Paragliding in Sabah

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Paragliding has started in Sabah for quite some years but only recent years it becomes a popular sport. Last month I visited a paragliding team in Lohan, a location between Ranau town and Poring (about 2-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu).

paragliding site in Lohan
paragliding site in Lohan
The Lohan paragliding site on the hill offers a beautiful view of Kinabalu Park and Liwagu valley.

paragliding site in Lohan
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At the right is the view of Lohan Village (Kampung Lohan). Mejar (trainer) is standing at the take-off point of paragliding.

paragliding solo flight
There were a few paragliders there by the time we reached the site in the morning.

paragliding solo flight
paragliding solo flight
It was windy on the hill. Armed with a wedge-shaped and the specially designed chute, the parachute had no problem gathering wind power. The pilot can go as far as 100 KM in a single flight!

paragliding solo flight
Then the paragliders ran and took off one by one. FYI, they didn’t jump off from a cliff (That one is base-jumping ok). There is a 45 degree slope in front, which is the best angle for running to take off. Other factors that make a good paragliding site include wind condition and topography in that area. Most are able to take off within 10 Meters of running distance, easier than flying a kite isn’t it?

paragliding solo flight
Depending on the wind and their skill, some paragliders can stay high in the air for a long time. It looks so fun and free!

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However, I sweated when I saw a few of them almost ram into trees, tall building and other things.

paragliding spot landing
They practiced Spot Landing in the morning to prepare for Paragliding Accuracy World Cup (PGAWC), an aviation sport. It is very hard to land on a bull-eye only a few Meters wide. When you are up in the air, it’s also hard to tell if you are ascending or descending. That’s why they have a beeping device on the helmet that can tell if they are gliding up or down.

preparation for tandem flight
Above: Preparation for tandem flight

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to paraglide. You can join their tandem flight. The fee ranges from RM80 to RM200 per ride. In fact there is no standard rate.

They say afternoon time is more suitable for tandem flight, because the thermal air allows them to soar high, and they offer me a free ride. At first I was excited, but I didn’t feel safe anymore, when I saw one of them made hard landing into the shrubs. Anyway, my worry is needless, b’coz only the experienced trainers can provide tandem flight.

briefing for tandem flight
Above: briefing before tandem flight. Just a few simple instructions to follow. Nothing complicated.

tandem flight
Ready to glide… The wind was so strong that the parachute can drag you away.

tandem flight takes off
tandem flight
Above: tandem flight taking off!

tandem flight landing
tandem flight landing
Above: tandem flight landing.
They “passengers” looked so happy that they drove up to the hill and did a few more rounds again.

Finally it’s my turn for tandem flight. The most scary part is the take-off moment. I was at the front and was asked to run down the slope during take off. Chris the trainer was shouting behind me, “RUN! Murphy RUN!!!!” I ran hard and fast, as if a tiger was chasing behind me. Then I felt that my feet were off the ground. Yay! I was flying!

tandem flight
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Then Chris said “Sit In!”, which meant I could retract my feet and sat in the tandem seat. I can enjoy the flight and take photos now.

The feeling was great. I was a few hundreds feet up in the sky and everything looks so small on the ground. If I’m not mistaken, you can soar as high as a thousand feet. Wow.. I heard that some of them had tried paragliding from the peak of Mt. Kinabalu. The view must be magnificent.

tandem flight
Above: Lohan Village under my feet
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ant people at paragliding site
Above: at the left is the take-off point of Lohan paragliding site. Can you see the “Ant” people on the hill? So tiny… Actually they have at least 3 take-off points in Lohan.

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You may watch the 2-minute video below to see the solo and tandem flight paragliding in Lohan:

Click Here to watch wider video

Want to Join?

There are a few paragliding groups in Sabah, and each group have their own paragliding site. If you love this sport, you can take a training and buy the paragliding kit, starting from RM5,000 (second-hand chute starts from RM3,000). The complete new set of paragliding gear is over RM15,000. Below are some contact of the groups:

  1. Ranau (Lohan)
    – WhatsApp: +60146881780, +601116011780, +601126771780
    – Mejar Haznain Ngamil (Mobile/Cell Phone: +60 19-8608700) or
    – Evelina Sitem (Mobile/Cell Phone: +60 10-5347375)
    GPS of Take Off Base: 5.994177, 116.691589
    Facebook: BorneoParagliders, KotaKinabalu.Paraglider
  2. Menggatal (Kokol Hill)
    GPS of Take Off Base: 6.013375, 116.206892
    Facebook: Kokol-Paragliding
    Mobile/Cell Phone: +60 16-6715124
    Read my blog about paragliding at Kokol Hill
  3. Tamparuli (Ruhiang Hill)
    GPS of Take Off Base: 6.135533, 116.278918
    – Mr. Bruce (Mobile/Cell Phone: +60 14-9894108)
    Facebook: SabahParaglidingAssociation

The paragliding training takes about a month or less. Below is the course outline:

  1. Get an instructor to learn about aeronautics and basic knowledge
  2. Learn Kiting: trainee opens the parachute using air to lift himself off the ground a few feet, to get a feel of hovering and to learn basic manoeuvring techniques. This training is carried out in windy area such as beach or elevated places.
  3. Trainee will then fly tandem with the instructor. Once they are confident, they can take the glide alone

Photos taken in Lohan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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