Up in the Air Today

I'm so happy to have fulfilled a dream of mine today. That is to experience a tandem para-motor flight. Up in the air along the coastline above clear azure waters and white sand, it was both exhilarating and breathtaking!

The clock alarmed at 5:30AM. Yohann was up a few minutes later. Like any normal Friday and Saturday, with that typical look of glee on his face before flying. You might have read in the past that my husband loves to fly and he does para-motoring and sometimes paragliding on weekends.

I had to drag myself out of bed, mostly feeling bad for having to say goodbye to those comfy bed sheets.  I dressed up and grumpily ran around the house picking up things like a polar sweater, hair elastic and pins and yes the camera! I was hoping I could take photographs of a beautiful sunrise along the coast. You see, I am not a morning person. Yohann was chirping on the way and I was silent, deep in my thoughts on Sheikh Zayed Road.

We were the first to arrive. My mood plummeted when I realized I forgot to bring my Kindle, disappointed that the next hour or two will be spent alone listening to radio communication between the para-motorists while my husband's flying. It was a bit cold this morning and I had to keep myself warm in the car.  Being in another location gives me solace. I have been here in Ghantoot before. My first visit was driving up the man-made mound years ago, when Yohann was still learning paragliding.

Ghantoot is an area halfway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  A kilometer or so near the man- made mound is a popular para-motoring zone.   An open air traffic zone that permits them to fly. Highly preferred take off and landing location between January and September. The para-motor pilots try to avoid the falcon season in Ghantoot between October and December, where locals train their falcons for hunting.  During this period,they move a few kilometers away from here, across the Sheikh Zayed highway.

The best time to take off is during sunrise because there is usually not much wind, if not at all. It is habitual for these pilots to check the wind speed forecast at Windfinder the day before flying. According to Johann, a para-motor pilot and instructor, (similarly pronounced as my husband's name), the sunrise during the summer months of July and August are early with June being the earliest, rising around 5:30AM. This means waking up as early as 4AM to prepare, get there and be ready to take off as soon as there is daylight. The heat from the motor can be felt while flying during the hot months.

I spent the next hour inside the car listening to the radio station with interludes of pilot instructions on the walkie talkie channel. My mind was preoccupied by our upcoming trip, feeling slightly down, stressed when I was caught off guard by Yohann opening the car door and asking me, "Are you ready to fly?"  Disoriented, I muttered, "Now!?" I wasn't actually ready and so internally battled and pondered whether I should do it or not. I took a peek out of the car window and saw a tandem para-motor trike next to me. I internally screamed to silence my grumpy morning self, "H*** yeah! I'm going for it!"

I introduced myself to Faisal, an experienced tandem para-motor pilot who goes there during weekends to fly. This was my first time meeting him.  The idea of entrusting my life to a complete stranger was something that buried my morning depression under 6 feet of desert sand.  I smiled thinking that he doesn't have to do this for me, half feeling shy for the favor and good gesture of flying me up in the air when he could spend the next few hours having fun on his own.

He showed me signals like doing a thumbs down sign if I'm not feeling well, like being dizzy or air sick and if I want him to go down and land. I had a great time with para-sailing before, same with skydiving and balloon ride  so I was very much looking forward to the take-off.  I started feeling the thrill when the motor roared to life, happy to have worn the helmet with built-in headset filtering the sound.

The engine's thrust was very strong and we abruptly took off, just like that.

We flew above the area attached below and saw big villas with swimming pools along the coast. we were obviously flying at a much closer distance, averaging between 20 to 200 meters high (feel free to zoom in).  The water is always so clear that  my husband would often see sea turtles and fish, while flying few meters above the water. 

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The turquoise water looked very inviting. While cruising in the sky, I began to understand my husband's addiction to flying. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me, but in order for you to have an idea of what I could see, below are two pictures taken by my brother in law a few weeks ago when he flew above the same area. Just don't mind his feet. :)

 Our trike jerked all of a sudden! Turbulence. The wind was suddenly changing direction. My heart pounded faster, silently praying that the pilot is in control of the glider.  I started asking loudly if that was normal, and if we were okay, but the engine drowned the sound of my voice.

I held on, looking down wondering if we would survive the fall if ever. The trike movement reminded me of the Bandit Bomber ride at Yas Island Waterworld. I sensed that Faisal knew what he was doing so I relaxed.  The 180 degree turns stimulate the adrenaline. Despite all that, I had a big smile on my face. I always feel happy being up in the air.

I was expecting a rough typical drop-the-potato-on-the-runway touchdown during airplane flights, but Faisal did a very smooth and graceful landing!

Upon landing we were facing a very strong wind so the other para motor pilots ran towards us. They grabbed the lines of the glider to bring it down to the ground and keep it there. The trike went backwards over a few meters while they were doing so. It is important to secure the glider to the ground when landing with a trike against the strong wind. If it's not done properly it could become dangerous as the wind can inflate the glider behind the trike, strongly pulling it backwards and that could end up flipping the trike over.

 A big thank you Faisal!
That was really awesome and I would really love to do a tandem flight again.
Would you be interested by a para-motor flight?
Have a fun weekend everyone!


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  1. wow- such a great expericence.
    wonderful pictures!
    lovely greets
    maren anita

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  2. What an amazing thing to do. I would love to see the views from up there but I don't think I'm quite brave enough to have a go!

  3. Wow that looks really cool! Not sure I'd do it, I'm a bit of scaredy cat! But the views look amazing.

  4. I am also like 'wow' but at the same time I am such a coward and would not think I'd do if it really comes to it! (Same for bungee jumping etc) But I admire you for doing it!!! I am more the hiking - running - reading - going to the museum kinda girl.

    Wonderful photos!

    Have a great weekend!


  5. No way!! This is WAY too cool. Seriously. I have to add this to my bucket list now, haha!


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