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Paraglide treat for Sikkim tourists

- 60 experts to take part in four-day international gliding festival starting on Oct 31

Gangtok, Sept. 13: Tourists planning to visit Sikkim in October-November would get a chance to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the place when the state hosts its first international paragliding fest.

Sixty paragliders will take part in the four-day event from October 31 that aims to promote adventure sports at a time when tourist traffic is heavy.

“Sixty paragliders from England, France, Germany and Nepal, and from Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim in India will participate in the four-day event,” said Bhim Dhungel, the minister for tourism and civil aviation.

He added that the event would be sponsored by the tourism department and organised by the Paragliding Association of India and the Sikkim Paragliding Adventure Sports Co-operative Society Limited. The estimated budget is Rs 25 lakh, Dhungel said. The fest would be held at the Sports Complex at Reshithang in East Sikkim, 8km from here.

According to tourism department officials, the paragliders would take off from Bulbuley in East Sikkim at a height of 2,200ft and land in the Sports Complex.

The festival that will end on November 3 would also include free flying and spot landing contests, an acrobatics show and sky diving that would be performed by experts.

“We will also organise tandem flights (gliders that are two-seaters) for tourists. For Rs 4,200, a tourist can enjoy a four-hour flight,” said Arjun Rai, the president of the Sikkim Paragliding Adventure Sports Co-operative Society. He added that many local youths were earning their livelihood through paragliding that became popular two years back.

In 2010, the state government had trained youths to hold paragliding sessions. The group was also sent to Himachal Pradesh for training. Most of them returned to Sikkim and started conducting paragliding sessions in the peak seasons. During March-May and October-November (the tourism seasons) paragliding is held at Reshithang and Chakhung in the West district.

Sikkim has 34 registered paragliders.

“The paragliding event would be a success in the sunny and enjoyable weather. One can look forward to an exciting experience while flying over the lush green Dang hills, water bodies, gardens and other picturesque locations,” said Manoj Roy, the secretary of the Paragliding Association of India. The event website www.pgaoi.org/pgfest2012 was launched today.

Paraglider and trainer Jocky Sanderson, who won the National Geographic 2010 People’s Choice Adventurer Of The Year award, will hold seminars and workshops during the fest. Sanderson had won the award for scalling the Everest and paragliding down the hill and kayaking through the Kosi river to the Indian Ocean.