By CHELSEA JENSEN
South Kona, you now have the chance to experience it in a different way: From above as you zip through a misty Hawaiian forest of ancient ohia and koa trees thriving with other native flora and fauna.
Accompanied by knowledgeable, well-trained tour guides born and raised in the Kona area, tour goers will soar from tree to tree getting a bird’s-eye view of the Kaawaloa area so few have the chance to experience via the usual Kona activities, said Haa Neves, marketing director for Big Island Eco Adventures, which has been operating zipline, ATV and hiking tours in North Kohala for five years.
Big Island Eco Adventures on Sunday opened its sister company, Kona Eco Adventures, providing a new recreational opportunity in the area.
“We want people to experience the life of the Hawaiian people and the Hawaiian nature and culture,” said Neves. “It’s a real family thing and affair for people who don’t want to drive far, but want to do activities — this is somewhere that they can come and bring the whole family and take home that ‘family feel’ that we have in store.”
With the expansion to Kona, Neves said the company is adding quite a few jobs for the area. In addition to the 25-30 people employed by Big Island Eco Adventures in Kohala, the company has hired already 15 employees for the Kona operation. Neves anticipates total employment for the Kona operations could reach 25 to 30 positions.
“Once we start the hiking ATV and misty mountain tours, so much more jobs will come,” she said. “It will be so good for South Kona.”
The zipline is a three-hour tree-to-tree zipline course consisting of eight ziplines and two suspension bridges that crosses land owned by Hokukano Ranch, above the Konawaena schools, around the 2,000-foot elevation, Neves said. Participants will also zip in and out of a hut built into an ohia tree.
“It’s pretty up there, cold, misty and foggy, it’s just a different feel from when your right down town,” Neves said. “There’s so much to share about the Hawaiian native plants and birds and the history up there.”
Each tour will take eight participants through the course. The tour will be offered eight times each day and runs seven days a week. The cost is $149 per person; reservations can be made by visiting konazipline.com or by calling 889-5111. Other companies also offer reservations for the tours, Neves said.
Safety aboard the tour is paramount, Neves said. To ensure safety, the tour guides are trained for months and are proficient in “signaling, retrieving, sending, and stopping.” They are also able to repel to the ground from the zipline with a guest should they become scared.
“The guides stop the guests, guests do not stop themselves at all,” Neves said explaining it can be difficult for a newbie to stop on a zipline. The tour guides are also first aid and CPR trained.
Further, the company builds its own ziplines, said Neves, therefore, they know they’re equipment. The course, she said, also received certification after inspection by Jim Boeke, who inspects ziplines worldwide.
“We do not fly people in other company’s lines,” she said. “We know everything little thing that is on that course and how it was built.”
Initially, only the zipline tour and access to Misty Mountain Farm animal sanctuary will be offered, but Neves said plans call for ATV rides and hiking tours to quickly be among the offerings.
The ATV rides will likely be added in the next few weeks and will traverse an ohia forest, open range pastures, and a 150-year-old paniolo station. The hikes will peruse native forest giving time to experience the native flora and fauna, Neves said.
When started, the hikes are planned three days a week starting at 2 p.m. and the ATV tours, two tours every day of the week, Neves said.
For more information, visit konazipline.com or call 889-5111.
Email Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.