A ‘zorb’ ball rolls down a hill at at Sihanoukville’s I-ball Adventure Park.
IMAGINE crawling inside a giant transparent plastic ball similar to a hamster wheel although softer, strapping yourself to the sides and hurling yourself down a hill so that earth and sky blend into one long continuous loop as you bounce and tumble down the hill, finally coming to an abrupt stop at the bottom of the slope.
It sounds like the product of the overactive imagination of a drunken frat boy, but it's real, it's a sport, and it's available just outside Sihanoukville.
Technically known as Zorbing or sphering, the sport was first invented by Dwayne van der Sluis and Andrew Akers in New Zealand in 1994. The idea caught on, and since then the sport has been enjoyed in countries such as England, Australia, the US and Thailand.
The main version of the Zorb ball is actually a combination of two plastic PVC balls, one inside the other, with a layer of air between the two balls that acts as a shock absorber. Most balls fit two people, although variations include balls for one to three people, and even an aqua ball where buckets of water are tossed in before the ride in order to create a washing machine-like effect.
"Everyone who comes here leaves absolutely loving it," said Colm McMenamin, the Irish owner of the I-ball Adventure Park, 11 kilometres north of Sihanoukville. "I saw this sport on YouTube about two years ago, and I knew I wanted to do this. I thought Sihanoukville would be the perfect spot because there can be a real lack of things to do in the daytime here other than sit on the beach and drink beer."
For US$10, adventurous customers can have unlimited rides in the 3-metre I-ball, which is designed for two people at a time.
Punters get in at the top of the 120-metre hill and whirl their way past banana trees and leafy shrubs on the manicured track that leads down to a bamboo bridge, which slows the ball down so it comes to a gentle stop in a grassy clearing.
"At first it feels really slow and steady, but then it starts speeding up. It's quite wild," said Becky Walsh, an English tourist. "All you can see is sky, ground, sky, ground. I thought it would make me a bit dizzy or maybe sick, but it doesn't. It's good fun."
According to Colm, visitors to the adventure park ride the I-ball an average of 3 to 4 times.
"Usually, people will go once or twice, have a beer and relax, and then go maybe one or two more times before they go home. However, when we get families visiting, the kids sometimes go nuts, and some of them could ride it all day long," he said.
The I-ball Adventure Park also has an 80-metre zip line over a lake, a river and rock pool for swimming, picnic areas and a volleyball court.
The park officially closes for the rainy season from June to November but will remain open to groups by appointment. To arrange an I-ball experience, or for more information, please contact Colm on 016 910 564.