While I don’t exactly consider myself an adrenaline junkie, I never shy away from an adventure. I’ve been skydiving in Hawaii, white-water rafting in Ecuador and shark diving in the Bahamas, so when I saw the opportunity to go hang-glide in Rio, I jumped at the opportunity (pun intended)!
Viator’s Rio de Janeiro Hang Gliding Experience is a four hour whirlwind that offers both breathtaking views of the city and an adrenaline rush to boot. My travel companion, Heather and I were picked up from our accommodation in the morning and spent the van ride getting to know our fellow gliders. In our group were a pair of adventurers from New Zealand and a zealous group of flight attendants making the most of their layover. We bonded and giggled over shaky nerves which were put to rest once we arrived at São Conrado beach, the home of hand-gliding in Rio. The road was dotted with various gliding schools and the sand was a constant landing site — we were in the right place indeed.
We checked into our school and paid the local hang gliding association fees while signing various paperwork. Before I knew it, we were being stuffed in a van and driven up the mountain. My stomach starting tap dancing when we reached the top, though I was notably imrpessed by all the safety checks and back-up mechanisms in place. Considering I was about to leap off a cliff, I really couldn’t have felt safer. After the very brief safety briefing (“run when I say run is all you need to know”), Heather and I changed into our matching Brazil-themed leggings and were ready to soar.
I took off first and felt at ease the moment my feet left the platform. The view was truly incredible — I was able to see Tijuca Forest, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Rocinha Favela and Christ the Redeemer from a vantage point I would have otherwise never have experienced. In one of my favorite unexpected moments, we floated over a posh neighborhood where we got to admired the mansions and swimming pools of Rio’s richest, and wondered what it must be like to swim with hang gliders constantly soaring overhead.
When it was finally time to land, I followed my guides instructions to quite literally “hit the ground running,” and it worked! Looking back up, I couldn’t quite believe how high I’d come from.
There were two GoPro cameras attached to the glider: one on the side and one at the front. While the vouchers state that photos are included, be aware that only the side-camera’s photos are included. Despite the confusion, I opted to buy the front camera photos as well since they really captured such special moments. While we waited for our photos we split fresh coconuts while relaxing on the beach and watched the other gliders land — the perfect toast to a perfect morning.
After it was all said and done, the driver offered to drop us back in Copacabana or Ipanema or back at home, and we bid farewell to our fellow gliders. As I went to sleep that night, I had a familiar feeling that I was floating. The difference? This time I knew what it felt like.
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