To the average French person, the nickname “Johnny” would probably conjure up images of the veteran crooner Johnny Halliday, whose radically-rethought features adorn many a supermarket-checkout-aisle magazine cover. The arguably more melodious sounds emanating from within a certain splendid forest of centenary oak trees in the heart of the pleasant countryside of the Lot-et-Garonne are however more likely to evoke another Johnny, the Olympic swimming champion and the most successful of the various on-screen portrayers of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes: Johnny Weissmüller. The arboreal playground The Happy Forest, just 5 minutes north of Agen, offers swingers young and old a dizzying array of tree-top adventures: 136 different challenges spread over 10 courses graded, like ski slopes, into four colour-coded degrees of difficulty: 3 green courses (for kids between 3 and 7), and for older children and adults there are 4 blue courses, 1 red, and 2 hair-raising black courses.
Your day of thrills, games, and adventure in this lovely woodland setting will take place in complete security under the watchful eyes of directors Olivier and Chantal and their eight-strong team of trained and accredited monitors, who provide instruction and supervise the operation for each adventure. The equipment - security harnesses, tethers, appropriately-placed safety nets, and padding on hard surfaces - all conform to European safety norms. Age and/or height restrictions apply to some courses, and participants need to be reasonably fit, and – at the sharp end – not suffer from vertigo!
The Green routes – Robin Hood, the Castle Route, and the Tyrol – are for the youngsters from age 3, and are easy-peasy. Parents of course can follow along, and assist and encourage when needed. The Blue routes get a little more tricky, and fun! Ride a kayak along the ropes; negotiate a constantly shifting sequence of wobbling and bobbling wine barrels (empty, of course, and compliments of the local Buzet vineyards); make like Spiderman on a skateboard down the ropes and leap onto a giant spider(man)’s web, before the final Tyrolean traverse; and raft, climb, and cycle your way around the 17 different challenges of the Radeau course, finally tobogganing your way back to earth on what for all the world appears to be an airplane evacuation slide.
The one Red route takes you higher up, but its Malaysian ladder and various Tyroleans still only present medium difficulty. The two Black routes however require a bit of fitness. The Route Erika takes you on a cycling path 20 metres up, and the final route is known simply as “The Challenge”, a.k.a. “Dare to Jump!” Through the entire park, non-participants are welcome to follow the adventures from ground level, offering encouragement and taking photos of the daredevils above.
There is a 50 sqm bouncy platform, and for the youngsters the Happy Forest’s petting zoo presents a Noah’s Ark of small farm animals which can be caressed and fed, to varying degrees: nine different species of hen, roosters, goats that will nibble your clothing, rabbits, donkeys, Chinese pigs, Barbary ducks, as well as a small troupe of Shetland ponies that will take your little ones on a placid stroll.
Rates are between 11 and 22 € depending on age and circuits covered.
© Happy Forest