“Hoh my God!” was my repeated exclamation the day I floated above the dotted valley of Jamaica’s capital city. I was not as mentally prepared as I thought I was for my 1st time paragliding in Jamaica! It’s an experience like no other adventure in Jamaica I’ve previously had. A big thank you to RealLife TV Show for inviting me along for this awesome excursion which I’ve been trying to cross off my bucket list for years.
Despite the initial anxiety I’m elated that I did it and would definitely love to experience paragliding in Jamaica again. If you’re at all curious or intrigued to take your 1st tandem flight, here’s what you should know before taking off.
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What to Know before Paragliding in Jamaica
- Paragliding in Jamaica is subject to availability of a licensed instructor, qualified to take others on a tandem flight. The limited instructors in Jamaica at the time of this post cause this service to not be offered year-round. Follow Paradise Wings to check when tandem flights are available.
- At the time of this post, paragliding in Jamaica is mainly offered between Dec. – Apr.
- Sturdy shoes such as sneakers or mountain boots recommended. NB. Crocs do not count as sturdy shoes.
- Bring an SD card or USB storage drive to get your paragliding video immediately after the flight.
- Let me emphasize this: YOU have to run off a hill! Not the instructor…you. For some reason this consideration did not cross my mind before arriving at the launch site, and admittedly rattled my nerves at first.
- The ability to take flight is dependent on wind conditions. You may not be able to confirm your flight far in advance (I had to double check with Paradise Wings 1-2 days before the scheduled date).
- You have a significantly higher chance of having a longer flight in St. Elizabeth than in Kingston, however the wind conditions may be less predictable
- If a glider weighs more than 200lbs they only have the option to take a tandem paragliding flight from the Malvern, St. Elizabeth site. Wind conditions would also need to be perfect to facilitate that flight.
Paragliding in Jamaica with Paradise Wings
At the time of this post, Paradise Wings is the sole business offering paragliding adventures in Jamaica, headed by veteran paragliding pilot Ingo Hillman. He did his very first flight with a paraglider in 2000, and has been flying high ever since! He is also a DHV (German Paragliding Association) instructor, examiner, and performance trainer.
Paradise Wings was founded in 2019 to offer paragliding in Jamaica as well as teach aspiring instructors. This adventure in Jamaica initially targeted tourists because it was thought that most Jamaicans wouldn’t be interested… boy were they surprised. To date, most Paradise Wings tandem paragliders have been locals (and women)! If you have a non-crippling fear of heights you’re willing to face, paragliding could be a less extreme way to tackle it when compared to cliff jumping or skydiving. Ingo has piloted many passengers with that trepidation, who soon had their anxiety eased by the freeing flight experience.
My Paragliding in Jamaica Adventure
A large, specially-designed parachute known as a parasail is what allows gliders to waft in the air. This often begs the question, “what is the difference between parasailing and paragliding?” the simple answer is parasailing includes being towed by a vehicle, like a boat. Embarking on a tandem paragliding flight requires no previous experience, just a little courage and a few steps. You’ll be fitted with a helmet then securely fastened into a harness connected to the paragliding pilot and parasail. After a few instructions, a walk down the hill should transition into a short run before wind carries you off into the skies.
As the time of my tandem flight approached, uneasiness became more evident. Breathing quickened as I tried to shake the anxiety off my jittery hands. I’m sure my nervous smile was transparent while I was guided onto the slant of the hill to take off from. After evaluating the wind for a few minutes, the Paradise Wings pilot strapped behind me asked “Ready?” to which I responded with a deep breath and an unconvincing yes; now was the time. Earlier instructions told to take a couple strong steps forward then to run on command…I made 1 and a half step and an unexpected gust of wind literally swept us off our feet! My scream rang from the skies to the hilltops… surprised, confused and fearful I had done something incorrectly (I didn’t). Ingo’s experience and composure quickly got the parasail under control and the exhilarating flight commenced.
It provides the most perfect example of a birds-eye view of the surrounding landscape from the comfort of a seat, while the pilot seamlessly controls in the background. Like a true Jamaican in the skies, I scanned the cityscape to try find my house… no success there however lol. What I did recognize from the Kingston cityscape stretching towards the sea was the Mona Reservoir, the prestigious Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Hope Gardens & Zoo and more. After the exceptionally lengthy Kingston flight, we landed somewhat smoothly on the field of a school compound.
Tandem Paragliding in Kingston Jamaica
Kingston tandem flights launch from the well-known Skyline Drive lookout point and land on a field in Mona. The average flight time here is roughly 5 mins, but if you’re lucky enough to experience ideal wind conditions it will last longer (mine was close to 15mins)! There had been tandem flights coupled with a hike from the hills surrounding a Kingston black sand beach but that offer had been paused at the time of this post.
Tandem Paragliding in St. Elizabeth Jamaica
John Crow Hill in Malvern, St. Elizabeth is the preferred place to paraglide in Jamaica. Standing at nearly 500m (1500ft), much higher than the Kingston launch spot, you’re almost guaranteed a longer flight. The average tandem flight here is at least 12 mins, and can accommodate a glider over 200lbs IF wind conditions are ideal.
Climate Change Effects on Paragliding in Jamaica
The growing climate change issue has become evident over the years through the increasing scarcity of ideal wind conditions for paragliding in Jamaica. When I flew with the RealLife TV crew in early April 2022, it was only their 2nd flight for the year so far. Paradise Wings is reportedly seeking to facilitate flights where the pilot will be able to manually pull the glider up. This should greatly reduce or eliminate the limitation of waiting for optimal conditions to fly.
Paragliding in Jamaica is probably the purest adrenaline rush I have ever had! After being in the skies and the initial fear subsided, it was a truly blissful experience for me. The free feeling while gently floating high above the cityscape, with nothing to do but admire the newly granted perspective is a notch above relaxing. It’s a sweet mix of thrill and tranquility I never experienced before and would leap (pun intended) at the opportunity to do again.
Do you think you would have the courage to do paragliding in Jamaica???
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