Who do not have the dream of being one with the air, able to swoop, soar and fly like a falcon, vulture, or an albatross?
Since our ancestors first saw birds soaring freely in the sky, they had the dream to fly and for many centuries, they tried to fly just like birds, sometimes with the hot- air balloons and at times with heavier- than- air airplanes. At present we are able to fly with new airplanes, paraglide and other modern engines but the up-to-the-minute addition to the list is Parahawking- paragliding with a trained bird of prey.
This scenic flight in some quite rough air is actually the combined activity of paragliding with falconry. In Parahawking, you follow the sky trail led by vultures, fly free like them and fly along with them hundreds of meters above in the sky. With the beautiful Phewa Lake below and the Annapurnas in the background, this magical fly allows you to witness the magnificent Black Kites and Egyptian vultures in a different light. Above all, the experience of a vulture landing on your outstretched arm while circling in a thermal is an in-flight reward.
To be precise, parahawking is the collective activity of paragliding and falconry pioneered in Pokhara, by renowned bird trainer and paraglider, Scott Mason back in 2001. When Mason was on a round-the-world trip in Pokhara and taking a tandem paragliding flight, he saw raptors in flight, and then generated the idea of combining the sports of paragliding and falconry in order to aware people about the giant birds and their flight behavior. The team started by training two black kites, but has since added 2 Egyptian vultures, Kevin and Bob, to the team. All the birds they use for flights are rescue birds – none of the birds have been taken from the wild as the wild life protection act of Nepal prohibits the use of any wildlife in any commercial purpose.
With parahawking the rescued and rehabilitated raptors such as Egyptian Vultures are trained as part of an award winning enrichment program, guiding the paragliders to thermals for in-flight rewards and performing aerobatic. During the flight the pilot or passenger place small morsels of meat onto their gloved hand, the birds come and gently land on the hand to take the food, and then gracefully fly away to find the next thermal.
Ranked number 1 activity in Pokhara by Trip Advisor, featured on the BBC, Nat, Geo, and Discovery Channel and recommended by the Lonely Planet, the Parahwaking is an adrenaline experience cherished by every bird lover. On average, tandem Parahawking experience costs around £125 per person and is feasible from October to mid April. The length of flight is not based on time in the air but the overall experience of sharing the sky with a trained bird of prey. It is highly dependent on the weather; however, generally you stay in the air for around 20 to 30 minutes. Training and flying birds are done during the dry season between September and March. The flight also supports vital Vulture conservation projects in Nepal by donating 10 Euros from every Parahawking activity in Nepal.
Though the controversy of the wildlife protection act still surrounds Parahawking, the flight is gaining more popularity as an award winning enrichment program. It is not just a paragliding flight with a trained bird; it’s an education into the gentle beasts. This unique and unforgettable flight gives you complete freedom to surf in the sky along with the giant birds and a sole opportunity to see vultures in a different light, to understand their importance in the ecosystem and to learn about their behavior in the wild.
Parahawking is a perfect mix of adventure; eco-tourism and conservation where you play an important part in saving the bird by donating a certain amount for the Jatayu Restaurant which is working for the public awareness to the plight of Asian vultures and in doing so halt the decline and prevent their extinction.