Paraglide Kilimanjaro recently completed one of their scheduled climbs up (with the assistance of Wild Frontiers), and flights from, Africa’s tallest mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro. A lot of people are familiar with the idea of climbing up Kilimanjaro, but flying off it is a new addition to this popular African adventure.
Sitting in fourth place, as one of the world’s Seven Summits (highest peaks on each of the seven continents), at 5,895 m above sea level (ASL) is Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. For most climbers, the thought of navigating Kili’s slopes and successfully summiting it would be enough. For the more adventurous climbers (or crazy – depending on how you look at it), navigating Mount Kili is only the first step, before you throw yourself off it… I mean paraglide off it.
What is ‘Paragliding’?
Paragliders are ‘lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure’. Even though paragliders don’t use an engine, paragliding can last for many hours, cover hundreds of kilometers and pilots can climb to altitudes of a few thousand meters. The thrill of flight in a plane or helicopter is definitely not a low-cost experience, which is why paragliding is favoured as an inexpensive alternative.
Negotiating to Flying
For some people, the thought of flying in a passenger plane is enough to cause a flushed face and sweaty palms. But launching yourself off a cliff face of the world’s highest free-standing mountain (with nothing but a fabric ‘wing’ above you)… well, that’s sure to leave you with sweaty palms. Paraglide Kilimanjaro are the people behind those flushed faces and sweaty palms. They started the long process of negotiations with Tanzanian authorities in 2000 to be granted permission to legally fly off Kilimanjaro. In 2011 a small team of pilots from southern Africa successfully flew off Kilimanjaro, and in 2015 commercial rights were given to operate paragliding expeditions.
From Climbing to Paragliding
Kilimanjaro climbs usually take about 6 days and 5 nights to complete. There are a number of routes that climbers can choose from and each of these routes varies in difficulty. For most people who want to paraglide off Kilimanjaro, the hike is a means to an end, so ideally the route shouldn’t be too strenuous. Although a day of hiking can be 4 to 6 hours long, leaving you pretty knackered by the day’s end, additional time has been included to give you a moment to catch your breath. This also gives paragliders another opportunity to paraglide off the ‘Roof of Africa’, in case the weather doesn’t permit flight (known as ‘para-waiting’) once you reach the summit.
Fight or Flight
Now comes the moment whether you fight (no, I am not throwing myself off this mountain) or take flight. You’ve reached Uhuru Peak, taken in a sublime sunrise and now it’s time to launch yourself from 5,700 m ASL (19,000 feet). Flights last roughly 90 minutes from top to bottom, allowing you to see sights of Kili that wouldn’t have seen on your way up, and give your legs a much needed rest as you miss the long descent back down Kili.
There’s a flying quote that goes “Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man…. Landing is the first!” For some people, this quote appropriately describes their feelings of paragliding off Kili, but sometimes “it’s only when you are flying above Earth do you realise how incredible it actually is” (Phillipe Perrin).