Paragliding is a sport of assisted human flight. A paraglider is a motorless, inflatable wing, made of rip-stop nylon and fixed with Kevlar lines that secure a pilot’s harness. The pilot sits in the harness and launches the vehicle by foot, running off inclines, hills, or mountains.
He or she steers the wing by weight shift and application of brakes that changes the shape of the rear edge of the wing.
This flying device is made to soar on wind currents. The record for staying aloft is over 11 hours, and the distance record is 186 miles (300 km). The average flight for the everyday enthusiast is about 3 hours, with heights reaching 15,000 feet (4,500 meters).
Background to paragliding in Ghana
The Paragliding event was first introduced in Ghana in 2005 by the Ministry of Tourism. The festival has attracted both Ghanaians and foreigners alike since its inception and has become an essential part of the annual Easter celebrations in Ghana with 3-days aerial fun, ceremonies and carnival. The yearly event is the flagship programme of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) to promote tourism in the country.
The inclusion of the events as part of the festivities has seen an astronomical increase in the number of visits to the various attractions within the eastern enclave of the country, increased the tourist activities and improved economic activities as well. Additionally, after its introduction, the event has drawn many enthusiasts to Kwahu and positively impacted the local economy about transport businesses, tour operations, hospitality establishments, souvenir sellers and the entertainment industry amongst others.
Pilots with a wealth of experience are selected and coordinated across several parts of the world, to cater for the diverse and dynamic nature of participants who troop in from across the world to fly and have fun. These pilots are flown in from various destinations and well hosted with decent standards of accommodation and transportation through their total stay in Ghana for the event.
As part of the vision of the Tourism Sector to make Ghana a leading tourism destination in Africa, the Ghana Paragliding Festival was instituted to help achieve this goal.
This was to attract the globally growing number of people who enjoyed adventure sports tourism since paragliding provides a unique addition to the gamut of attractions that are common in most Sub-Saharan countries. This sport has made Ghana the destination of choice for tourists to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The event is held during the Easter period yearly in Kwahu in the Eastern Region of Ghana. It attracts thousands of tourists all over the world with numbers increasing yearly paving way for expansion of the take-off point on the Odweanoma Mountain.
How safe is paragliding?
All adventure sports carry risks. To operate safely in any kind of aviation environment one must strive at all times to minimise those risks. The most important prerequisites to safe flying are both pilot and passenger attitude, competent instruction, and safety equipment. The modern paraglider is a sophisticated aircraft that has been computer designed, flight-tested and certified to an international standard. Ongoing research, testing and development ensure that paragliders are sophisticated in design and very safe.
Boarding a paraglider
To begin with, we don’t jump off anything. Paragliders are usually launched by running off of moderate slopes with the glider inflated until you are lifted off your feet. Vertigo or the feeling of losing one’s balance from a great height disappears once you are comfortably seated and moving in the air. In very rare cases it is possible to suffer from motion sickness so we advise you not to take in excess food and drinks (especially alcoholic beverages) before your flight.
There are no age limits to boarding a paraglider, but you need to be in good health; you can fly at all ages even if it is not a particularly physically demanding sport. For minors, parental consent is required.
Wearing clothes and shoes suitable for some physical activity is required:
- Sturdy non-slippery shoes or trekking sandals that you would run, jog or play the sport in. Preferably with a closed toe to better protect your feet.
- A top you can run in. Even if the day is hot it is cooler when flying up in the sky. On a cold day it can be very chilly, so dress appropriately.
- Mid-thigh shorts, long pants (trouser) or tights are best as you are secured by harness straps that pass between your legs.
- Spectacles or sunglasses are fine. If they are lost you may want to secure them before the flight.
- Sunscreen, hat and water – sometimes we have to patiently wait for the conditions to be just right.
Eligibility to boarding paraglider
Being a passenger is not physically demanding. While flying you sit back and relax. During the launch phase, you may be asked to run a few steps at take-off and/or landing. Typically if someone can walk up and down a flight of stairs or climb a small ladder they can be a tandem passenger.
If you have a past or existing injury or weakness that may be aggravated by a sudden change of pace or direction while walking or jogging then paragliding is best avoided. As with most physical activity if you have a joint or muscular problem it may be aggravated by a tandem flight.
There are many types of physical and mental disabilities and many people challenged with a disability can still enjoy the freedom of a tandem flight experience. It depends on the nature of the disability. We are keen to share our passion for flight with anyone who feels likewise. Usually, the person with the disability and/or their caregiver will know if a tandem flight is possible and we are happy to chat through the possibilities.
There are many levels of being ‘scared of heights. There is a big difference between a healthy caution of heights and a true fear of heights. If you exhibit obvious and severe physical symptoms, such as sweating, dizziness, nausea when close to an edge, in a glass elevator, or even just thinking about being high, then paragliding is not going to be so enjoyable. If you simply feel a bit anxious and/or excited about your tandem flight then you are normal.
Passengers don’t have to do tricks or scary stuff to board it since the intention is not to scare you. We will not perform any acrobatics or high-risk manoeuvres during a tandem flight experience. We are very responsive to how you feel in the air – after all, it is your flight – so we listen to you during the flight and tailor the experience to suit you.
Some people want to gently cruise around and admire the scenery; others are thirsty for knowledge and want to know all the detail about equipment, wind, etc; others are adventurous and want to be thrilled in the air by turns and dives. Of course, if at any stage you are feeling uncomfortable we will take you straight to landing. Safety is our priority.
It is not common for people to feel sick during the flight, but you may feel nauseous. About one in every fifty people feel a little bit sick when flying but usually only if we do fast turns. The possibility of you feeling sick is minimized by checking how you are feeling during a flight and before we do any fast turns.
If you are not feeling well we slow things down and just cruise around to allow you to recover and enjoy. We estimate only one person in every thousand is sick while in the air. Of course, we land as quickly and gently as possible when someone is truly feeling sick.
Number of boarders
As the name implies a tandem paraglider can only take two people, one is a qualified pilot and the other you, the passenger. The pilot will be in control of the entire flight however if the conditions are suitable and the passenger is willing they will be allowed to co-pilot the paraglider when soaring.
However, for small groups of two or more passengers, each will be flown in a separate tandem either simultaneously or consecutively. Depending on pilot availability you can choose to either fly simultaneously (at the same time) or consecutively (one after the other). Some passengers want to fly in the air at the same time, e.g. to wave at each other and/or take video/photography in the air, others prefer to fly consecutively, e.g. to take video/photography from the ground, look after children/pets, etc. Whenever possible we let you make the choice.
Getting to Kwahu
The paragliding activity takes off at the plateaus of Kwahu Atibie and lands at Nkawkaw. Hence, one must climb the mountain first by car through public transport or foot from Nkawkaw. At Nkawkaw you can board any of the numerous public transport vehicles climbing up the Kwahu mountain to Atibie.
Better still you can hire a taxi from Nkawkaw to the Odweanoma Mountain and in case you have your own car but scared of climbing the mountain, there are drivers who are ready to drive you there.