I don’t know about you, but this summer I decided that I’d had enough of lazy beach holidays, during which the most exciting thing I did was to choose which cocktail to try at sunset. Instead I wanted to shake things up a little. No more boring Instagram posts of me enjoying the sunshine – this year I was going to shock my friends and followers by taking to the air!
Now, I’m not your average adrenaline junkie, but when I heard that Ölüdeniz in Turkey (where I’d just happened to book my latest beach holiday) was also a world capital for paragliding, I decided it was a sign. I got online and – after trawling through TripAdvisor looking for the best company – I booked a 45-minute paragliding experience.
To be honest, this wasn’t why I’d chosen Ölüdeniz. I, like most people, was lured there by countless pictures of the stunning Blue Lagoon on which the resort is set. I’d also been told by friends that there was a lively nightlife scene with plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs to discover.
Sunbathing by day, cocktails by night – my kind of holiday. But having booked my paragliding experience, I wasn’t about to back out – and boy am I glad I didn’t.
Paragliding from the peak of Babadag, out across the National Park of the Taurus Mountains and then out over the Mediterranean, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
My Leap of Faith
On the morning of my paraglide I met the team at the offices of the company I’d chosen to go with, and the guy who would pilot my tandem flight for me. My heart was already pumping, but what I didn’t expect was the beauty of the journey up to the take-off site.
Travelling up from the resort through the stunning national park to the take-off point on Badadag Mountain was like an excursion in its own right. The guys in the minibus were brilliant at filling me in on all the rare endemic species to be found there.
When you get up to the top of Badadag (around 1967m) you realise that the peak looks down directly over the resort of Ölüdeniz and out across the Blue Lagoon to the sea. As one of the highest paragliding take off sites in the world, the view from up there is simply stunning.
Still, I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a little nervous – in fact, I could hardly speak to my lovely, fully-trained pilot as he gave me my instructions. All I could do was nod as he strapped himself to me and asked if I was ready to go.
A few short steps and the wind caught the canopy like a sail and we were lifted into the air. It was the most amazing sensation to feel the ground disappear from under your feet, to be replaced with nothing but air. But while my heart-rate pounded, I was so mesmerised by the view it was hard not to be swept up by the beauty of it all.
As I got more comfortable with the sensation, my pilot began to play and glide along the thermals with a series of spins and turns which, I must admit, sent my heart soaring back into my mouth. After following the mountains for a short while we moved out towards the sea, passing over the resort, and out over the Blue Lagoon.
Awesome is a word much overused, but it is the only way to describe soaring over the Mediterranean looking down on the stunning coast with its hotels, yachts and endless golden beaches. Definitely an experience not to be missed.
Book in Advance
Don’t leave this until the last minute; Ölüdeniz is famous for paragliding and most people book in advance so you don’t want to leave it until the end of your trip, only to find out it’s too late. Most of the companies offering paragliding (and there are a fair few of them) have websites on which you can book before you even arrive in Ölüdeniz.
Pick the Best Time of Day For You
Most of the paragliding companies offer around five tandem paragliding slots a day. I went in the morning (around 9am) which, apparently, is a good time of day for taking photos because the conditions tend to be at their most calm before the heat of the day.
I met some serious adrenaline junkies who told me that they had gone later in the day when the conditions were stronger because they like playing in the thermals. (The pilots will do as many spins and turns as you feel comfortable, you just need to ask).
Some companies also offer a sunset flight which sounds pretty amazing.
What to Wear
The company you choose will provide a flight suit so all you need is a pair of trainers or boots, comfortable clothes for under your flight suit and sun cream. I’d also advise bringing some water with you (all those nerves can leave you feeling pretty parched).
Too High to Come Down
A word of warning to those who are new to the experience of having adrenaline pumping around your system – you won’t want it to end! Best to plan a big night out to make the most of the feeling of euphoria which, I found, lasted well into the early hours.
The paragliding ends on the Ölüdeniz Beach and you’ll find plenty of bars along the sand in which you’ll be able to thrill your mates with tales of your epic flight over a cocktail or two. If you’re looking for a little more action then head to the nightclubs and bars of Hisaronu, just along the coast, with its seriously wild party scene.
How to Get to Ölüdeniz
The nearest airport to Ölüdeniz is Dalaman, just a short distance along the coast. There are regular flights to Dalaman Airport from London, Birmingham and Manchester during the holiday season and flights take around five and a half hours.
Save yourself the hassle of bartering with taxi drivers at the airport (not to mention trying to organise transport if there’s more than four of you) by booking a group or private transfer with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. Book online and a driver will be waiting to drive you the hour’s journey to Ölüdeniz as soon as you touch down.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfers across Europe and North Africa. Book a group transfer online and a driver will meet you with a vehicle big enough to transport you and your group comfortably and safely to your holiday destination.