So we opted for an Easter Staycation in the end but did manage to head out to The Forest zip line on the edge of the Aberdare rain forest, which was definitely a highlight of the holiday weekend. Two words to sum the experience up for me: adrenaline and sunburn!
I had heard from a number of my 11 year old daughter’s friends (and their parents) that The Forest zip line was fantastic and definitely worth a trip. We had been waiting impatiently until the school holidays so that we could go and experience it together as a family and the adventure certainly did not disappoint. We were massively lucky with the weather. Incredibly clear skies and bright sunshine (which explains the sunburn). We enjoyed fantastic views of the forest and country around. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and every moment you are there, you are hugging yourself for having escaped Nairobi for a rare change.
This is the advice we had received before leaving home (from a very helpful 11 year old who had been before):
- Take water – as there is a bit of hiking between zip lines
- Wear leggings – as the zip line harnesses can pinch a bit in short shorts
- Avoid the restaurant – as it’s not all that great (so we decided to take a picnic).
I tracked down The Forest Facebook page, booked by phone and paid a 50% deposit via MPesa a week in advance. The lady offered me a 9am zip line slot, which I declined (was there a smirk in her voice when I said 9am was too early?) After all, the Forest is an hour out of Nairobi and I was a bit worried about chances of early morning rain, so we plumped for 11am. Once I sent the money, I followed up with a text to confirm that they had received payment (repeating the booking date and time in my message) but got no response. Having heard nothing, I rang to confirm our booking the day before we left, only to hear that we had been penciled in for the day after we wanted to go. Apparently it was no problem to shift our booking, but at this point it would have been great it the lady I had spoken to had offered to send us directions and more information about the venue. *Ironically I was Whatsapped really good directions and loads more info on leaving The Forest when I asked the front desk to give me details about other activities on offer.
I hadn’t given much thought to exactly where we were going before setting out in the car but we left town in high spirits, heading vaguely in the right direction, however the last couple of kms became tense as Google maps sent us on a circuitous route along bumpy roads and goat tracks.
Zip line intro
So far, so negative – but in fact it was great to arrive at the smartly built zip line HQ. The drive through the forest was stunning and once we got to the activity centre, we received a warm welcome. There was another group in front of us, but we were advised to hang back to get 2 instructors to ourselves for our family group of 5. The test line was fun, with lots of emphasis on safety and instruction was very clear. At this point I slapped a cursory coating of sun cream on my face and neck – missing great triangles of exposed flesh over my shoulders (while bossing the kids that they absolutely must not get sunburned), then we embarked on our 2 hour, 6 zip line tour. The tip on leggings was great and the kids wore t-shirts with sweatshirts over the top (as you are quite high and so it’s not hot). My husband wore a rucksack and carried water for us to share. *Tip: You can’t hold a smartphone to film yourself while you zip, but can get really fab footage with a Gopro. Our helpful and super friendly instructors Joseph and Samwell lent us a hand held/selfie stick type of thing for the Gropro which worked perfectly
When you set off, you are looking down into this valley thinking that the zip lining it will be WAY too terrifying and what the hell have you got yourself into. However the first line was so much fun, kind of ‘take your breath away’ fun, and as you step off the end I was feeling – give me more! The speed of zipping is fast but comfortably controlled. You can go faster depending on how much you bunch up your legs. It’s surprisingly noisy as you zip along. Your ears are filled with the sound of your runner speeding over the metal line. Shooting over the tree tops for nearly half a km is probably one of the most exhilarating things that I have ever done. However, my husband’s baseball cap blew off immediately, so best not to wear one for the actual zipping.
Doing the full x6 line tour (you can opt to do just 2 if you like)
We had such a good time chatting to Joseph and Samwell and rushing through the course of 6 zip lines, wondering what to expect from each one. The entire tour took 2 hours spot on and the lines were impressively long. It was quite windy, so because of a headwind we stalled on a few of them and had to pull ourselves to the end or get rescued by Samwell. Our party of 5 was a perfect number (though groups can be up to 12 pax) because it meant that we didn’t have to wait for too long between each person’s go. The hiking was not far, there’s only one quite steep section which leaves you feeling a bit breathless (due to the high altitudeand/or Easter excess?), otherwise it’s just a few minutes pleasant country walk between the beginning and end of each line. *We loved every minute of the tour. My youngest kept repeating, ‘this is so fun!’ and I would have been more than happy to do the course all over again that same day.
Big ‘no, no’ to picnics.
We packed a picnic that the family had been heavily involved in putting together (Read: we made our own sandwiches so were pretty excited about them) – but bringing our own food turned out to be a big no no. Having not received any information before leaving and only been gently asked if we wanted to order lunch from the restaurant in advance of our zip line tour (answer: ‘no’) – I hadn’t hauled in the fact that no picnics are allowed at The Forest at all.
So as we all settled down under a tree near the car park to tuck in, we were very quickly shooed away by a security guard. This left kind of a bad taste. I felt like we got chased out of the venue when we might have been tempted to do another activity after lunch – such as archery, mountain biking or paint balling. As it was, we found ourselves eating our sandwiches in the car a few hundred yards down the road, surrounded by village kids who abandoned their firewood collecting to have a good look at us. Suffice it to say, we gave away 6 bags of crisps but still felt bad about our sandwiches, sodas and boiled egss. The Forest restaurant was beautifully situated, so in retrospect it would have been more fun to sit there, but the menu struck me as being formal and heavy (chips, meat and two veg) and quite pricey.
Watch out for that strong sun
Perhaps it was a good thing to have been moved on, because it was while eating lunch that the kids pointed out how horribly sunburned my shoulders were. My strappy top and low necked long sleeved t-shirt (my attempt at activewear) was an ill advised choice whereas the kids round necked sweatshirts worked much better. (There was a woman in front of our party wearing a vest top – let’s hope she sun creamed up properly!)
The patches of sunburn that I am still sporting now took me back to being a kid when I used to get burned to a crisp on the beach, couldn’t sleep on my back for days then peeled horrifically. In fact, the following day I felt like I might have been suffering from sunstroke with a headache etc. When you are up there and zip lining, it’s so fresh and clear that you don’t feel at all hot – so it’s all too easy to get burned.
Overall – fantastic experience that I would definitely do again. Scores out of 10? Booking: 4/10, friendly zip line instructors: 11/10, zip lines themselves/the course 11/10 – stunning, value for money 10/10 (at 2,500/- per head for the full 6 line tour) being rushed off the premises for having a picnic 0/10. Can’t review the restaurant as didn’t eat there…but definitely want to go back.
Beware: There is a weight limit for zip lining, so smaller kids and heavier dads can find themselves exempt.