starts with a proper introduction to the safety equipment you use throughout the Tree Trek, as there is a special harness and clips to keep you securely tied to the course at all times above ground. Everything is thoroughly explained and demonstrated, and you have to undergo a short test to ensure you have a full grasp of how it all works.
Because, once you are off the ground, it is largely up to you!
There are still instructors at strategic points to ensure you are traversing the course properly, and to maintain safety checks but, otherwise, it is up to you how fast you tackle each element and which individual courses you try. You may start out in a group of six, eight or 10, but you could soon end up as tail-end Charlie (like Simon).
Starting with the Green Course (minimum elevation/minimum skill), Simon gradually eased through a series of 12 obstacles that still required a reasonable bit of dexterity and skill without being particularly awkward.
While it was a chilly day, with jeans, shirt and sweatshirt required to keep warm to start with, it soon became clear the sweatshirt could have been left behind once Simon got going. Stout shoes or trainers are important to comfort underfoot (no open-toe shoes or slip-ons) while, if you wear shorts – which we imagine most people will during the hotter months – the longer, cargo-style shorts would still be advisable. The safety harness has to fit tight around your waist and legs, and too-short shorts could make the harness uncomfortable.
Next up, the Blue Course (medium elevation/medium skill) had 13 different elements and definitely raised the challenge – as well as the fun – to a new level as it featured several tricky ‘swinging bridge’ sections, as well as a hilarious zip-swing, which we hadn’t seen before and which wasn’t obvious until Simon stepped on it and found himself whizzing across to the next section!
The course finished with a distinctly different ‘switchback’ section, an ‘in-and-out’ section that required quite a bit of fancy footwork – 20ft off the ground – and then a longer zipline run to finish off with. Both courses took a good 30 minutes but there were still bigger challenges in store.
The Silver Course (advanced elevation/medium skill) was definitely the most challenging to date as it featured a distinct assault-course type element with a rope swing into a cargo net that then had to be climbed to get to the next section. With another nine elements, this was pretty much Simon’s limit in terms of strength and agility and he decided to call it a day, leaving the Red Course (advanced elevation/advanced skill) to braver folk.
However, there was also the matter of the Giant Zipline to finish with, a full 425ft twin cableway for guests to race each other side by side to the ‘finish’ line, and everyone gets to do this even if they don’t complete the Silver and Red courses. In fact, on quieter days like this week, it’s perfectly permissible to have several goes on the big zipline, which is just terrific fun. So Simon did!
For those who just want to watch other members of their group in action or simply come and see for themselves, there are two walking trails alongside the courses, and there is also a small kiosk serving drinks, snacks and ice cream, as well as Tree Trek T-shirts.
Children are required to be able to reach their fingers up to a height of 4ft 7in (140cm) to be able to use the Kids Course, while those on the adult courses must be able to reach up to 5ft 9in (175cm) and 5ft 11in (180cm) for the Red Course. They also have plans for a Black Course in future that will be even higher.
It is open every day from 8am, with groups going out every 30 minutes, while the last group departs two hours before dusk. There is no weight limit but the maximum waist size (for the harnesses) is 44 inches. Long hair also needs to be securely tied back so it can’t get into any of the equipment.
You can just turn up and go, but bookings are advisable, especially at busier times of the year, and guests are required to check-in half an hour before their departure time. Orlando Tree Trek is situated on Sinclair Road, just off Old Lake Wilson Rd, to the south of Highway 192 in Kissimmee. For the simplest way to get there, if you don’t mind paying the 50-cent toll (in coins), just take I-4 west from Orlando to the junction with the Western Expressway (State Road 429) and then take the very first exit (Sinclair Rd), turn right onto Sinclair and Orlando Tree Trek is 400 yards up on the left-hand side.
Alternatively, from Highway 192, take Old Lake Wilson Road south for three miles, then turn right onto Sinclair Road, and the centre will be on the right. It is surprisingly rural yet still only 10 minutes or so from Walt Disney World and definitely makes a nice change from the parks.
As they say, ‘Something new is in the air,’ and we think you’re going to like it!