Unzipping Nature!, the EcoTram
by Jack Ewing
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In his excellent book Life Above the Forest Floor, Donald Perry Ph. D. tells how he became entranced with the rainforest canopy when he was studying biology at university. There was virtually nothing known about the canopy at that time, and he decided to dedicate his life to changing that situation. Due to his vast powers of innovation and persistence the canopy is now easily accessible to everyone, from biologists to tree huggers and fun loving tourists.
Donald’s first tree climbing experience took place in Corcovado National Park. Later he made an extensive canopy study in La Selva Biological Reserve. He became so fascinated with the rainforest canopy that he found himself spending more time in the treetops than on the ground. It occurred to him that it would be handy if he could rig a system of ropes and pulleys that would allow him to travel from one treetop to another without having to return to the ground. This first rudimentary zip line made in La Selva inspired the movie Rain Maker, with Sean Connery. Don was a consultant for the movie. Ziplines made with cables soon became popular in Costa Rica and remain so to this day.
In 2009 Donald Perry surmised that it would be wonderful if you could meander through the rainforest canopy at your leisure in some sort of vehicle that you could control. The result of his endeavor is called the EcoTram and it is completely different from anything that has been done to date. With the EcoTram the visitor rides in a chair that runs along a cable, it has its own power source, and is controlled by the person sitting in the chair. It will stop, turn up to 340 degrees in either direction, or go faster or slower, or go in reverse.
Seated in the chair you make your way through the canopy along the cable stopping to take photos, take in your surroundings, or simply enjoy in the exuberance of the tropical rainforest. The EcoTram gives people an opportunity to experience the canopy at their own pace. We call it “unzipping nature.” (Flying over Nature!) Hacienda Barú EcoTours is proud to announce the opening of the first EcoTram in Costa Rica. Those who have done it so far, have commented on the utter serenity of the canopy. Zip lines are fun, but more serious nature lovers will prefer the EcoTram.