Updated: Aug 19
THERE'S NO BETTER WAY TO EXPERIENCE THE AWE-INSPIRING VIEWS OF CAPE TOWN'S ATLANTIC SEABOARD THAN FROM THE QUIET HEIGHTS OF A TANDEM PARAGLIDE
With sweaty palms, a racing heart and what I imagine must be an unflattering expression on my face, I find myself galloping down Signal Hill’s steep and canvassed slope, bolting towards the edge with a large man at my heels. Suddenly, the ground gives way, my legs are pumping thin air and my stomach does a somersault. The wind has scooped up the paraglider, and Earl from The Tandem Flight Co and I are silently – miraculously – gliding towards Sea Point in tandem.
I’ve ticked a few things off the bucket list in my life that pushed my mild acrophobia to the limits, including skydiving, bungee jumping, abseiling, cliff diving and ziplining, and just as one can’t really compare bungee jumping to skydiving, para-gliding is also completely in a category of its own. After the initial – and wholly irrational – fear that the glider somehow won’t function properly and that I’d go tumbling down the fynbos-clad slopes of Signal Hill, the flight is so gentle, peaceful and effortless, that the trepidation seems almost silly.
I live in Sea Point, and have jealously looked up from my back stoep as the paragliders sail overhead like oversized birds. I’m actually a little Embarrassed that it’s taken so long for me to pluck up the courage to do it myself. When I eventually did, I rung up Earl Valentine, the proprietor of The Tandem Flight Co, and he immediately agreed to take me on a flight.
We arrived early on a sunny but somewhat breezy summer’s day, and Mike – a manager at The Tandem Flight Co – informed us that we’d have to wait for the wind to turn, as it was blowing towards the ocean, and for us to fly, we needed it head-on. After an hour of waiting for the wind to turn, and willing the windsock to billow in the desired westerly direction, Mike announces that it is finally playing ball and we should start setting up. Securely strapped into the harness with Earl behind me, we’re on the launching pad and ready to go.
‘Ready … and … run!’ Earl yells.
It takes mere seconds for the wind to scoop us up, and once we’re in the air and I’m over my jitters, I settle into my seat and admire the view, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Bet you’ve never seen the Mother City from this angle, eh?’ Earl grins back. I certainly haven’t, and I enjoy every second. Green Point and Mouille Point with its verdant golf course and the beautiful white expanse of Cape Town Stadium lie to the west. To the east looms majestic Lion’s Head with ritzy Bantry Bay and Clifton at her feet, and Camps Bay beyond. How lucky I am to call this place home? I think, while gliding towards the Atlantic with its icy waves lapping at the city’s edges.
As we coast towards the lush lawns of the Sea Point promenade, Earl proposes a few aerobatic turns, and I agree. He proceeds to pull hard on the brake lines, swinging us in a pendular, head-over-heels motion one way, and then the other. I wasn’t quite ready for this, and I presume my face has once again contorted into a rather unflattering guise as we manoeuvre over a couple of waving walkers below.
Once upright again, with all my organs back in the right place and face reconfigured, we descend quickly and land gracefully amid a gang of frisbee throwers and dog walkers. What a blast. The flight is over in minutes but, I can wholeheartedly say: so very worth it.