On my first full day in Florida, we started off bight and early by heading over to Gatorland. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my Florida experience! As would become a theme on this trip, we began the morning by heading straight to the thrill ride: The Screamin’ Gator Zipline, which is the world’s tallest, fastest zipline. Oh yeah, and its track goes over GIANT GATORS. Who needs coffee in the morning when you have a jolt of adrenaline courtesy a zip line course over gators?
The ironic part is that prior to this trip, I always swore I wouldn’t go ziplining. In fact, a couple of years ago I remember commenting on another blogger’s post from a trip to Kissimme where they wrote about riding the Screamin’ Gator Zipline, and I remember saying something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s so cool that you did that, but I would never be brave enough to do it!” Well, never say never, because here we are!
I thought carefully before deciding to go on this trip if I’d want to do the ziplining experience. Of course, nothing was mandatory and it was my choice if I decided to participate or not. After thinking about it, I realized it would be silly not to. I am not a thrill-seeker in the slightest, and I do not like heights, so part of me wondered if it was going to end up like that South Park episode “I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining”. But because I am so uptight and anxious, I thought it would be a good challenge for me, and this whole trip ended up being about challenging myself, facing fears, and personal growth.
So to get started, we watched a safety video, talked to our guides about the rules and got strapped into a harness and helmet. As we approached the zip line tower, I didn’t feel nervous at all. We walked up many flights of stairs and I felt totally fine! And then, I saw the platform we had to jump off and how high we were – THEN I felt the fear!
I was terrified during the first zip line course I did. What was hilarious is that all the other girls posed for fun photos in the air, courtesy our zip line photographer – no cameras are allowed on your person on the zip line and with very good reason, there is no way you could hold on to them and you do not need any distractions up there. Look at how happy and cute these girls are:
And then there’s me:
The guide actually said to me, “You were the only one who didn’t put your hands up for the photo!”. I was thinking, hey lady, it’s enough that I’m even doing this – don’t ask me to be photogenic too!
I could feel my legs shaking as we walked up the tower to do the second zip line. The thing that most scared met was the fact that you strap your own harness on, and I was scared that I might have done it wrong or affixed the straps incorrectly. I asked my guide and she reassured me that she was watching me the whole time and can tell by looking at me that it’s all right, because she’s done it for so long – and of course, they do a quick visual inspection every time you launch. The second zip was still really scary, but hearing that made me feel a lot better.
By the third zip, I had gotten comfortable with it and was proud of myself for facing the fear. “I got this!” I thought to myself. “The next one will be easy!” And then….I saw the bridge.
I knew that there was a wooden bridge to pass, but I didn’t really think about what it would look like. I wasn’t expecting this rickety, Indiana-Jones-style dangling bridge with every other step missing. Especially petrifying was the fact that they only hook up one of your harness ties, rather than both as they do on the other courses, and the one they hook up is not the super-duper-reinforced-safe-one. You are affixed to the side of the bridge, rather than above as on the others, so I was terrified as to what would happen if I fell. The bridge shook terribly if I tried to move fast, and I had to keep my eyes down on the abyss or I would miss my step. It was so scary and marked the very first time that I have ever sworn out loud on a press trip. (In my defense, I was not the only one!) It would also not be the last time I swore, since I let out the same expletive a few days later on the Sky Coaster, but that’s a whole other story!
But you know what was cool about the bridge? When I first started across, I was so scared, but by the time I was halfway across, it wasn’t as bad as when I began. That’s what facing a fear is like: It’s so awful to start, but then you acclimate. And that’s why I wanted to do this zip line: To face fears. I was really proud of myself! A lot of my friends on the trip said that the anticipation was the worst part, but I disagree, because I actually found doing it to be even scarier than thinking about it.
After the death bridge of doom, we had one zip left, which was a zip line race over swampy, gator-filled water. After all the scary things we did, this seemed like nothing so it was super fun! My leg of the race was journalists versus PR as I zipped against Rochelle from Experience Kissimmee, who you saw in one of the photos above looking so graceful!
The Screaming Gator Zipline was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I am the least thrill-seeking person on the planet, but now I can boast a photo like this:
It was very memorable, very Florida, and on a personal level I felt like it challenged me to do something that provided a valuable experience about facing fears for other areas of my life. I had an unforgettable time with my friends and by the end of it, I even had fun. And I would actually do it again, which is really saying something!
Gatorland is home to so much more than just the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line – I’ll be sharing my other Gatorland adventures in coming posts, so keep an eye peeled for that!
For More Information:
14501 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837
Screamin’ Gator Zip Line Admission: $69.99 – includes all day admission to Gatorland. Reservations required – click here for more information & to book online.