Paragliding in Nepal
If you are an adventure-loving person, Nepal offers you plenty of adventures to rush your adrenaline. And when it comes to adventure, Pokhara is the hub of the nation which hosts a lot of adventure like rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, etc. But above all these adventure sports comes paragliding which ensures an enthralling adventure of a lifetime.
Pokhara comes among the top 10 commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world. The condition here at Pokhara is apt with the right ingredients. The right conditions include stable temperature and wind, convenient take-off and landing zones, the scenic beauty of lush mountains and the safety of a large lake.
There are no obstructions either and the open space for paragliding makes the flight soothing. And when you are surrounded by mountains, the adventure gets blended with fright and ecstasy.
Price: Some people might find spending money in paragliding quite extravagant but as a matter of fact, people who try paragliding don’t seem to regret even a little bit. Pokhara can be the best place to try paragliding, even from the price’s point of view.
Pokhara has a fixed price for paragliding which is relatively cheaper when compared to other places given the fact that you will be flying among the mountains. The prices of paragliding are fixed and include transport ad insurance, no matter which one you choose. The prices are fixed as per the length of the flight.
Standard flight (30 minutes): Rs 7500 ($75)
Cross-country (40-60 minutes): Rs 11,000 ($110)
Go-pro video footage (5 minutes video): Rs 1700 ($17)
Tandem Paragliding: In this type of paragliding, you are accompanied by the pilot who is behind you while you are seated in a separate harness in front of the pilot. You can enjoy the ambiance and take pictures while your pilot takes care of the flight. But you should abide by the instructions you pilot gives for the safe flight. Tandem paragliding is comfortable but it has a large void beneath your feet which might be discomforting for some people.
Fly on your own: But if you are an experienced paraglider who wants to fly on your own, paragliding in Nepal has a scheme for you as well. For this, you have to get a flying permit from the civil aviation office in Pokhara. It will cost you Rs 4520 ($45) to get this permit and the permit is valid for 15 days. You can renew the permit upon its expiration.
To get the permit, you need to provide your passport photocopy, visa photocopy, passport size photo of yourself, proof of insurance and your license of paragliding in the civil aviation office. It will take almost an hour to proceed before you get the permit in your hand and a green light to start paragliding on your own.
Safety concerns: Paragliding is safe in Pokhara even if it sees more than 250 flights each day during peak season. The open space will accommodate all these flights A reserve chute and a large lake beneath helps the safety of the flight. But this extreme adventure comes with risks. The biggest of them is the sudden change of wind during take-off and landing.
The sudden change in wind velocity and direction might lead to accidents. So it is better to enjoy this adventure sport when the wind is stable. And even if accidents happen, make sure you choose the company that has insurance coverage. There might be some companies who claim to have the insurance coverage where actually they don’t. So it is better to tie up with a reputed company for paragliding.
There is no provision of getting a paragliding license here in Nepal. So you can’t rely on the novice pilot and it better to go with an experienced one. The government of Nepal has not regulated any policies for paragliding, so the paragliding business has been unmanaged in many terms.
Despite not being any license provision in Nepal, several international pilot schools like FAI, APPI and BHPA have come to Pokhara and run 15-day pilot training programs. This means that the pilot is internationally certified and they can fly anywhere in the world on their own.
Upon getting their license and gaining two years of experience, they become a commercial tandem pilot. During these 2 years of experience gaining, the pilots have to prove themselves in different locations and some adverse climatic conditions as well with different instructors.
The pilots are made to perform different exercises such as practicing using their reserve chute. After all these, the pilots have to attend a tandem exam with an APPI instructor and after passing the exam, they can now run a commercial paragliding company. Going through all these, pilots who hold the license are bound to be the safest.
Flight Path: Starting from Sarangkot, the standard flight is 30 minutes long. Transportation to Sarangkot is done via the company vehicle. Taking off from the hill of Sarangkot, you float above Sarangkot for a while and then head over Pokhara before you descend to an open ground beside Phewa lake. During the flight, you can perform spiraling acrobatics if you wish to (as performing this stunt is optional).
Best time of the day: The time for paragliding is specified by the paragliding companies. They generally offer 3 flights a day and run 7 days a week. The flight time is 10:30 AM, 12 PM and 2 PM. The time can, however, be altered depending upon the weather conditions.
When the sun is out for long enough to heat the earth, it creates the thermal criterion necessary for the lift. During the early morning, the thermals have not developed yet and the morning flights, therefore, experience less turbulence and relatively calm.
The early morning flight is best from the safety point of view but they incur less than 30 minutes. However, if you want to make your money worth, the afternoon flights are preferred as by that time the thermals criterion becomes active and the best conditions for paragliding are laid.
Best season for paragliding: Paragliding is not an all year round adventure sport. But as long as there is no rain and the wind conditions are not varying adversely, you can experience paragliding in Pokhara. September- November and February/March are the best season for paragliding as the weather conditions are supportive for paragliding.
This season is normal tourist season in Nepal and sees almost 250 flights each day. But paragliding in Nepal is a lot about adventure and flying amid the lush mountains. So make sure, you catch the view of mesmerizing mountains and thundering rivers flowing beneath. So if you are lucky enough, you can catch clear skies during the post-monsoon season of July and August.
Booking a flight: You might not be able to get the tickets if you don’t book early during the peak season. However, you need to book tickets at least a day prior to the flight so that you can plan for the flight.
All the necessary gears are equipped by the company, so you don’t have to worry about buying gears. Making a deposit of Rs 1000- Rs 2000 will book your tickets for the flight and you can pay the rest the following day. You can, however, book via phone, internet, email or in-person before your flight.
Instructions and lessons: There are not many companies that give you an insight into paragliding before vying for the flight. But there are companies which offer you an introduction course to paragliding which will cost you almost 120 euros/day including equipment.
The 15 days long course will reward you with a paragliding license by the end. Two companies viz: Sunrise and Blue Sky offer this introduction course. After you have ompleted the course and acquired a license, you can go paragliding anywhere in the world on your own.
Apart from Pokhara, there are two other destinations for paragliding in Nepal.
Bandipur: It is a Newari village between Kathmandu and Pokhara which offers a picturesque view of sunrise and sunset. Flying atop a ridge between Pokhara and Kathmandu, you can have the scenic view of lush mountains as well.
Sirkot: Sirkot is best for solo pilots. This is because it is 2.5 hours flight to Pokhara from Sirkot and flying solo for this long, you will learn a lot about the technical aspects.
There are different paragliding companies to ensure you have a safe flight and enjoy this adventure sport to the fullest whilst the company taking care of everything else. During peak season, the skies get clear and you get to see the gleaming mountains while flying among them. And while you are paragliding, the memories are caught in a go-pro video.
Paragliding is safe till date and a few accidents that have occurred are mainly due to sudden change of wind. So you make sure the climate does not get adverse during the flight. So it is better to have information about paragliding before you indulge. But you are bound to enjoy the adventure sport and cherish this for a lifetime.