Stop singing “I believe I can fly” because you can do it. Forget about the noisy plane that put you in an enclosed space where you can’t even fully stretch your legs. Paragliding gives you the closest experience as a bird, as there is nothing between you and the sky and cloud, so you can enjoy the breeze and a sense of freedom.
If you live or travel in Kota Kinabalu City (KK), the nearest place where you can try paragliding is Kokol Hill (Bukit Kokol) in Menggatal, about 40 minutes away by car from KK. It’s ok if you don’t have any paragliding gear, you can book a “pilot” to give you a tandem flight. More on this later.
At a height of about 800 Meters and cooling temperature of 24°C, Kokol Hill is fast becoming the favorite getaway place of KK people to escape the hot weather. Besides, Kokol Hill is one of the best spots to see sunset and panoramic view of KK.
The following is a 3-min video for you to see why paragliding at Kokol Hill is super fun and exciting.
Paragliding Site of Kokol Hill
After hearing many positive comments about paragliding on Kokol Hill, I contacted Richard via his Facebook on Kokol Paragliding, to arrange for a tandem flight. Richard is a very experienced paragliding tandem pilot who has worked in Nepal and Korea for 4 years. After he checked the weather and wind conditions, we set the date for the flight.
The take off base is not far away from the Celcom tower near Kokol Haven Resort. We parked our car near the tower and passed through a forest to the site. The forest can be misty during cool day.
After 5 minutes, I came to an open space on a ridge with breathtaking view of KK and surrounding hills. “Today’s weather is perfect! We got good wind too,” Richard said. Sometimes he needs to wait some time for the right wind.
The take off base is located at 822 Meters above sea level, so the air was cooling and refreshing.
Usually paragliding here is started around 11am when the sun heat up the land and creates upward thermal current and wind, the forces that lift the paraglider.
You are good to go if your body weight is less than 120 Kg (264 lbs), the limit of tandem paraglider.
Before the flight, Richard demo some simple steps on what to do during take off, flight and landing. Guess what? To make this paragliding a bit special and crazy, both of us were wearing office attire. It’s so funny LOL.
We put on our harness and get ready to take off. Richard observed the wind direction and cycle, to time the take off.
After a while, he pointed at the trees far ahead and said, “See the rustling foliage over there? The wind is coming this way. Let’s get ready.”
Then he shouted, “RUN!” Though the runway in front is a steep slope, I have to be brave and sprint without any hesitation, like what he told me to. After 4 or 5 steps, I was already kicking in the air. I was flying!
The ride is surprisingly steady, like a boat sailing smoothly on the calm sea. First we cruised at an average speed of 40 Kilometer/Hour along the ridge of Kokol Hill, which is part of Crocker Range Park, the largest terrestrial park of Sabah. We can see Mt. Kinabalu if we are lucky.
The vast greenery of lush forest relaxed my mind, and I didn’t feel scared at all. At some points, we were so close to the trees that I could hear the call of cicada.
Richard took a ride on an upward thermal current, so we soared high up to 1,000 Meters, until the birds and hill were under our feet.
During the flight, all passengers will naturally open their arms like bird spreading its wing. It must be feel like dreaming.
Next we turned to west and headed to Menggatal town. In clear day, you can see Labuan island at the left and Kuala Abai (Kota Belud) at the right, that’s more than half of Sabah’s west coastline.
In normal life, the space around us is so confined, and we are like living in a “2D” world. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to see and feel how big our world is from the sky.
My favorite view is KK city and islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in South China Sea. My hometown is such a beautiful city.
My paragliding was getting near the end when we approached Menggatal town. As we were descending, everything seemed to move faster. We flied over villages, plantations, houses, and finally landed safely on the field next to Menggatal Community Hall (Dewan Masyarakat Menggatal).
This 6-KM journey took about 20 minutes, but it felt like an hour. FYI, paraglider can fly over 300 KM under the most ideal condition.
The fee of tandem flight is RM250 for Malaysian and RM350 (?US$87) for non-Malaysian. Add RM50 (?US$12.50) if you want photos and video. They can pick you up at Menggatal town. If you want them to fetch you at hotel or other locations, the transport fee is RM100 (?US$25).
They also do sunset flight for RM500 (?US$125) (after 5pm, only if conditions allow). You also can bring your friend to fly together next to you (a great idea for coming Valentine’s Day?).
For safety, you must hire only certified tandem pilots. The following is a list of professional paragliders whom you can trust.
1. Cliff Man
Mobile Phone: +60 16-8471255
2. Chris Lammert
Soar High and See the World like an Eagle. Enjoy the Freedom like a Bird. This is Paragliding.
Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo