Sikkim is known for its bountiful scenic views, village tourism, organic farming and many more to name. Now Paragliding is one more addition to its endless list of adventure and excitement which Sikkim offers.
Travel agent association of Sikkim (TAAS) along with three pilots initiated a paragliding at lower Luing Resithang near Khel Gaon in Gangtok, East Sikkim.
The venture was inaugurated in April 2010 but commercially they started flying only from 9 Nov. 2010. So far eighty five people have taken the flights and experienced the thrill.
The three pilots Rajdeep Thapa, Arjun Rai and Chadraprakash have started paragliding under the aegis of “Fly Sikkim Adventure”. All three have experience of more than 3 years and are fully qualified for paragliding in a rough terrain of Sikkim.
“Sikkim has got many points which are highly suited for the paragliding. But somehow we got late in introducing this adventure sport in Sikkim” says pilot Rajdeep Thapa.
Government of Sikkim also realized paragliding as an opportunity of attracting more tourists to Sikkim. Ministry of Sports and youth affairs introduced paragliding in Sikkim in the year 2004. Initially this adventure sport was restricted to Maghey Mela in Jorethang which happened once in a year.
Witnessing its success in Jorethang a reki was conducted in Gangtok. The first flight was taken from Ganeshtok to Tadong in the year 2005.
It was only after that government decided to send 30 young men for training to Himachal Pradesh under its “Capacity building” programme. But only three could qualify as commercial pilots.
There are two types of flights on offer. One is short flight which is of 2-3 mins and another one is a medium flight which will keep you in air for 5-7 mins. Depending on the weather condition pilots sometimes extend it to some more minutes in each category. The short flight takes place from nearby field office and venue for medium flight is Ani Gompa which is 800 feet above the field office.
“We want our customers to have full fun so if time and weather permits we extend 2-3 mins in each flight” says pilot Rajdeep.
The charges for paragliding in Sikkim are very nominal when compared to other parts of the country where paragliding happens. For the short flight it’s Rs. 700 and for the medium flight it’s cost Rs. 1500.
In a very short period of time and with not much of efforts paragliding is making inroads in tourists’ itinerary. So far all the stakeholders are satisfied with the response they received. “It’s been only 3 months and we are happy with the kind of success that we have received. We hope to get more flow of adventure sports enthusiasts in coming days” adds pilot Thapa.
TAAS is also supporting this venture at its own level. They are looking at the marketing of the adventure sports and is trying to make it popular. Lukendra Rasaily, President TAAS, opined that “we are giving them an umbrella and supporting them to grow and make paragliding famous in Sikkim. Our 247 members association presents paragliding as an option to our customers and we are quite happy with the result we received till now.
As of now there are only three pilots and they provide their services both in Jorethang and Gangtok. They are also in a process of training few other pilots. By the end of the year it is expected that “Fly Sikkim Adventure” will have 15 pilots ready to provide the best services to tourists.
Tourists are also delighted with Paragliding coming in Sikkim. Locals are even more enthusiastic. Some of them have even tried more than once. Recently two Australians James and Andy came to Sikkim and enjoyed the flight. “It was an amazing experience. Paragliding in Sikkim is more challenging and exciting than most parts of the world” said James.
With New Greenfield airport at Pakyong which will be commencing from 2012, it is expected that lot many tourist will come to Sikkim. Once they come, paragliding will become irresistible for them.
The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology