Chronology of the Evolution of Zip Line / Canopy Tour in PR

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By: Luis D. Acevedo, MS
luisacevedorivera@yahoo.com

The commercial adventures industry that we know today, specifically Canopy Tour, has a history that dates back to the early 20th century. Puerto Rico as well as other disciplines such as artists and scientists, also has an exquisite and above all professional history regarding the evolution of the industry that we know as Ecotourism or Adventure Tourism. Let us see some of the historical events that have been given life by the Canopy Tour and shopping adventures industry in general:

1956: The exploration and investigation of PR caves and caverns by UPR Prof. Norman Veve begin. In his many works and explorations, zip lines and rappelling were used to explore them.

1961. Outward Bound (world leader in education and adventure) established its second school in Arecibo in order to train the Peace Corps volunteers using Rope Courses as part of its methods.

1969: Prof. Veve formed in PR the first National Speleological Society (NSS) grotto outside the U.S.A. called “The Cave Dweller Grotto.”

1970: The YMCA, which was located in El Yunque, operated a kind of Zip Line Tour a little over a decade before it ago, before it was the rage in Costa Rica. One can still see the remnants of the abandoned platforms and steel cables.

1976: The PR Speleological Society Inc. (SEPRI) was formed. The work of these so called “Cavers,” especially SEPRI, was the inspiration and starting point for the origin of commercial adventures in PR.

1985: The manufacture and operation of the first Air Adventures Course for the young scouts at Camp Guajataka called RALA (Reto a la Aventura, or Adventure Challenge).

1994: The first professionally recognized company, “Aventuras Tierra Adentro,” starts commercial adventure tours, under the leadership of Rosano Boscarino. Inspired by the work of the Cavers, their Tours were based on visits to caves where zip line and rappelling was done. Boscarino is the pioneer in commercial adventures we now call “ecotourism or adventure tourism.”

2004: The first professional Zip Line Tour company, “Camping,” is formed under the leadership of Raymond Sepulveda. From that date to present day 2014, the industry evolved to the point that at present it has more than 10 Canopy Tour companies.

2009: Creation of the Puerto Rican Outdoor Leadership School (Escuela Puertorriqueña de Liderato al Aire Libre, or EPLAL, by its Spanish acronym), whose purpose is to train and certify adventure guides and to promote Canopy Tour industry standards. At present, EPLAL has certified most Canopy companies in PR.

2013: ACCT adopted and defined in its standard #8 the concept of “Aerial Adventure Parks.” This concept existed in PR in 1985 at the Guajataka Camp.

2013: In this year and the next, two Puerto Ricans, Luis D. Acevedo and Jose H. González, were presenters at international Canopy conferences by ACCT.

We have seen how the traditional tourism model of sun and beach has had a kind of metamorphosis toward nature and adventure. Today, the Zip Line and adventures industry occupy an important place in tourism in PR. Commercial adventures are here to stay in PR, which has well been at the forefront since the early 20th century. In sum, we can conclude that the early explorers of our caves and caverns in the 1950s inspired the emergence of the commercial adventure tours industry that we know today. The author is a PhD candidate at NOVA University, an ACCT Certified Inspector, and director of Aire Libre Inc.