ZIPLING with Victor Bodden
Our first time to Roatan and it was suggested that we do a tour with Bodden Tours. He comes highly recommended by those on the cruise boards and I knew I couldn't go wrong.
We eventually decided on the "zip and dip" tour. This includes a trip to Boddens place where you will zip line and visit with the animals. Then on to a trip to the beach...West Bay for the "dip".
I was a little unsure how the zip would go since we had a 3 year old with us and we were told that she would still be able to go and tandem zip with us. So, that was reassuring. I was well aware that this zip line is not the biggest or tallest, but that was ok because it was our first time zip lining and having our 3 ½ year old with us. She is very outgoing and adventurous, but we didn’t know how she was going to react being up that high and hanging from a rope.
Victors crew was waiting outside for us when we arrived. Easy to locate. Our group got in the van and away we went. They were having some type of parade that all the children were in, marching in the streets, so the traffic was tied up for a while. Once we arrived at Victors house (yes, this is on his property where he lives), we used the restroom facilities and purchased some drinks. I found it really strange that they charged $1.00 for a bottle of Coke, but it was $2.00 for a diet Coke??? I’m still trying to understand that one.
We went over to be fitted for our harness and equipment then away we went climbing the steps…whew. Did I mention I hate going up stairs? Down is fine, but up…huff, puff.
We made it to the first platform. I decided to go first, since I had the camera and I wanted to get pictures and videos of my husband and little one coming across the zip line. Easy Peasy! It was fun! So, I’m waiting….and I hear the guide tell me Sakari is coming BY HERSELF! Here comes JUST MY DAUGHTER!! ALONE!! WOW…I couldn’t believe it. We were all cheering her on for being such a brave little girl (especially on the first zip). When my husband arrived after her, he said she refused to go with him and wanted to go by herself (“my turn!”) and jumped off. That’s my girl!
There were a total of 12 platforms to zip to. We had a blast. Sakari would continue to insist that she's a big girl and could go by herself. A few times she was actually too light and the guides would have to grab the lines and bounce them up and down to make her move forward. It was a little scary to see her bouncing and I was just hoping that she would not let go.
Here's a video of her bouncing on the way in.
It was about the 7th or 8th I decided to
try hanging upside down. Wow that was
fun. The second time around upside
down, I videotaped myself flying in the
air upside down. hehe
Here's a video of daddy hanging upside down
...And a video of Sakari hanging upside down.....just kidding. I think I would have had heart failure. She was still going by herself though...and enjoying it. She looked so little out there.
It was hard to climb and the wood because it is pretty far apart. This was one of my worries with my little one because we knew it would be hard to hold her and walk it while trying to hold on ourselves. She took it really slow and did great. (They do have you attached to a line for safety; however, the distance between each, if her foot missed it, her entire legs would have made it through the holes and this safety was a concern of mine).
Now comes the beginning of the bad parts to zip lining. After arriving at each platform, they are supposed to unclip you from the zip line and clip you to another line wrapped around the tree for safety while you are standing there to wait on your turn. I found that this was not happening every time. So, I found myself constantly holding onto my daughter and drilling my husband to do the same while we were standing there. If you look at the following picture, you'll see me coming in and the worker helping me in...but if you look in the background, you'll see my husband holding onto the rope for our daughter...once again because they were not attaching her to the safety line. For a company that comes so highly recommended and respected, I felt a little off-put by some of the things that were happening.
Next, I feel that safety may be compromised and an issue at this place. First the swinging bridge (which anyone could fall on), then the lack of clipping you to the safety lines and now…. The next to very last platform, I had decided to tandem with my daughter (she only weights about 34 pounds so, as mentioned above, some of them she didn’t go fast enough to make it to the end and they would bounce her a little or hang on the end so she would come in fast enough to be grabbed). She was not expecting to tandem with me and thought she was going by herself once again...and when we "jumped" off the platform, she squeeled and turned around and seen I was with her...it was a pretty funny look I got, but she was still having fun. (Story continues...but picture of her when she turned around and seen that I was actually with her)
Well, once the both of us arrived to the platform, the worker took her off and handed her off to daddy and was then releasing mine from the line and all of a sudden the worker from the platform we just came from had already went and he slammed into me with full force. I was slammed into the tree, hit my chest pretty hard and knocked the breath out of me, my head hit the tree (thank goodness for the helmet or I probably would have been knocked out) and my leg went into the tree and was all scraped up. I didn’t know what hit me and I don’t even recall the guy slamming into me asking if I was ok and he took off zipping on the next. Another helper that was already there yelled at him and that was about it. There should be a little more safety concerns when it comes to this to make sure that everyone is out of the way and unhooked. They did yell back and forth, so this could have easily been relayed that it was not all clear yet. I broke my hand on my cruise last year in the first port (my fault) and vowed that this cruise I was coming home "hurt free" darn-it!
