The view of Beirut from above when landing evokes a sense of nostalgia for most Lebanese. The moment lasts for mere minutes, but imagine what memories could be etched in your mind, if, instead of taking a plane, you took a glider
Paragliding enthusiasts have been soaring through the skies for decades now, virtually unnoticed. Due to favorable wind conditions, particularly during this time of year, and the proximity of mountain to the sea, Lebanon is an ideal location for this sport. Even if it’s something you experience just once in your lifetime, Lebanon Traveler has you prepared for what
By definition, paragliding is a sport in which a wide canopy, resembling a parachute, is attached to a person’s body by a harness, in order to allow them to glide. Suspension lines to the harness, in which the pilot sits, secures the wing that is usually made of nylon. If launched by foot, the canopy, or wing, is stretched on a hill and the pilot inflates it while
moving forward on a downward slope, taking advantage of good wind direction. When the wing is inflated, the pilot then runs down the incline, until the wing can carry him or her into the air. Unlike a parachute, which descends vertically, the wing has the ability to move forward, thus enabling the pilot to maneuver more, take thermals (columns of warm air rising up) and stay airborne.
Paragliding expert, Alain Gabriel, recounts how his love affair with the sport began
“I was 17 when I first saw paragliders flying over the Cedars. I was amazed and excited about it and immediately started asking about where and how to learn. Luckily I knew a friend who knew the instructor, so after getting my parents’ approval and signature (since I was a minor then) I began this exhilarating sport. I then continued my training in France where I also became an instructor. Now it is my full time job and I enjoy it as much as I did when I started, 21 years ago. The thrill remains the same. Each flight is different; especially when I take tandems. Every person is different and each ride is a new exciting adventure.”
Alain Gabriel started paragliding in Lebanon in 1993 and has been practicing and teaching the sport for 20 years. He started his training in France, with the Club Thermique, which is linked to the first paragliding school in the world, the Centre Ecole Régional de Parapente des Pyrénées, where he pursued professional courses and also became a certified instructor. His company, Exit to Nature, provides scheduled tandem flights with a pilot. While most flights are from 2 pm till sunset, Monday to Saturday, you can plan for a fun outing on Sundays or the next official holiday, during which they fly throughout the day.
Paragliding in Lebanon started in the early nineties. The paragliding experience is enriched by the diversity of the country’s landscape, with mountain and seascape areas that may be enjoyed from a bird’s eye view like Ghosta, Jounieh, the Cedars, the Chouf Cedars, Lessa, Meziara, Dedde, Annaya and Hammana. Flight time depends on the weather, the pilot’s experience and on the glider. A flight could last from 10 minutes to a couple of hours or more. Flying safely is also very important. One should fly in good weather, understand the site conditions (wind gusts, obstacles, thermals), know his or her skill level and not take unnecessary risks. When in doubt, cancelling the flight is a wise decision.
Paragliding can be experienced either by choosing to go on a tandem flight, with an experienced instructor behind you, or by learning to fly solo at a paragliding school. When flying in tandem, the pilot talks the student through the operation of the glider. If the conditions are right, the pilot may even turn the controls over to a willing passenger, and let them experience what it’s like to fly an unpowered craft. When in a tandem flight, the person in the front is in an ideal position to document the excursion with a still or video camera. If you choose to fly on your own, a set of procedures is in place, with courses divided into three levels.
Level A The lesson begins with ground handling of the wing, as well as meteorological and theoretical lessons. You also learn how to maneuver the glider in midair, brake and land using levers on either side of your head. The course usually takes one week, during which you learn all the basics and then fly alone but under direct instructor supervision and instructor radio contact.
Level B With the basics in hand, the course veers over to thermalling (finding a warm patch of air, which increases the climb rate and rides it), flying in different sites, in different meteorological conditions, using the speed bar andlearning different takeoff and landing techniques.
Level C By the time you reach this level, you should have had around 50 flights completed after completing Level B successfully. This is an advanced level in which you master the techniques you already acquired and learn new, extreme exercises.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Briefing, gearing-up and flight time amount to approximately 1 hour
• Reservation is required 48 hours prior to the requested date of flight
• Paragliding is subject to wind conditions so clients must be advised that sometimes a flight may be postponed at the last minute
• Insurance is not included, clients must sign a liability waiver form releasing the company of any responsibility in case of an accident
• Minors are requested to have at least one of their parents or a legal guardian present, who must sign the waiver on behalf of the child
• Flight time is 10 to 20 minutes depending on weather conditions and costs 120 USD
• A DVD of the flight & a picture package is available for an additional 30 USD
WHERE TO LEARN
Exit to Nature
+961 3 270592 +961 3 684556
+961 3 288193 +961 9 237193
+961 3 260245
Cedars Paragliding School
+961 3 544449