1. All year flying.
It’s amusing when visiting pilots ask when’s “our season?”. Our season does not end. It’s on all year round. The types of flying and site choice may vary. You can have epic flying any time of the year. Summer is great for big distance flying and coastal dune soaring. Winter is great for city flying and light thermal flying. The northwest winter winds making sites like Little Lions Head and Signal Hill popular. Winter is a great time to fly from Signal Hill to Kommetjie. Know locally as the “Kommetjie Run”.
What about the South Easter winds in summer? No problem. If it’s blowing gale force SE in the city then it’s usually flyable elsewhere. Sites such as Piketberg, Porterville and Du Toitskloof, are often flyable. What about the rain in winter? Flying after the rain passes is the best flying conditions! We call it post-frontal. It’s the holy grail of paragliding flying conditions. More cold fronts hitting our shores in winter means more post-frontal conditions. Forecasting the weather for the Cape is complex. Knowing which site to go to isn’t easy. That’s why you want to learn with a local school whose instructors know what they’re doing. This way you can learn too!
3. Smaller launch sites.
Most of our launch sites are “small”. Fitting two gliders side by side is about as big as it gets. This means that ground handling (takeoff control) needs to be better. This makes you a better pilot.
4. Variety of landing surfaces.
In your training, you can expect to land in a variety of spaces. School fields, dirt roads (we call them runways) and kind farmers fields. Landing on beautiful green grass is not what we have. Landing under instructor guidance in these environments is fantastic. It’s what you want as a student.
5. Typical training sites.
If you learn to fly in the Cape your training sites will likely include a mixture of dune and real mountain sites. Dune flying is popular in Langebaan. Mountain sites include those such as Du Toitskloof, Porterville, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Hermanus. These sites are all stunning. They provide a variety of real-world paragliding experiences.
6. Mixture of conditions.
Training at a mixture of dune and real mountain sites teaches you a lot. Langebaan flying where the air is laminar is easy flying. At mountain sites, you will experience thermal activity. Learning to fly on these mountains teaches you how to read the conditions. This helps you make good flying decisions when you’re a licensed pilot.
Five schools provide solo paragliding lessons in the Cape. Air School Paragliding, Birdmen, Fly Cape Town, Paraglide South Africa and Winelands Paragliding. What about Wallendair? They teach in Wilderness, not Cape Town. On some days you’ll have all 5 schools at the same site. You would think this would be a problem. It’s not. We all support each other. We appreciate that we’re making efforts to grow paragliding in our backyard.
8. You’re a local.
Locals, you want to learn here. It’s where you will do most of your flying after your student training. We’ve found that those who learn to fly here stay in the sport for longer. Those who learn at the “easy” sites like those on the Garden Route tend to drop off and fly less when they come back home to Cape Town. This is likely because they don’t understand the Cape Town weather, where to go, and when to go. The major disadvantage with only coastal training is that it’s so easy! You can get away with crap landings when thumping into beach sand. You can get away with crap takeoff control when your takeoff area is huge. If you want to fly safely in the Cape, learn with a local school.
9. You’re a foreigner.
Foreigners, you want to learn here too. Why? For all the other reasons mentioned here. Most important, because of the variety and slightly more challenging conditions. Learning in the Cape environment prepares you to fly just about anywhere in the world. If you’re not prepared, then at least you will know this. Knowledge is far better than ignorance.
Holy moly! Do we have beautiful training sites! Look out for whales as you soar along the Hermanus ridge. Flying in Franschhoek will show why this is called the “French corner”. Sir Lowrys Pass – a real mountain site with ocean views and tall 1000m+ peaks right next to you. There’s a reason why foreign pilots come here on paragliding tours. Count yourself privileged to be able to train here as a student paragliding pilot.