Think of the Cypress Canopy Cycle as a cross between a bicycle and a zip line experience. Riders are in a bright yellow contraption below the wire, seated in a comfortable mesh sling with pedals straight ahead that crank a chain connected to wheels gliding along the wire. The vehicle has a Jules Verne quality to it.
But the Canopy Cycle isn't as high as the zip course, topping out at about 25 feet above the ecosystem. This is a road you've not traveled before.
"That's the very sweet spot where you're right in the heart of the tree-top canopy," says Matt Duda, director of sales and marketing for Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida.
"There are parts of it where the foliage around you gets so thick that it's almost like you're traveling through tunnels of foliage," he says. "So you've got the treetop canopy above you, you've got the beautiful water flowing through the forested wetlands below you and all kinds of interesting things surrounding you."
Cyclists are encouraged to take their time and absorb nature all around. In a preview run-through, we had close encounters with pine trees, palm fronds and dangling caterpillars. The area is so lush that there were times when I could not see any of my four companions ahead, traveling in single file.
Remember, this is not a race, although there is great temptation to pedal as quickly as possible. You do need to build a little speed when approaching the metal brackets that connect the stretches of wire. Momentum helps carry you through those slightly rough bits, although the accompanying sound is a bit jarring and might give a slight fright.
Not that you could ever fall from the Cypress Canopy Cycle. Riders are harnassed into place and tethered much like the zippers. But it's more comfortable, with the straps not riding up as much in the seated position. In one shady spot, I stopped pedaling and just hung there for a while. The cycle sways a bit, and it's very quiet without the chain moving along. It could have passed as a decent hammock.
The course is designed to last between 45 minutes and an hour. In case of emergency, there are (human) monitors along the course, but I swear they were camouflaged.
"We want guests when they're out there to get experience of being out in that beautiful area and almost get the feeling of that it's all just there for you," Duda says. "We're careful of having the staff out of view, allowing guests to have the full experience."
I also didn't spot the times that the zip line course passed over the cycle. Man, I must have been relaxed, because I didn't spot even though I was looking -- the big alligator who has a permanent home in a pond near the end of the course. That's George, who's about 60 years old. He swims from side to side, from zip podium to cycle line in hopes that someone will drop him some food. ("He's fun," says Duda. "He loves it.")
The cycle's cycle ends at the loading station where it began. We completed a rare trip: This attraction is the first of its kind in the United States and only the second in the world (the first being in Mexico). Although it could be the next big thing, Florida EcoSafaris has exc lusive rights to the technology for Florida and the Caribbean.
Duda says Florida EcoSafaris, after establishing the first full-scale zipline in Florida in 2009, continued to look for "fresh" experiences.
"We wanted to find something that's new, that's innovative, that can show the conservation lands in a new way," he says.
The Cypress Canopy Cycle costs $45 per person. Participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh no more than 275 pounds.
Lastly, a word about location. Obviously, being immersed in nature isn't going to happen in downtown Orlando. The attraction is about an hour's drive away, and for me it involved Interstate 4, Florida's Turnpike, a 20 mile stretch of U.S. 192, then a right turn at Holopaw for 7 miles. That's right, it's beyond Holopaw. When you see "Rattlesnake Lane," you're getting close.
That's a pretty long trip, practically an adventure so I recommend selecting an additional activity such as horseback riding at Florida EcoSafaris and making a day out of it. There are some combo deals available, and you'll feel so outdoorsy.
For more information, go to www.floridaecosafaris.com. For reservations, call 866-854-3837.