Paragliding And Hang Gliding
PARAGLIDING & HANG GLIDING
In order to have a good non-powered flight, you need one of two things - thermals or mountains with good ridge lift - and southern Africa has both. The coastal areas and escarpment, generally, have excellent ridge soaring, while the flatter interior produces fantastic thermals on hot summer days.
There are loads of good launch sites, but here are a few of the classics. Lions Head, in Cape Town, is a convenient, immensely scenic launch site. It's a short walk up a good path to the launch, and the flight offers views over the city and the Western Seaboard beaches, while Table Mountain looms at your back. You land on a convenient grassy field next to a beachfront pub. Wilderness is another classic site, with fabulous ridge lift on the dunes facing the sea. You often see whales and dolphins from the air. Tandem flights are offered at both these sites.
The mountains of Porterville in the Western Cape offer truly spectacular flying. It's a high take off with some good ridge lift, but you also get fabulous thermals from the flat valley below, so it's a great cross-country site. The Drakensberg, particularly at Bulwer and Oliviershoek, is another great spot, and the Mpumalanga escarpment also offers some great flying. The dry Northern Cape town of Jan Kempdorp is a favourite winch launching destination, as the thermals are fantastic.
Obviously, there are loads more launch sites, and almost every hill and sand dune is a potential flying site. There are paragliding schools in most of the major cities and some smaller centres, and the South African Hang gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA) oversees all the admin-type stuff - licensing, registration, safety, etc.
South Africa is a great place to learn to fly as you could complete all your required flights in a relatively short time because of the fabulous weather and flying conditions. And the exchange rate means it's quite a bit cheaper than learning in Europe or North America.