In South Africa, paragliding is a perfect match for the geography. Here are high plateaux dropping off steeply into the lowlands, and mountains with predictable thermal uprushes. Many paragliders swear by the Karoo flatlands, where there are high cloud bases and steady thermals to carry you for hours.

Did you know?

When it's all packed up, paragliding gear weighs less than a golf bag.

Haven't we all at some point watched in envy as raptors soared overhead in flight?

The closest most of us will get to emulating their actions is by paragliding, or 'stepping into the sky', one of the most rewarding aerial sports for travellers.

South Africa's many ridges and mountain lines run like great arteries throughout the country, making paragliding in South Africa both a delight and, at times, a daunting challenge.

Paragliding is described as the skill of flying an inflatable wing craft. A basic four-day course teamed with the right mental attitude and basic physical requirements will prepare you for the thrill of your first paragliding session.

Foreign pilots keen to taste South Africa's paragliding opportunities may obtain a temporary licence (valid for three months) and limited medical and CASEVAC insurance through the South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

Although most of the country's nine provinces offer the sport, the relatively flat Karoo heartland is one of the best areas for long-distance paragliding.

The towns of De Aar and Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province are the centres of Karoo paragliding. South African paragliding has generated more than 50% of world records in this sport, most of them established in the Karoo.

Pilots are launched from the De Aar Aerodrome with a 'payout' winch fixed on the back of a vehicle, although even here a mountain launch is possible. So what makes the fairly arid desert-like Karoo such a sought-after location you might ask.

The Western Cape has more than 60 official paragliding launch-and-flight sites.

Towards the north of KwaZulu-Natal along the Drakensberg mountain range you'll come across dauntless 'One-Wings' riding thermals or taking the 'ridge lift', a wave of wind that blows up the escarpment. The rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands are also a favoured spot for this rewarding leisure activity.

But you don't have to be a fully fledged paragliding pilot to experience this thrill. You could also book a tandem jump with an experienced pilot. The most popular spots for tandem flights are Lion’s Head and Signal Hill in Cape Town and Wilderness on the Cape coast. Tandem flights are always weather-dependent and so cannot be guaranteed.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA)
Tel: +27 (0)12 668 3186
Email: office@sahpa.co.za

Best time to visit

Paragliding is very weather dependent so even if you've booked a tandem flight it might not necessarily materialise.

What will it cost

Tandem glides usually start from around R900 per person.

What to pack

Paragliding head offices under the auspices of the South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association will advise on equipment hire and the correct gear. Paragliders fold up neatly into a back pack.