THE FLYING FOX STORY
Jono Walter at 10,000ft in the Himalayas
Flying Fox was created in 2007 by our founder and managing director Jono Walter and his business partner Richard McCallum. Here Jono tells the Flying Fox story:
“I have loved adventure and the great outdoors ever since my dad took me hiking in the British Lake District when I was 8 years old. Those early days scrambling up the rocks of Striding Edge, Crinkle Crags and Scafell Pike filled me with a passion for high places which has never left me.
The great English mountaineer and writer Frank Smythe – who visited India in the 1930s, made the first ascent of the 25,000ft peak Kamet in the Garhwal Himalayas and then “discovered” the famous Valley of the Flowers on his way down – put it perfectly when he wrote: “height is something precious, something that quickens life to a nobler rhythm.”
That feeling of your heart beating quicker, the thrill of being on high places, the sense of endless possibilities with the blue sky above and the view laid out below – that is what I love about climbing hills and mountains.
But let’s face it, the path down is a bore. Looking down at the track to avoid tripping, bone-shattering descents down slippery rocks, the sense of anticlimax. It’s not much fun. But if – instead of walking down – you could just fly off the top of the hill on a zip-line, how awesome would that be?
This is what I felt when I found myself standing on the top of the Aravelli hills overlooking Neemrana Fort-Palace in the blistering heat of late May 1999. I was on honeymoon with my brand new gorgeous wife Charlotte and for some crazy reason I’d decided that Rajasthan in high summer would be fun…. I had a lot to learn about India! We had hiked up the hill to look at the fort on top. The hotel staff looked worried when I had suggested hiking up there. No-one did it. There was barely a path so we followed goat tracks. No-one was at the top except for a shepherd. But the view was so magnificent it stuck in my head.
Years later, we moved to India to live. I was working with the international Red Cross at the time and we arrived in Delhi just before the tsunami hit southern India and the region. The following year a massive earthquake hit Kashmir. I was kept pretty busy for a few years working on those disasters. But when the dust settled I decided it was time for a change in career. Something adventurous, something outdoors, something thrilling. But what?
I was inspired by a friend of mine who’d started Go Ape in Britain – a treetop adventure course with high-level crossings and zip lines – and he’d made a great success of it. I teamed up with Richard McCallum and Flying Fox was born. We’d been scouting around for months for the ideal location, when one morning I took a walk with Pradip Krishen to explore Mangarbani, a very beautiful and little known wooded valley at the south end of Delhi Ridge.
On that walk I met Aman Nath, owner of Neemrana Hotels. We had met back in 1999 on my honeymoon and we instantly renewed our friendship. I told Aman what I was thinking of doing but explained that I couldn’t find any suitable forests to do it in. He suggested I check out Neemrana, in case his hills held the potential for a different kind of adventure. “But what exactly is it that you want to do?” asked Aman. “I want to fly you over your fort like a vulture”, I replied. “No, no”, said Aman, “I don’t want to fly like a vulture, I want to fly like a god!”.
And so the Flying Fox dream became reality.“