For the adventure seeker, paragliding in Nepal can be a fulfilling experience and a trip will take you over some of the best scenery on earth. The flying season in Nepal commences from November through February, the best months being November and December. One of the favorite locations for paragliding in Nepal is from Sarangkot (1592 m) in Pokhara. Qualified pilots provide a short briefing before launching.
• In western Nepal: Surkhet and Dailekh
• In central Nepal: Mt. Monastery, Bhanjyang, Shiva Puri, Hetauda, Shreeban, and Dhulikhel
• In mid western Nepal: Sarangkot, Diki-Danga, Begnas Tal, Muktinath, Nuwakot, Tansen, Chitwan, Korchon, Galem, Bandipur, Andhi Khola-Sirkot, Sirubari, Dechuli, and Karkineta.
As said before, paragliding in Pokhara is the most popular as far as this adventure port is concerned. The take-off point is Sarangkot, which is at an altitude of 1592 meters and just 2.4 km due north of Lakeside in Pokhara (593 m). You can either hike to the site or go on a vehicle (20 minutes). Here’s how one enthusiast describes the adventure:
“When they started gearing me up I almost backed out. The height made me really nervous but it has been one of my dreams to do this and somehow I had to do it. I really tried to hold my fear but my pilot could smell it from far and was smiling the whole time.” Undoubtedly, as with any activity involving risk of the unknown kind, paragliding too can set the adrenaline rushing even before you actually jump off. Anyway, he continues, “Finally it was time to take off. With butterflies in my stomach, I closed my eyes and I could literally feel my heart pounding. It was time for us to run and take-off the hill. I was so scared at the time of take-off that I didn’t even realize we had taken off!”
Once you take off, however, you’ll be surprised to realize that it’s like floating serenely, and there’s not much of fear involved, especially since you’ll be having a pilot with you who’s experienced in the sport. You will be generally be taken on a tandem flight; this means that a pilot will be attached with you on the glider in a special harness. Both you and the pilot will have separate harnesses that are attached to each other and the wing, and these harnesses are pretty comfortable too; it’s almost like sitting in an armchair.
Your pilot does the flying, and all you do is hang on tight and feast your eyes on the wide and splendid vista below and all around you. For those having a license as a certified paraglider pilot, they can go solo. However, mostly, people go on tandem flights. Another thing, during your 20-30 minutes flight, you might even find yourself soaring in the company of some pretty exotic birds like the Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, etc. It’s all a very thrilling experience, no doubt about it! How much is it going to cost you? Well, the rate as of today is around 100 U.S. dollars for a flight.
Safety is taken very seriously indeed; after all, you’ll be flying at pretty high altitudes. Equipment used by all the commercial operators is top-notch, and the pilots are certified and experienced. Let’s hear more about the aforementioned enthusiast’s experience: “My pilot was very nice and he urged me to slowly open my eyes. I intuitively let out a very loud and elated scream. I was actually flying! I wish I could put down in words how I felt, it was so amazing! I don’t think I stopped smiling at any time during the flight. I was so high above the ground, and everything below seemed so small. I was free to fly as a bird and now I know why they call it the “bird’s eye view”.”
Oh yes, you cannot remain immune from feeling thrilled, literally on top of the world, as you glide over the beautiful valley below, the high green mountains around you, the lovely Fewa Lake shimmering below you. Added to all this is the sight of the magnificent Machhapuchchhre (Fish Tail) Mountain and the Annapurna Range nearby on the horizon. For those interested, some operators also provide paragliding courses during which time students get to familiarize themselves with the equipment involved besides learning how to read charts and so on. The 5-day beginner course introduces you to the equipment and its transport, care, and maintenance; pre-flight safety check; glider inflation and deflations; takeoff and landing procedures; theory of flight, meteorology and air law; speed control; etc. The 3-day thermalling course introduces you to thermal flying and teaches you how to make maximum use of the lift available on any given day. You get to fly, following instructions over the two-way radio on how to find, catch, and stay in thermals. The cross-country course is also a 3-day affair and it is actually a continuation of thermalling. It aims to introduce you to mountain flying and further improve your skills in paragliding over longer distances. All in all, paragliding in Nepal is not only about a half hour or so of thrills but also about learning something that will make you real proud for the rest of your life!