Eco-friendly thrills await on Maui


POSTED: Sunday, October 25, 2009

Duane Ting is afraid of heights. That probably wouldn't be noteworthy were it not for the fact that one of the big draws of his new company is a zip line that stretches 650 feet (65 stories) above the floor of Maui's magnificent Waikapu Preserve.

Ting is the president and chief executive officer of Flyin Hawaiian Zipline, which launched daily tours in July. Since then he has completed the five-hour course a couple of hundred times, experiencing thrills anew every time.

“;My heart still pounds like crazy and I get butterflies in my stomach when I'm standing on the platform getting ready to step off,”; Ting admitted. “;But that adrenaline rush is part of the fun of zipping. In less than a minute, I can see amazing expanses of land that would've taken me two or three days to hike through!”;

Born and raised on Maui, Ting is an avid outdoorsman. From 2002 to 2008 he managed 175 hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, ATV, horseback and other adventure tours on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

“;I saw the need for a better kind of tourism—a way to protect and preserve the land,”; he said. “;My reason for starting Flyin Hawaiian was, first and foremost, conservation. I wanted to share the beauty of the aina in an exciting and educational way that would leave it with the lightest possible footprint.”;

The 485-acre preserve at Waikapu has nine different climate zones ranging from desert to tropical rain forest, and harbors the last native keahi tree in West Maui. It also is one of only five places in Hawaii where the state flower, the endangered native yellow hibiscus, or mao hau hele, grows in the wild.

Moved to protect this spectacular natural treasure from development, Ting negotiated a long-term lease with the landowner, which paved the way for Flyin Hawaiian Zipline to come to fruition.





        Meet at Maui Tropical Plantation, 1670 Honoapiilani Highway, Waikapu, Maui

» Tours: 7 and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily. There is a maximum of 12 people per tour.


» Cost: $185 per person (there are no children's rates). Kamaaina pay $135.


» Phone: 463-5786. Book early as tours usually sell out at least a week in advance.


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site:  adventuremaui.com/flyin_hawaiian_zipline.htm


» Notes: Tours go out rain or shine. Participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds. They should be in good health and be able to carry 10 pounds of gear and walk several hundred yards on uneven, uphill terrain. The tour is not open to pregnant women and those who have cardiac conditions or neck or back problems. Closed-toe shoes are required. It's a good idea to wear sunscreen and a cap, and to bring a small camera.




Construction of the course began in August 2008, after three years of planning. So well thought out is its design, lush foliage conceals most of the trails and takeoff and landing platforms. Even more amazing, the course was built in about a year without the use of bulldozers or other heavy machinery.

“;We left no scars on the land,”; Ting said. “;We brought the materials into the preserve by helicopter, or my workers and I carried them in on our backs. It was the right thing to do, but it wasn't easy; sometimes those hikes were over a mile! But if we needed to dismantle the course, we could remove everything in three days, and no one would ever know there had been zip lines there.”;

The eco-savvy Ting directed crews to cut down ironwood, christmasberry, silky oak and other invasive trees in the preserve to construct the platforms, steps and handrails along the trails, and furniture at the rest stop on the course. Flyin Hawaiian also uses composting toilets and photovoltaic panels to provide electricity at the rest stop, and each guest receives a reusable aluminum water bottle as a souvenir.

In addition to its green initiatives, Flyin Hawaiian is earning raves for its “;wow”; experience. Participants zip up to 60 miles per hour on eight lines that run from Waikapu in the mountains to Maalaea by the coast (daredevils can ride 500-foot Line 5 backward if they want). That adds up to 2.5 miles of exhilarating zipping that borders 11 ridges and crosses nine valleys in areas that previously weren't open to the public. Measuring 3,600 feet, awesome Line 8 is the longest zip line in Hawaii and the second-longest line in the U.S. and Canada (bested only by the 5,330-foot ZipRider in Icy Strait Point, Alaska).

A 250-foot training line acquaints participants with the equipment and the experience. “;Most people are a little nervous and unsure at first,”; Ting said, “;but then they look around and see the incredible views!”;

Panoramas encompass Haleakala Volcano, the West Maui Mountains, the central isthmus, Kahului Harbor, Maalaea Bay and the southern coastline. Each line reveals different but equally breathtaking vistas.

Ting is on the course every day, doing everything from maintenance work to guiding tours, and he never tires of the scenery. “;This is the Hawaii my ancestors knew,”; he said. “;It's wonderful to be able to share that. In the short time that we've been open, we've had marriage proposals, people celebrating birthdays, sports teams, corporate groups and even an 81-year-old woman and her two grandchildren on our tours.”;

Zip-liners of all ages enjoy the camaraderie and the opportunity they have to give something back to Maui. Knowing that the mao hao hele is on the federal list of endangered plant species, Ting obtained a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect its seeds and grow them. Each tour group takes a mao hao hele or other native seedling to plant in a 3,000-square-foot enclosure near Line 7.

“;We're going to create more native Hawaiian plant sanctuaries like that throughout the course,”; Ting said. “;With the help of our guests, we're re-establishing native species—restoring the landscape to what it was like before invasive plants took root. A Flyin Hawaiian Zipline tour not only enhances your visit to Maui, you leave Maui better than you found it!”;

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.