Where eagles dare

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Atlantic Gull, West Coast, Paragliding, Porterville

The big gig in the sky is yours for the taking at Porterville.

Among all extreme sports, paragliding rates right up there for its rather addictive nature. This adventure aero sport requires no kill-joy manic training. It’s simply tearing through the sky with the aid of a paraglider – free as a bird on cloud nine.

What makes paragliding so attractive in this day and age of achieving low carbon footprints is that it’s one of the eco-friendliest aerial sports on earth – no fuel usage and near-zero impact on the environment.

The gear also is super-quick to pack and prepare. All you need is a light hike-and-fly glider, harness and reserve parachute (all weighing less than 3 kg), plus your clobber and helmet.

Where to go

With its reliable weather and marvellous thermals, Porterville is the first-line destination for this sport in the Western Cape. But it’s not a matter of ready-set-go. Solo-flying novices will need lessons by a qualified and experienced instructor before venturing into the blue yonder. Luckily, Airborne Paragliding – based at the Flyers’ Lodge in Porterville – will resume beginners’ training soon this year. The six-month course costs about R25 000 – with all equipment and gear provided.

And instead of travelling back and forth for training, the lodge offers both private rooms and backpacker accommodation.

Training

With an impressive 24 years in the paragliding business, Rob Manzoni – owner of Airborne Paragliding, Flyers’ Lodge and the Dasklip pass flying site – explained that they specialised in a two-week Advanced Thermalling and Cross-country course, with tips and training for extended flights.

At a daily fee of R1 000, the training includes meteorology from micro- to macro-level; developing accurate localised weather forecasting, effective ground-handling, correct vario/GPS and radio use, flight planning and outdoor survival. He said, “Because we believe it’s essential in any aviation pastime, we always aim for a high standard of competency.”

Every training day starts with a weather brief, expected flying conditions and wind variation. The school’s safety approach includes liaising daily with the ATC at the Langebaanweg air force training school to avoid airspace conflicts.

Then, they usually set a task for the day, briefing pilots on how best to achieve it and arrange retrieval vehicles to follow the route. Rob said, “However far you fly – and the further, the better – we’ll always ensure that you get home safely.” All retrieval drivers hold a professional driver’s permit (PDP).

Using good thermal lifts, skilled paragliding pilots are able to fly continuously for hours, covering hundreds of kilometres and reaching altitudes of a few thousand metres.

Ready to go where eagles dare? Head on over to Porterville – word is that weather conditions for thermic-experienced pilots are absolutely supreme from January to March.

Contact Airborne Paragliding (022 9313416/082 7884398; realflyerslodge@gmail.com. Lodge accommodation: R950 pps pn; R750 pn single.