OUT&ABOUT: Conquering my fear of heights one zip line at a time

Wednesday March 18 2020

A man zip-lining over a lush forest. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH


I have a confession. I’m a self-help book junkie.

I devour them with the passion of a father embracing his prodigal son. I carry the words into my duvet when I sleep and fold them over my head as I merge them into my dreams and imagine the kind of phenomenal human being I would be if only I applied a few principles from the book.

That’s how I ended up at The Forest for a zip-lining adventure. I was strapped into some entrapment the instructors swore would protect me from falling about 100 metres below while going at a maximum speed of 60 kilometres per hour across the 425m line aptly named the Colobus Catapult. A harness, they called it. All I could think was that never in my life had I imagined my whole existence would one day depend on a piece of rope.

The Forest is an adventure centre in the heart of Kereita Forest in Kimende, Kiambu County. A haven for adrenaline junkies, they offer everything from zip-lining to paintballing.

As you drive into The Forest, you will witness what looks like people zip-lining across a clothesline. Don’t be fooled. That’s just the practise session before you face the real hurdle.


There is a sort of waiver document you sign at the beginning to declare that you are in good health. That you’re relatively fit, not asthmatic or suffering from respiratory problems, not recently had surgery. Under 115kg. And other things. The signature you append at the bottom make it feels a little like signing one’s own death warrant.

I take a walk around the beautiful premises to rid myself of the regret that suddenly has me in a tight grip around my chest.

Which brings me to why I went zip-lining.

I’d just finished reading Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes and was raring to practise what she preached when I stumbled upon a Facebook post by Keitan Safaris, a local tour company, announcing an upcoming zip-lining tour.

I signed up for it without hesitation. 

In the Year of Yes, the award-winning creator and executive producer of the hit TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “Private Practice” urges us to say yes to the things that scare us. To say yes to the things we would ordinarily say no to.

Shonda wants us to be brave. To be amazing. To be worthy.

The book is about the 12 months when Shonda decided to start embracing life. Doesn’t that just sound juicy and irresistible? It does, but not when you are standing at the starting point of a zip-lining session, freezing cold and shaking in your knees, waiting to jump into what feels like a death trap.

“Are you ready?” asks the instructor as he straps me in.

I look at him askance and confidently tell him I will never be ready. I swallow the huge lump of fear that has unfurled itself from the pit of my stomach and gotten stuck in my throat. Or had I suddenly grown an Adam’s Apple?

The instructor smiles. I can tell he is accustomed to people like me. People who want to take the next available tour bus back to Nairobi.

“Trust me, you are not afraid. I’ve seen worse.”

He releases his hold on the metal lock before I can buy time by asking him what worse meant. Did people pee in their pants because of fear?


But the 60km per hour journey has started and my tour mates cheer me on as I whizz over their heads while holding on to dear life on the zip line. I try to open my eyes to enjoy the view of the forest but all I can think of is the possibility of falling down! I manage to keep one eye open and witness some cows grazing at the bottom. I wonder briefly what they are thinking.

Suddenly, the journey stops. One of my worst fears has come to life.

I’m stuck quarter-way to the finish line and have to turn 180 degrees to manually pull myself to the end. It’s terribly exhausting (no wonder they asked us to declare that we were fit) and the instructor eventually meets me halfway because I’m breathing heavily and making loud prayers. I think he thought I was about to pass out.

And just like that, I’ve made it to the finish line.

Apparently, I should have leaned back all through to keep my body streamlined but I sat up a little (to look at the grazing cows, remember?) and ended up reducing my speed.

I ask the instructor if I can walk back to the other end.

“The only way to go back is through the zip line.”


I say a little prayer and channel my inner Shonda Rhimes for the ride back. This time, I use a different line – the Lumberjack line. There are six lines in total, but beginners use only two. And the 330m ride across the Lumberjack line is not so bad. The butterflies in my stomach have settled down and the Adam’s Apple is miraculously gone. I smile and enjoy the breeze, the view of the forest and the sweet feeling of victory over my acrophobia.

I was brave. I was amazing. I was worthy. I think Shonda would be proud.



The Forest is located in Kimende Town, Kiambu County, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

To make a booking, you can call 0711 112 233.

For more information, visit their website: http://www.theforest.co.ke.