‘Are you ready?’
Well, no, not really – I wanted to say as I hung face down, attached by a jumble of wires to cables that extended beyond distances one could see, ready to take off from a launch pad on the edge of a cliff.
But, I answered with a meek ‘Yes!’ and it turned out to be one of the most thrilling things I have done in my life.
Ras Al Khaimah is quickly setting itself up as the place to be for adrenaline-pumping activities, and at the very top of the list is the Jais Flight - the world's longest zipline.
The drive up the mountain is familiar to most, with the destination attracting visitors for its cool climes and incredible views. Visitors usually take camping gear to the rest stops as they wait for the sunrise or the sunset – a wondrous sight when surrounded by the impressive Hajar mountains.
While the rest stops dotted along the mountain route are the most frequented haunts, you need to go right to the top for one of the best that Jebel Jais has to offer – right to 1680 feet above sea level to be exact.
But first, plan ahead
Being the world’s longest zip line means your first option of day and time for the ride may not be available. Also, keep in mind that some time slots have an applicable ‘dynamic increase’ on the ticket rate.
Other than that, I would suggest comfortable clothing and your Go Pro if you have one (or you can pay for an action cam before getting on the ride). Wallets, keys, phone and other small items go into a backpack that you can carry with you but bigger items must be left in the car. I had to leave behind my DSLR camera, tripod and bag.
Sign a waiver and get your band
As with all such rides, you are required to sign a waiver that you are taking the ride after having been made aware of the risks involved. When done, you get a wristband and the video camera, once you pay for it. At this point choose which way you want the camera to face, showing your reactions while on the ride or the ride’s views – I chose the latter.
Once you get the band and camera, walk on towards the first checkpoint where you’ll get suited up before heading to 1,680 metres for the ride. You can also go to the restroom at this point – we would recommend you do, as there is no rest area near or around the launch pad.
Set up and ride on
At the checkpoint, you get a helmet with attached goggles and a backpack for your belongings which is securely attached to the suit. You'll not be able to remove the backpack later but it can be closed and opened if needed. I would recommend not putting your phone in the backpack at this point - I did and struggled to get it out later.
If you have a GoPro, this is when you should check with the guides on how best to attach it. They will also set your provided action cam on the helmet. It will be switched on later by the guides at the launch point. I would recommend not putting your phone in the backpack at this point - I did and struggled to get it out later.
After you're done here, you wait in a parked van as the rest of the batch of adrenaline lovers get prepped. Each van takes 10-12 people to the launch pad for each time slot.
The launch pad
A glass-bottomed elevated area with a balcony to enjoy the amazing mountain views, this is where you’ll start the thrilling ride. The view is beautiful and you'll want to get some photos here, which is why you'll be better off having your phone in hand at this point.
Here, the guides will give you the details of the ride and instructions on how to hold yourself during the ride. They will also help attach the camera and get the goggles on.
The staff are not allowed to handle any of your personal devices. Ask someone in your batch for help putting the phone away before the ride – it is difficult to do this on your own. I found this to be a nice icebreaker to chat with the other riders – many from Europe and the United Kingdom.
'Sending one down'
After that, you’re first weighed and then asked to step on to one of two podiums – two people can take the ride simultaneously. Which podium you get on to depends on your weight - the maximum weight allowed for the ride is 120kg.
After attaching some of the suit cables to the zipline, you have to get into a plank position. The guides then support your legs before gettng them into the support suit – at this point you’re fully attached to the zipline with the suit. The only thing left to do is bring up your hands to the small of your back – where you must keep them throughout the ride, they give you something to hold on to make this easier – and cross your feet before hurtling down the ride.
The final step of getting my palms off the podium to lock behind my back was, for me, the hardest part of the setting up process. It is the last commitment to the ride and then you’re truly off solid ground.
‘3 minutes later…’
The ride is nearly 3 minutes long but it feels shorter thanks to the speed of the ride and the amazing views you get to enjoy. Winding roads, cars at the rest stops along the mountain route, the expansive mountain range – it is truly incredible.
For perspective, you're travelling at the around the max speed of a car on Sheikh Zayed Road. The braking system slows you down with a noticeable jerk as you near the landing area.
Another zip line
Suspended 80 metres above the ground, you land on a platform anchored into the mountains with cables. Waiting for you on the 9-tonne platform that looks like its floating midair amid cliffs, guides help pull you in, get you standing and off the zipline cable.
Next, you’ll be asked to hold on and sit as your suit is connected to another zipline – a shorter 1km one. This short relaxed ride takes you to solid ground where your van awaits. Here get your camera and other belongings from the backpack before handing it and the rest of the gear over. You can get a bottle of water and be on your way down to the Welcome Centre.
Once back at the centre, hand the action cam over to get a code and link for your flight video.
End your adrenaline trip with some refreshment at 1484 Puro – UAE’s highest restaurant. Or you could walk over to the lounge area near the restaurant for some great photos for the gram – don’t forget to get one by the huge RAK location pin.
Location: Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah; Cost: Dh330 to Dh450 (weekend rates are higher, not including video), Date and time: Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, slots available from 9.30am to 1pm.