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A Great Activity in the BVI


A Tourist in My Own Town – Original Virgin Canopy Tour

Photography by Mandi Frett

It was on a random afternoon late last year, when a friend informed me that a new activity had landed in the BVI. For the longest time, I had heard it was coming to the Territory, but it had morphed into a tale of myth and legend with many saying it was on its way, some stating it had been cancelled, and others believing it would be located in Cane Garden Bay.

The activity of which I speak is of course zip-lining – one of those pursuits we often say we want to try, but never get around to.





Well, this was my day and there was no excuse as the company who had managed to transport the activity here, were permitting people to come and test its entertainment.

I was more than happy to give it a shot as something to mark off the old, intangible bucket list.

Reaching the location at the top of Johnsons Ghut, masses of people were present ready to try this new venture.

All around, people revealed their excitement, anxiety, or both simultaneously.

“I aint scared. I’m gonna enjoy myself,” one adolescent said among his friends.

“Boy, look at him go,” said another as they watched a heavy set individual, speeding down the first line, which is visible from the main headquarters.

After signing a document with the member of staff jovially saying “sign your life away here” – had I been more prone to vertigo or acrophobia, this might have seen a hasty request for a taxi exit – this was followed by gearing-up, and a brief from the coordinators.



Before I knew it, I was standing high above Tortola, seeing one of the most magnificent views of the lush green below and cruise ship pier to the side.

Like a kick to the groin, the sudden realisation of what I was about to do, dawned on me. A battle between mediocre fear and the firm knowledge that this was completely safe, begun.

The instructions were clear: “make a donut shape with my fingers on the arm behind me as I go down the zip-line.” That was the address stressed and apparently, the aspect people sometimes have trouble getting right.

As I watched the kid in front of me land on the other side, I was confident that I would meet no real problems and such was the case as I landed on the other side with great joy.




Completing the courses and thoroughly enjoying the experience, it was not until the final huge line nearer the end, when a slight dose of apprehension infected me once again. The great height and the tiny platform of the longest course distracted me from the incredible view where it is possible to see Anegada and Guana Island to the north and Salt, Peter, Norman, St Croix, and St John to the south.

Steve Irwin put his hands in crocodile’s mouths and Princess Diana walked through landmines – I can do this, was my thought process.

On completing the course, I was seriously impressed and recently sought an interview with the facilitator of the operation to discover what their plans were this summer.

I was pleased to learn that the company called Original Virgin Canopy Tour would be open all year round.



Speaking to John O Shirley, the managing director, he informed me that it took over five years to organise this here in the BVI. The title of the activity emerged as a combination of their partners in Costa Rica’s name ‘Original Canopy Tour’ and the ‘Virgin’ Islands.

“This initial stage of the tour now has seven lines that are available to the public, however nine lines are complete,” said the managing director. “It will have 13-15 in the future,” he continued, speaking of their plans.


Discussing more about the details of this attraction, Mr. Shirley said: “The friendly and committed staff combined with spectacular views [are a huge allure for the customers they have had]. There is a welcoming approach [with training] to speak in soft and reassuring tones. [The staff] also share in your joys of accomplishment…it gives a secure outlet to try and overcome fears. If your fear gets too great there are easy outlets to easily change your mind and still have a great experience.”


Concluding, John said that the tour is designed for all individuals, but that safety is imperative: “The advertised age range is 5-95, however, it depends on physical build as to how safely one fits into the harnesses. The system operators can also make informed decisions as to who can take the tour. Safety always comes first.”

Erin Paviour-Smith

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