The very best way to gain perspective is to fly. A few hundred metres up in the air, with a view of the Hottentots Holland Mountains to the east, the sweeping arm of the peninsula to the south, and the undulating surface of the Atlantic Ocean beneath you, the world’s problems can seem blissfully far away. In that moment – drifting on the thermals, gravity fighting in vain against your glider’s sails, the magnificence of the Cape stretching before you – the ultimate perspective is yours. Let’s go paragliding!
Cape Town’s Hot Spots for Paragliding
Being a topographically voluptuous region, the Cape Peninsula is peppered with paragliding spots. Lion’s Head and Signal Hill are home to the city’s best known and most popular and accessible paragliding launch sites that offer breath-taking views of the Cape’s rugged and dramatic landscape. Being an inherently windy region, you can expect a thrilling 20 to 30-minute journey down to your landing site, which, in this case, is typically on a field next to the Bungalow restaurant and bar in Clifton.
Other launch sites include the picturesque Franschhoek, Porterville in the Olifants River Mountains (155 kilometres northeast of Cape Town), the whale-watching town of Hermanus, the hair-raising Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Hottentots Holland Mountains, and Table Mountain, which is better left to the experienced paragliders owing to the launch site being located on a treacherous cliff face.
Paragliding 101: Getting Started
Paragliding is an exhilarating experience, not only for the view but also for the adrenalin-spiking fact that you’re flying. But, while it may be classed as an extreme sport, you don’t have to be an incorrigible thrill-seeker or have a special license to tick it off your bucket list. With several professional paragliding companies offering daily launches from a selection of beautiful sites around the Mother City and her surrounds, anyone can take a flying leap off a cliff and into the azure skies beyond!
Getting started requires no more than a phone call or an email enquiry to a local paragliding company, such as Fly Cape Town Paragliding or Cape Town Tandem Paragliding. Taking weather conditions into account, a day and time will be arranged and then all you really need to do is show up in warm clothes, closed shoes, and skin smeared with sunscreen. Beginner paragliders will fly tandem with an experienced and qualified pilot; however, if you want to fly solo, you’ll first need to acquire a basic license from the South African Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA).
Just like driving a car, you’ll need to earn this license through formal training, which is done under the watchful tutelage of a certified paragliding instructor. Once you have mastered the theory and practice of safe flying, taking off, and landing, and have fulfilled the required number of practice hours, you’ll take your SAHPA exams. If you pass – when you pass – the sky becomes the limit and the troposphere, your playground.
The Ultimate Escape
Whether you’re jonesing for a shot of adrenalin or just want to put a few hundred metres between yourself and the stresses that come hand-in-hand with life on terra firma, paragliding offers an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience (or more if you become hooked, as you probably will.) With a plethora of options that attract scores of locals and tourists alike, Cape Town is one of the greatest destinations in the country for this invigorating sport.