EDELRID Photo Shoot at Tropical Islands Berlin

Working at Dizzying Heights

I gradually move higher, one foot in front of the other. At the same time, my hand pushes the runner up the steel wire. I glance downwards. We’ve only covered the first few metres and I’m already completely out of breath. The hot temperature and high humidity are getting to me. Little by little, I’m starting to understand what it means to work at height here day after day.

In front of me, Lisa, Klaus and Sven appear to be moving effortlessly. I try to keep up and not get left behind. We’re aiming for the platform underneath the dome. Below us is a somewhat surreal leisure park with small islands, pools, palm trees and restaurants. From up here, the visitors to the attraction look like tiny ants. They haven’t a clue about what’s going on above their heads. We’re occasionally aware of the distant hum of voices. Otherwise, it’s very quiet.

We’re at Tropical Islands, Europe’s biggest holiday resort. Since it opened in December 2004, visitors have flocked to this paradise, which is untroubled by inclement weather. At around 66,000 square metres, it’s gigantic. Cargolifter completed the building in 2000 and originally intended to build airships sheltered from any adverse weather conditions. After Cargolifter’s project failed, a new use for the hangar was sought. In the end, Malaysian corporation Tanjong came up with the idea of turning it into a leisure complex with a tropical look and feel. In 2003, it purchased the disused Cargolifter hangar, which then underwent extensive redevelopment and reconstruction. Tropical Islands has belonged to the Parques Reunidos Group, based in Madrid, Spain, since 2019. Some of the main attractions are the world’s largest indoor rainforest, the tropical sea, lagoon, and a tropical village.

INFOBOX: Tropical Islands


Measuring 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and 107 metres high, the former Cargolifter structure is the biggest self-supporting hangar in the world. It’s located on the former Brand airfield about 60 kilometres south of Berlin.

Its capacity is 6,000 visitors per day. Around 1.2 million people visit the resort annually. Tropical Islands employs around 550 people.

We’re a small production team consisting of a filmmaker, models and me, EDELRID’s marketing guy. We’ve all been certified by FISAT, the German rope access association, to work at heights. Certification is a must for anyone wanting to be up here where there’s a risk of falling. Our goal is to shoot impressive pictures and film for our new image campaign.

It’s all about authentic rope access photos and videos. Work here involves taking down trusses or posters, repairing the outer shell and protecting the structure from corrosion.

    “It’s a wrap. You can come down,” I hear from my walkie-talkie.

    “Roger. I’m coming. Over and out.”


    I put the fixed rope into my descender, place the mobile fall arrester onto the safety rope and release my belay. I slowly descend, the blue of the lagoon below me. Lisa and Sven have already landed and pull me onto the beach for the last few metres. I’ve made it.

    Klaus comes around the corner, a camera with a big telephoto lens hanging around his neck. He looks pleased with the results.

    “We need to hurry up if we want to catch the sunset. The sun will have gone in an hour and we still need to set up the abseil routes.” This otherwise so calm and unflustered photographer urges us to hurry up.

      After a brief break for drinks, we’re already going up again. Once at the top, I open the heavy hatch that takes us to the facility’s roof. A cold wind hits me in the face. My glasses immediately fog up and I’m practically blind. After a quick breather to enjoy the view from above, we clip our shock absorbers into the steel wire.

      Properly secured, we then walk to the edge of the gigantic dome. Lisa and Sven start setting up the abseiling routes straight away. Our 200-metre ropes just reach the ground. Sven and Lisa start out first. Closely followed by Klaus, his finger always on the camera’s shutter release to capture everything the two of them do. The group slowly moves down the edge of the dome before finally disappearing from sight.

      All of a sudden I’m alone and feeling a little downcast. I take a look around one last time. Below me, the vast forests of Brandenburg. Fog covers the ground. On the horizon, I can see wind turbines producing green electricity. Behind me, the sun slowly sets, casting everything in a golden yellow light. I inhale the cold air, conscious that this is a unique moment. These are the times I love my job and make it like no other. That’s what I call vertical freedom.

      But now I need to get going. I place the fixed rope into my descender, attach the mobile fall arrester onto the safety rope and release my belay. I slowly make my way down.