“Ok now we run! Run please, run, RUN PLEASE!” the instructor screamed in my ear, my little legs running as fast as I could, and before I knew it – they were no longer touching the ground.
I was flying.
We’d spent the previous hour being picked up from our accommodation in Fethiye, Turkey and making our way to the top of Mt Babadag near Oludeniz – an incredible 1960 metres above sea level. It was just a casual morning paragliding, involving running off a mountain top… no biggie.
Having never done anything like this before, I was super excited in the weeks leading up to our several days in Fethiye where paragliding was always on the agenda. I can’t say the same for Mike though. In fact, the day prior to our paragliding experience, Mike was looking up ‘deaths from paragliding in Fethiye’ on Google. There’d been a few over the years, but safety standards had also been stepped up in very recent times and there was never a safer time to give it a go. He still wasn’t keen…
Despite my enthusiasm, I can’t deny the sick feeling in my stomach the day we woke up and waited for the company to pick us up. It was almost as though the anxiety Mike had been feeling had transferred to me – I was a mess and he was the one at peace with what he was about to do.
The long journey to the neighbouring town of Oludeniz and the winding drive up the mountain didn’t help either. The sick feeling in my stomach began to get worse – I legitimately thought I was going to be sick. However, I wasn’t given the opportunity to dwell on it because at the very moment I thought I might change my mind – we arrived.
After being introduced to the pilot who was going to tandem fly with me, I was given a jacket to fly in – it was a cold morning – and a helmet, before he began rolling out the equipment. As I was clipped in to the harness, I barely had any time to turn to Mike and ask how he was, before my pilot strapped himself to me told me to ‘keep running until I tell you to stop’.
There’s no words to describe what it feels like to run – to sprint – towards the edge of a mountain peak. As we both began to run towards the steeply sloped edge, I felt the parachute rise into the air – and that’s when I slacked off, slowing down to ‘sit back’ into my harness as I thought that’s what I was meant to do. Not according to my pilot, who screamed at me to keep running. I still remember the feeling as I picked up speed once again and before I knew it I was running mid-air.
It all happened so fast – one second I was talking to Mike and the next I was flying through the air. I was awe-struck as I sat back in my harness, my pilot completely controlling the direction and speed in which we flew. He was silent for several minutes as he flew us higher – I think he was still dark on me for not doing exactly as I was told during take off. In my defence – I literally got no briefing nor explanation as to what to expect, other than to ‘run’. Anywho…
Flying through the air was absolutely spellbinding. Fethiye is one of Europe’s best locations for paragliding. With the stunning coast of Turkey to be seen for miles – including the spectacular colours of the blue lagoon, minutes feel like hours. On a clear day, it’s even possible to see all the way to the Greek island of Rhodes!
As we flew over the blue lagoon, my pilot asked if I liked acrobatics – “Sure” I said, not knowing exactly what he meant. I found out within seconds, as he began to adjust his control over the parachute and we began to spiral downwards, and fast – the blue lagoon beneath me spinning out of control. Several minutes later, back to flying peacefully through the air, my pilot pointed out Mike in the distance, experiencing the crazy spins and turns that I just had. It was both mesmerising and horrifying to watch!
After paragliding through the air over the coast for around half an hour, we began to descend and make our landing. I was astonished at the precision in which the pilot ‘steered’ the parachute, coming precariously close to buildings as he navigated towards the beach. Once again telling me to run, as we got closer to the ground I stretched out my legs, running mid-air before I made contact with the soft sand, continuing for several metres before coming to a complete stop.
Glad to be safe and sound and on solid ground, I sat on the beach – ok, semi-passed out – waiting for Mike to come in to land. He landed with the exact same precision as I had – the pilots in Fethiye jump up to five times a day during the tourist season, and most have flown for years and years – they live and breathe their sport and despite not receiving a proper briefing, I never once felt like he was not in complete control of our parachute and my paragliding experience.
Paragliding in Fethiye was one of the highlights of our trip to Turkey, a once in a lifetime experience. The mental challenge of overcoming a fear of heights, the physical challenge of literally running off the top of a mountain, and the absolutely breathtaking experience of flying over such incredible landscape was an amazing experience – one we’ll never forget.
- How to get to Fethiye
Fethiye is a very popular destination on Turkey’s turquoise coast, and the majority of all nearby cities offer transport in the form of long distance buses leaving from the local otogar.
- Where to stay
If you’re planning to spend the majority of your time at the beach, then you’d be wiser to actually stay in Oludeniz – a smaller town about 15 minutes drive from Fethiye. Oludeniz has a pretty cool backpacker vibe. We stayed in Fethiye at the beautiful Caretta Apart Hotel – a fully furnished apartment with a kitchen, AND the most beautiful golden retriever Sunny!
- Who to paraglide with?
There are a number of providers of paragliding activities in Fethiye. We used Hector Paragliding, and whilst we had a positive experience with them we did not receive a briefing prior to paragliding. Fortunately for us this didn’t prove to be an issue but it would be for anyone who is just a bit nervous. I’m not sure whether the practices have changed since we went (April 2014), but it’s important to review a company’s safety record and flight practices before booking.
- How much does it cost?
We paid 200 TL / $93.79 AUD each to paraglide – this should include all gear, and pick up from your accommodation in the Fethiye area.
- Any extra advice?
When you paraglide, your pilot will offer to take photos and video on an action cam – a knock off version of a GoPro. Unless you have your own action cam that you intend to use, DO take them up on their offer and invest the extra cost to get a copy of this footage. I elected not to have any, not wanting to spend the extra cash and confident I’d capture some shots on my digital camera. Well, my photos turned out rubbish, and Mike got some FANTASTIC shots as he went ahead with the capture and purchase. If you’ve spent the money to paraglide – spend a bit more and get the photographic memories to go with it!
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