It took awhile for me to be able to stand up straight and breathe right without pain. I was a little banged up but I knew I had to gather myself up and continue on to the end...which was near thank goodness.
Even though we had a good time, it came to a crashing end and put a sour taste in my mouth. So many things went wrong. So many safety issues in my opinion. We were with so many guides on the zip line and never with just one particular one. They were entertaining doing spins and flips and such on the lines, but never really said anything. The only thing they would say when we came in on the line is "are you doing ok?" and that was about it.
Here's a video where you can see them doing some spins on one line while my hubby comes in on the other line.
Issues would continue...up next would be our visits with the animals before leaving for the beach portion of the excursion.
Next on to the animals. They had various monkeys in cages, different types of birds (parrots, toucans), squirrels and others that you could feed them carrots. The tour guide handed my little one carrots to feed each of them. I did not discover until almost at the end how these carrots were coming to her other than being handed to her by the guide. I hadn’t really paid much attention since I was looking at the animals myself and trying to take pictures. Then I discovered it…he had a full carrot and was biting pieces off of the carrot and handing them to her after removing it from his mouth!! WTH? Like I want someone having it in their mouth with their saliva all over it and putting it into my child’s hand. I just thought that was gross. I mean come on, can’t you have these pre-sliced, diced, whatever for everyone to use? Of course I was planning on my daughter washing her hands and I brought sanitizer (from touching the animals) but still, why add to the possibilities of contracting something? After all, she IS only 3 years old and does stick her hands in her mouth at times.
Sakari is an animal lover. She loves any and all animals and is not afraid of anything. We were walking around the cages and feeding the animals. She was loving it.
Here's a video of us in the monkey cage and half way you will see the guide biting carot pieces off and handing it to people after spitting it out of his mouth. Eww.
On to another issue…being inside the cages with the monkeys. They were cute, but for some reason seemed just a little aggressive to me. However, they loved my husband and they all seem to flock to him (as most animals do for some reason). I tried to get one on my arm and it snapped at me (you'll hear me say "oh"), then I turned around just in time to see my little one getting bit on the arm by one (caught on video) and she screamed so he tried to come at her again and was holding onto her arm biting. My husband was there to lead her away and he swatted at the monkey and the tour guy grabbed ahold of him. He tried coming back down and the tour guide blocked him while we hurried out of the cage. It left a mark and swelled up by the end of the day. One of the tour guides came to us later and ask how she was and told us that they do “inject them so they don’t have a disease”. I assume this means they have their shots. Needless to say, my daughter is scared of monkeys now.
Our tour guide kept leaving us and we were pretty much left to explore on our own with the rest of the animals. (It’s not a big area, so that was no problem for us).
I don't even remember our tour guide telling us his name or any of the guides/employees. I know they didn't have much to say...on the ride there, while we were there, or the ride back. They told us we could ask questions on the ride there and a bunch of ladies were asking questions about the different fruits and flowers on the trees and they didn't seem to know the answer to a lot of them. I do know there wasn't any humor to any of these guys for sure and it wasn't a "fun" ride.
After such an "eventful" day, it was time to pack up and head to the beach for the second half of the tour. Sakari was still whining a little from her bite, but she wanted to go swimming...and honestly, what choice did we have when we were on an excursion with a bunch of other people and that meant we were heading to the beach whether we wanted to or not.
Restroom break then we piled into the van and off we went.
You can read that portion of the review here ------>
My final thoughts of this place is very different than most people. As I've said, Victor Bodden and his tours come highly recommended on the cruise forums. However, I can only report MY experience and it was not a positive one. Multiple issues with both the zip line and the animals makes me wonder how many other people this has happened to and not been reported.
From my 3 year old not always being attached to the safety line, to me being slammed into from an oncoming employee and me getting the wind knocked out of me and scraped up, to the monkeys snapping and me and biting my daughter...twice. I find it hard to believe that this safety issue was the first (and only) time that it has come up. I do know I have read other reports around the internet that confirm being bitten by the monkeys (not only here at Bodden, but of course other places where monkeys interact with people). After all, they are wild animals...even if they have been kept in captivity and we need to keep this in mind. My issue is, being in a third world country, they may have indicated that the animals have their shots...but how do we really know? What would have been the outcome if they hadn't? What would have happened if that bite wound became infected? You are there for only a short period of time...and then you are leaving the country to deal with any issues that could come up in later days...weeks...and so on. There wouldn't be anything you could do. We must always be careful and think of the consequences every time we do such an activity. Will it stop us? Probably not. But know your risks.
Can I recommend Bodden Tours? For me...no I can not. Just too many things happened that day regarding safety. All it takes is ONE time for something to go wrong and I'm not willing to recommend a company that took so many chances with us and a young daughter. I just won't.