In hindsight things could have gone really wrong for my boyfriend. I mean, paragliding as a surprise birthday present? ‘Happy birthday puppy – now just jump off this mountain.’ I could have been decidedly unimpressed.
Luckily, as we drew nearer to Lion’s Head and I began to guess at what the morning had in store for me, excitement was pretty much all I was feeling. Excitement – and some serious butterflies in the stomach region, hellbent on making themselves felt.
But if you’re going to casually leap off Lion’s Head, Cape Town Tandem Paragliding is the best company to do it with. Established in 2007 by Manu Wegmershaus, CTTP operates year-round (weather dependent, obviously) with a crew of highly experienced tandem pilots all certified by the South African Association of Paragliding. These are no weekend warriors either – they’re full-time fliers, all.
So we’ve hiked up to the takeoff zone, opted for the in-flight GoPro footage, and been strapped in and safety-checked. Those butterflies have become something more like buzzards as I look down on Camps Bay far below. ‘Now run,’ says my pilot, ‘and don’t stop.’
He doesn’t have to tell me twice. My legs are still pumping comically as the ground drops away below us. For one soul-stopping second all I can see is blue sky and sparkling sea. The joy of flight. It’s right there in the feels, baby.
And then it’s Cape Town like you’ve never seen her before. We’re blessed with awesome thermals sweeping up off the mountain, and it feels like we’re hovering, still, as we take it all in. The peak of Lion’s Head is behind us; I can see the blue lego block of my high-school swimming pool way, way, way down below. Clifton and Camps Bay snake around the coast, all minuscule houses and arcs of perfect white sand. And that ocean – man, that ocean.
But hey, when you’re already hundreds of metres up in the air, why not add a little more adrenalin, just for kicks? I hang on to the GoPro for now so my pilot can steer and suddenly we’re doing crazy aerial twists that put my heart in my mouth and my spirit about a thousand feet high. The beach is behind us, and I’m looking down at the dark Atlantic and thinking, honestly, this wouldn’t be the worst way to die.
A few minutes later we float over some Saturday morning tennis enthusiasts at La Med and then it’s touch-down on terra firma. Ever the graceful extreme sportswoman, I somehow land on my butt while my pilot remains on his very sure feet.
But no matter. The ground is now for mere mortals, whereas I can’t wait to be up there in the thermals again.
Check out this awesome timelapse video by Cape Town Tandem Paragliding:
Weather dependent, Cape Town Tandem Paragliding will take off from either Lion’s Head, landing in Camps Bay, or Signal Hill, landing on the Sea Point Promenade. You can leave your car at the takeoff site, as the CTTP shuttle ferries you back after your safe landing. If you’d prefer to get a cab from the landing site back to your hotel or next destination, that can be arranged.
Who can paraglide?
Pretty much anyone, so long as you weigh less than 120 kg. Cape Town Tandem Paragliding caters to people with disabilities too, so nobody misses out on the experience. Children under 18 need to be accompanied and given signed permission by a parent.
What should I wear?
Decent walking shoes (you’re hiking up first, after all) and sunscreen! You shouldn’t be too cold in shorts and a T-shirt, but a long top wouldn’t go astray in cooler weather, and long pants will offer some protection in the event of a bumpy landing.
For more details, watch the Cape Town Tandem Paragliding official promo video:
Where Take off from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill
When Year round, but paragliding is extremely weather dependent so be prepared to be flexible
Cost Tandem flight R1 1 50, in-flight photos and video +R250
Contact 076 892 2283, 082 963 7729, [email protected]
Photography Cape Town Tandem Paragliding