Towering Adventure and Big Fun

The Macau Tower offers a variety of unusual adventure activities.

By: Allen Salkin

Sigmund Freud once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Of course, sometimes it isn’t. And in Macau, there’s a tower that is not just a tower.

The over 1,100-foot-tall Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Centre looks from the outside just like any number of observation towers located in city centers and amusement parks throughout the world. It has the requisite windowed observation deck on top, a big restaurant, a tall pointy needle sticking out of the top and an elevator jetting up the middle.

But in this case there’s a whole lot more going on.

Thanks to a partnership with A.J. Hackett, the man who essentially invented and popularized bungee jumping, Macau’s tower has become one of the most unlikely adventure parks in the world.

Tower Climbing

The tower is sort of like Macau’s Mount Everest and Grand Canyon all on a stick.

Visitors can climb to the very top of its mast; can stroll outside its saucer-in-the-sky on teeny walkways with no handrails while suspended by safety-tethers; can attempt to scramble up and down its laddered legs; can “fly” off it into a giant net; can climb up its concrete shaft; can practice climbing on artificial boulders at its base; and can bungee into a trampoline below it.

Not your run-of-the-mill tower, is it?

The latest addition is “Skywalk X,” a platform that is extended out about 10 feet from the tower at around 765 feet above the ground. The platform is just a few feet wide and has no railing. Skywalkers don bright orange jumpsuits and safety cables tethered to a railing above.

“With no handrail at all participants will feel the thrilling altitude without a single interference of glass wall or grate,” said Janet Tong, communications manager for tower owner Shun Tak Holdings, in officially announcing the Skywalk X debut.

For the slightly more conservative, there’s the old Skywalk (no “X”), about 50 feet lower, which does have a handrail but also has a see-through metal grate as a floor. Look through it and the earth is over 700 feet below.

The Ironwalk

Closer to the ground is the Ironwalk, a sort of meta-jungle gym in which the tower’s legs are strewn with ladders, cables and handrails for climbing and upside-down gamboling.

Add an “X” and things always get more complicated so Ironwalk X is a sort of real-life version of the children’s game Chutes and Ladders. Steel ladders are affixed to the tower’s shaft. Players can scramble 75 feet high, and then lower themselves down thick ropes.

The Flying Fox is one of the hits of the tower’s “Adventure Zone.” A 70-meter line shoots out of the tower leg and plunges fliers into a big net high above the ground.

What claims to be the world’s tallest climbing wall is a simulated rock-climbing course stretching 105 feet up the tower’s shaft. For this, there are white helmets and a harness.

No harness is required for the earthbound climbing boulders, which have a nice cushy airbag below them to catch those whose hands slip from the handholds. The boulders are often used as a warm-up before trying the shaft wall.

Up to four small or large people can try the Macau Tower’s bungee trampoline at once. Bungee cords are tied to each person, who then fling their bodies into the trampolines. With a rubbery twang the bungees hurl people skyward and back, causing bodies to careen in all directions.

Top of the Needle

The crème de la crème of the tower’s adventures is the Mast Climb.

The needle at the top of the tower juts 328 feet or so above the revolving restaurant. It has ladders along it that take two hours roundtrip to ascend and descend. According to tower promotional information, this is the only free-standing tower in the world that takes the public to its very top.

Orange jumpsuits, safety tethers and white helmets are all necessary for this adventure the perfect activity for those who simply must reach the top of whatever presents itself.

Advance reservations are strongly recommended for the Mast Climb, which costs $125 weekdays and $137 weekends. The price includes a photo of the climber at the top, a certificate and a T-shirt.

Other adventure activities cost between $4 and $22 each.

What would Sigmund say? He once wrote, “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.”

Perhaps, but then again those who wear tethers on the Mast Climb also wear helmets.