Am I an adrenaline junkie? Or crazy? I’m actually scared of heights. So, what would provoke me to jump off a mountain and spend an hour gliding through the sky? To this day I am not entirely sure. I was looking for something cool to try while I was in Reunion Island, and paragliding over the beautiful landscapes was intriguing. So, I guess I am an adrenaline junkie/thrill seeker, and paragliding in Reunion Island was definitely the rush I was after.
History of Paragliding
Paragliding – the simplest form of human flight – actually developed from parachuting. In the 1960s, militaries needed to method to practice safe landings, without having having to go up and down in an airplane. Their solution – they would attach the parachutists to a truck with a tow rope. As the vehicle picked up speed, the parachutist would float higher and higher. The parachutist would, then, release the tow rope and descend back to earth.
Not long after, the thrill of floating in the sky became more interesting than landing. Parachutists would launch themselves off steep hills and parachute to the ground below, experimenting with how they could harness air currents to stay in the air longer. And so, a new sport was born, and parachutes eventually morphed into paragliders.
How Paragliding Works
A paraglider works with airflow to create lift. Air flows over both the top and the bottom of the glider and meets at the edge. When the pressure on the bottom of the glider is higher than on the top a lift upward is created.
As a result, paragliders look for rising air in order to catch a current that will keep them aloft for the longest time possible.
There are three basic types of rising air: 1. Thermals – columns of hot air that rise from the ground. 2. Ridge lift – occurs when the wind blows against mountains or hills. 3. Wave lift – occurs when the wind blows against the downside of a mountain.
Using these air currents and shifting their own body weight, paragliders can fly to heights of 7,000 meters with their paragliding sails.
Emerging from the Clouds
I arrived early for my paragliding session. I had never flown before, so I had to do a tandem flight. Since it is pretty common in Reunion Island it was not hard to find an experienced and well-reputed company.
I sat there anxiously waiting for my guide to arrive. No experience and I read some flights can go really high, even several thousands of meters above sea level. While I pondered the elevations we would reach, I noticed several thick ominous-looking clouds that were starting to appear over the ridge where we were supposed to jump. After my experience hot ballooning over Vang Vieng, I knew I could do it, but the anticipation was nerve-racking and I did not want to have to cancel due to bad weather.
Eventually, Julian, my guide arrived and we hopped in a van that took us to the ridge above Saint-Leu. I always find these rides awful. I more often than not need a few moments of solitude before these types of adventures, and the chatter of my fellow adventurers is more stressful than helpful.
As we stood on the ridge, and I looked out over the misty landscape Julian explained how paragliding works, and what we would be doing. He reassured me the weather would be fine for this flight, and he would not put me in a dangerous situation. He gave me my helmet and attached me to my seat.
“Ok, start running,” he said. “Oh ****,” I said to myself. Before I knew it we were floating in the air, but the majority of the view was blocked by a cluster of thick grey clouds. “We just need to find a thermal to take us higher,” Julian said. We floated through the air, and, eventually, we began to rise.
I noticed we were gaining height, but, how much, no idea. I still could not see anything. We suddenly emerged from the clouds and had a beautiful view of the surrounding area. “Wow, it’s magnificent,” I said. It was at this moment I had realized, we were really high, but I did not have this sensation of vertigo. I think I was in such awe and appreciation for the beauty, the height was not at all frightening. I was memorized by the view and the experience, I actually failed to take one of the crazy pictures or even look at the camera for that matter.
View from Above
We continued to glide through the air, catching thermal after thermal. We were, eventually, high enough where the view straight down was impressive.
As we approached the end of the flight, Julian asked if I would like to ‘drive.’ “Of course!” I said. Then, I had the reins, and it was thrilling. Just the beauty before me, and the complete freedom to float through the air…of course Julian was helping me.
In fact, there is a lot of training required before you can paraglide by yourself. You need to complete a certain number of tandem flights and undergo a lot of training. But, it was nice to think that I was in control..at least for a few minutes during the flight.
Then, he asked, “would you like to try some acrobatics?” Not knowing what on earth he was talking about, I said, “Yes, why not?” This is when the nightmare began. All of a sudden we were zipping through the air, up and down, and, at one moment, it felt like we were falling towards the ocean! “Stop,” I screamed. This was, definitely, not what I was looking for. And, in retrospect, I am guessing that’s what sky diving feels like, which, for me, is death-defying.
Useful tip: This is pretty common when you paraglide in tandem. There is a moment at the end where you can do some ‘stunts’ in the air. This is just a fair warning, you can say no. As I had no idea, I just said yes. While the paragliding part was awesome, this part was not something I would do again
Once the nightmare ended, we glided slowly down to the landing site. And, within an instant, the trip was over.
My Experience Paragliding in Reunion Island
Paragliding in Reunion Island, for me, was an epic experience. The views were incredible, and it was thrilling being able to soar above the clouds. This is definitely something I will do again. Even though I said I was not a fan of the ‘stunt’ section of the flight, you never know the future, and I love testing my limits…so maybe one day I will try the ‘stunt’ part again!
I booked with Azurtech, and I was happy with the professionalism and the quality of my guide. I would recommend booking in advance to reserve a place. It is important to keep an eye on the weather, as you can’t fly when it rains, but they are flexible and can re-book you if the weather does not permit flying.
Paragliding in Reunion Island Video
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Read More About My Other Adventures
Hope you enjoyed my post on paragliding in Reunion Island and found it useful. Here are some of my other adventure stories that I think you might find interesting.
- Climbing Chachani: Peru’s 6000m Volcano
- Hot Air Ballooning in Vang Vieng, Laos
- Hiking Acatenango: Face-To-Face With An Erupting Volcano
Have questions about paragliding in Reunion Island? Are there any activities in Reunion Island that are on your must-do list? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.