In a tiny cove off the main street in Panajachel lies a tiny office with a big heart. Real World Paragliding is the premier adventure flying company in Guatemala, staffing the top professionals in the industry. Staff, isn't even the right word. When you meet their team, you instantly feel they are a close knit family. Not only do you feel their spirit, but you are instantly comforted by their expertise. For me, walking into an office and meeting someone who is about to have me run off a cliff and fly into the clouds - requires a lot of trust.
While I have known the RWP crew personally for over 5 years, I never plucked up the courage to actually go paragliding. I've jumped off waterfalls in Costa Rica, bungeed from bridges in Ecuador and ziplined through the treetops of Nicaragua - but never considered paragliding. I am slightly afraid of heights, but my main concern is that I am a total control freak. With those other activities, I was in control - when to jump, where to land, when to break. With paragliding, your pilot is in control. They read the weather, anticipate the thermal pockets and follow the flow of the birds to give you that enjoyable "gliding" feeling.
My 2008 - 2009 adventures in Peru and Ecuador
After a few conversations with the RWP pilots, I realized I was in exceptional hands and the experience would definitely be more than enjoyable. Atitlan holds the optimal weather conditions making it easy to fly longer distances along mountains covered with jungle forests where no human has ever been before. The beauty of paragliding is: No noise. No motor. No pollution.
More so, a tandem flight is you and an expert under one wing. The RWP team is equipped with instructors that have received training all around the globe, each having at least 10 years of flying experience.
Stefanie, the tandem flight coordinator, is a pro when it comes to assessing local weather conditions. She is the boss-lady calling all the shots and setting the team's flight schedule. Her partner Christian, has been flying since 2002 and uses his airtime to practice acro maneuvers, but if you can catch him, he'll gladly share his glide for a tandem.
RWP also has a world-renowned professional, Petar Loncar flying with them. Petar joins their team every February to May on Lake Atitlan when the weather conditions are prime. He is Serbia’s first professional paraglider and world record holder for the most synchronised infinity tumbles and official Red Bull pilot. Traveling to the lake during that time? Try to grab him as your tandem pilot!
I could go on and on about their entire professional team. They have pilots that fly across the Himalayas each year, pilots that started flying when they were just 15 and have never stopped, and many full-time/in-house pilots that dedicate their heart and sole to paragliding and call Panajachel their home. That is RWP's most charming point. Their people. And you will have an amazing and unforgettable experience if you grab any of them as your tandem pilot!
My flight was shared with Venezuelan paraglider Jorge Atramiz hailing from Hawaii. Another professional who arrives during the optimal flying season on Lake Atitlan, Jorge was featured in "The Never Ending Thermal" a professional film dedicated to celebrating the wild and free paragliding lifestyle. I couldn't have picked a better pilot, because not only is he a professional flyer, but also a photographer and storyteller. In my opinion, his expertise lies in his ability to capture the heart and soul of a his subject. Whether flying or on the ground, Jorge carries an unimaginable spirit that captivates those around him. His essence made for an unforgettable flight.
Here are some of the most memorable moments from my flight!
Preparing for takeoff:
First Moments of Bliss:
...And we stuck the landing!
Contact Real World Paragliding directly to book your next adventure!
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