Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is filled with beautiful views. On a pristine blue bird sky kind of a day, it’s tough to imagine any statue being more photogenic than Mount Corcovado’s Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) with its arms outstretched and keeping a watchful eye on the city below it. Copacabana, Ipanema and Rio’s plethora of beaches are known the world over as perfect people watching perches and then, of course, there’s Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). The problem with Christ the Redeemer, the beaches and Pão de Açúcar is that they’re the biggest draws in town, so naturally they’re often crowded and packed full of tourists.
If you have nerves of steel and want to see Rio’s top sites away from a crowd, queue the Foo Fighter’s, “Learn to Fly,” and head to the hang gliding and paragliding ramp at Pedra Bonita.
Once you’re in the air, you’ll only have to share the view with the birds and your instructor. I did my flight with Klaus Koch who is currently an instructor over at Rio Hang Gliding.
An air conditioned transfer from your hotel (which is included in Rio Hang Gliding’s package) takes you past Copacabana and on through Ipanema and to Leblon (a ritzy Rio neighborhood) to the launch site in São Conrado. During the drive, make sure you look up. That big hunk of granite you see is what you’ll be jumping off of. Breathtaking Pedra Bonita sits at 2,283 feet and its sister mountain nestled up beside it, Pedra da Gávea, is no shrinking violet. Imposing Pedra da Gávea is the largest seaside granite rock on the planet and she clocks in at an astounding 2,762 feet.
Once you arrive, there’s some paper work to fill out and then you’ll have a short briefing with your pilot where you’ll go over the take off, landing and the basics of what’s going to happen during your tandem flight.
Jumping off a ramp might seem terrifying, but after running roughly seven steps at full speed and then leaping into the air you’ll be airborne without a worry in the world.
On a clear day the ramp is busy, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly fliers leap off the ramp one by one. The good news about the fast moving line is that you won’t have much time to think about running at full speed and then jumping off a mountain.
Depending on the wind and the weather conditions, flights are usually between 15 to 20 minutes long. If you’re lucky you’ll see all of Rio’s biggest attractions including: Corcovado (the hunchback shaped mountain Cristo Redentor rests atop), both Copacabana and Ipanema as well as their famous sandy beaches, Lagoa (one of Rio’s affluential neighborhoods), Pão de Açúcar and on a clear day, even Niterói which is a city on the opposite side of Guanabara Bay.
After your flight you’ll descend onto your super soft “landing pad,” São Conrado’s beach. If you do decide to fly, keep in mind that weather is unpredictable. If you book an early morning flight, you’re more likely to be able to reschedule later on in the day if the weather clears. While you can book through travel agents, they will typically tack on a fee. Booking directly through your guide will likely save you money and Rio Hang Gliding even provides a 10 percent discount if you pay in full prior to your flight.
Rio Hang Gliding, as its name obviously implies, specializes in hang gliding, but there are also a number of outfits that offer paragliding off the Pedra Bonita ramp. If you have a tender stomach and flying just isn’t in the cards for you, you could opt to do the 40 minute hike up to the top of Pedra Bonita. Cars or little vans can also be hired from Estrada das Canoas and they will take you up to the ramp for around R$5 to R$10 (Brazilian reals or BRL). There’s a nice seating area under the ramp that enables visitors to watch fliers take off.
Even if you’re a bit nervous, I’d encourage you to consider hang gliding in Brazil with a talented crew like the experienced folks over at Rio Hang Gliding. (All three of their guides, including Koch, have decades of experience each as hang gliding pilots.) Hang gliding is a wonderful way to get an incomparable view of Rio’s famous sites and the feeling of soaring through the air as the tropical wind brushes against your skin is surreal. Plus no one is going to elbow you in the face with their selfie stick up here.
Rio Hang Gliding
Phone: (21)99843-9006 and (21)2422-2411
WhatsApp: (+5521) 99843-9006
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org *Konrad Heilman and his team own Rio Hang Gliding.
Pricing (All in Brazilian Reals or BRL): Flights Are R$650 Per Person *Prices include pictures, video and a courtesy hotel transfer service. You can secure an extra ten percent off if you prepay for your flight in full.