The history of ziplining: How your jungle flight is similar to those of zipline pioneers

The history of ziplining: How your jungle flight is similar to those of zipline pioneers

You love the thrill of ziplining. The adrenaline rush. The excitement of flying through the air in a pristine, natural environment. Today, for many adventure seekers, ziplining is mostly about fun. But it wasn’t always that way. While the way we use ziplines at Flight of the Gibbon certainly provides a good time for our guests, our specific brand of jungle ziplining is deeply rooted in the historical nature of the tool. Wait, did I just say “tool”? Yep. Ziplines were originally created for practical purposes. But to understand why, we must first look to the past.

The mysterious origins of ziplines

Origins of Zipline

The true origin of the zipline is shrouded in mystery. No one really knows when and where the first one was invented. That said, most people agree they originated in the mountains centuries ago. Why the mountains? This is where their practical nature comes in. Ziplines were originally used to quickly transport items and people through rugged mountainous terrain. But that was not their only place of purpose.

In remote areas of ancient China, ziplines were once used to cross rivers so people didn’t have to swim or rely on treacherous ferry rides. 17th century England saw new zipline purposes: steeplejacks used them as a means to descend quickly from a church spire or chimney. And later on, when westerners first came to the Australian outback, pioneers relied on them to transport food, tools, and cigarettes across rivers and gullies. Ziplines were also reportedly used there to deliver food, mail, and ammunition to the front lines of military conflicts.

Why the jungle is the birthplace of the modern zipline

Jungle Zipline Experience

Part of the reason Flight of the Gibbon exists is for the same reason modern ziplines were born. In the 1970’s, biologist Donald Perry pioneered the use of ziplines to study the jungle canopy in Costa Rica. His zipline served two purposes. It could be used to traverse the canopy quickly, without having to climb up and down trees, and it gave biologists a bird’s eye view of the jungle without disrupting the natural environment.

Perry’s zipline innovation became global news, landing him on the front cover of magazines such as Smithsonian and Scientific American. Entrepreneur Darren Hreniuk took notice and eventually opened the first zipline canopy tour in 1997. The rest is history.

Today, at Flight of the Gibbon, one purpose of our ziplines is to be fun. But there’s more to it than that. Our resident gibbons love our slice of the canopy for the same reason wildlife did in Donald Perry’s jungle of the 1970’s: the zipline fits perfectly into the gibbons’ natural environment without disrupting their habitat. The result? You get a chance to experience the raw, virgin jungle in what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As this post is all about zipline history, we’ve included 7 facts about them below:

7 fun zipline facts

Zipline Facts
  1. In New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia, a zipline is known as a “flying fox."
  2. The informal definition of ZIP is “move at high speed.”
  3. In some parts of China, children take ziplines to school—students use ziplines to cross the Nujiang River in the Maji Township.
  4. How Does It Work? So, you've got a line tied at a slope. Now, how the heck do you slide down it fast enough for it to be breathtaking and fun??? The answer lies in the pulley that attaches to the rope or cable.
  5. Ziplines are also known as zippy’s, zip wires, aerial runways, aerial rope slides, or canopy tours.
  6. The Invisible Man Ziplined—H.G. Wells mentioned ziplines in the novel The Invisible Man.
  7. Donald Perry, the founder of modern ziplining (mentioned earlier), wrote a book about his experience ziplining and studying the Costa Rican jungle, called Life Above the Jungle Floor. This book eventually became inspiration for the 1992 movie Medicine Man, which features Sean Connery flying through the jungle on ziplines.


Ready to get up-close and personal with a virgin rainforest and its wildlife? Excited to have a fun, memorable experience flying through the jungle? Don’t wait a second longer. For thrill seekers and nature lovers alike, Flight of the Gibbon may just be the highlight of your Thailand holiday. Get in touch today.