Of all the adventure sports activities to available in Queenstown, paragliding from the summit of Coronet Peak ranks as the most memorable. From the initial adrenalin fueled take off to the serene calm of floating across the sky over the Wakatipu Basin, paragliding in Queenstown is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that stays with you forever.
Many would be paragliders are put off by the thought of donning a harness and jumping off a mountain – surely such a feat requires months, if not years, of training. Not so! Fly Paragliding is a Queenstown based outfit that offers flights to first timers. No experience is required on the part of the passenger since they will be riding in tandem with an experienced paragliding instructor who will take care of everything from take-off to landing.
Just getting to the take-off spot for Fly Paragliding is an adventure in itself. The base of operations is the summit of Coronet Peak, accessible via a scenic chairlift ride. Once at the takeoff point the staff at Fly Paragliding will kit you out with all the necessary gear and give a quick safety tutorial on operating a paraglider. Don’t worry though – you will be taking the plunge with an experienced operator who will show you the ropes and guide you through the entire process. Even if you don’t learn a single thing about paragliding you can sit back and enjoy the thrill of a lifetime.
Once you’re harnessed in and ready to take-off, the operator will take a running jump over the edge of Coronet Peak and you, the paraglider and the operator will plunge into the great beyond. This is where the fear and adrenalin kicks in for most first timers on a paraglider – the initial feeling of leaving terra firma and falling is nothing like you have ever experienced before. The panic is short-lived, however, as the operator expertly adjusts his straps and the chute catches an updraft and soars up into the sky. It is now when the adrenalin rush is replaced by a feeling of calm serenity as you experience unpowered flight for the first time.
Watching the valley floor with its lakes and rivers and rocks and little houses from your vantage point in the sky, without a noisy airplane engine or crowded cabin and with only the sound of the wind in your ears is an unrivalled experience. For many this is the highlight of the trip. The operator will perform a few dips and turns as your paraglider meanders across Wakatipu Basin before handing the reins over to you to try your hand and piloting.
After your lesson is complete, the operator once again takes control of the glider and performs some acrobatic manoeuvers, which some first-time paragliders have described as being on a rollercoaster in the sky. By now you should feel secure enough to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride, taking in the sights while you loop and dip hundreds of meters in the air.
Eventually once the paraglider descends to an appropriate altitude, the operator begins landing procedures. Many first-timers are surprised at the speed in which the ground comes hurtling towards them – but the operator knows how to slow the paraglider down in such a way that you both gently land on your feet.
For many it is only after landing that they can fully appreciate their flying experience, and as with most adventure sports, the first instinct is to go and do it all over again! Luckily thanks to your helmet cam you nave the entire experience on video and can relive it as many times as you want in the safety of your armchair.