Sikkim has always been a favourite among travellers and it is not difficult to see why; it doesn’t only cater to one type of tourists. You could be the type of traveller who likes to explore, the kind who enjoys relaxing walks in the woods, the kind who prefers to shop till you drop or the kind who is always looking for an adrenaline rush, no matter what your ideal vacation is, you are bound to have a good time in Sikkim. For the ones with adventure running in their veins, Sikkim is the ultimate destination because it has recently become a paragliding hotspot. Why stay cooped up in the hotel when you can spread your wings and fly?
Adventure sport lovers from all across the nation are travelling to this small Indian state to experience paragliding at its best. In Sikkim, you can experience both medium and long range fly. The State boasts of many great sites and ridges ideal for paragliding; great not only for pros but also for people who are trying it out for the first time. After all, it cannot be denied that the beauty of the Himalayas and its vistas is best experienced from the top.
Women on Top
It is interesting to note that Sikkim has embraced the sport around the same time that Olympic Council Asia (OCA ) included Paragliding into the 18th Asian Games 2018. The State is home to a team of highly dedicated and experienced Sikkim paragliding pilots who will make your paragliding experience an unforgettable one.
Two women commercial pilots who stand out are Rinzing Bhutia and Cheden Bhutia. They started their career in 2009 and have worked hard to enable local people earn a decent livelihood through this profession. Not only is it empowering more locals, it is also leaving a positive impact on tourism. ‘Tourists have given positive feedback on paragliding. We fly tourists from across the nation including Mumbai, Rajasthan, Kolkata,’ share the duo.
Both of them are the only commercial women paragliders in the entire nation.
During a recent paragliding event, a tourist from Singapore (NRI) Sanjiv Bhatnagar, who was in Sikkim for a trip, tried it for the first time. ‘I felt superb, and I will surely come back next time, to try a longer range as I flew the medium range.’ Another tourist Preksha Daga from Mumbai, who is a student, also tried paragliding for the first time and couldn’t get enough of it.
Tourism and More
During a conversation, Rinzing Bhutia, revealed that Sikkim has been getting a lot of travellers looking to try paragliding over the last few months. ‘On a daily basis, we are flying a minimum of ten times which gives us a fair amount of revenue.’ She hopes that more and more people in the State would take advantage of the trend and pursue paragliding as a profession in the coming years. At present, Sikkim is home to more than 37 commercial paragliding drivers, including the two woman pilots, who are earning a livelihood through paragliding from various agencies.
More and more tourists visiting Gangtok are signing up for paragliding. The take-off point is located near Ani Gumpa and landing is at Reshithang, Ranka.
However, the story doesn’t end here, Sikkim is also home to Nima Dolma Sherpa. A solo paraglider, she has been flying from last two years, after completing an advanced course in paragliding from Himachal Pradesh. This young hard-working paraglider aspires to make the State proud by bringing medals home in the future. And so, it is safe to say that we need to keep our eyes peeled for young paragliders from the State stealing the show in the days to come.
- Rinzing took part in the Paragliding Pre World Cup Accuracy Championship FAI CAT-2 , Mizoram that was held in December of last year. She secured the silver medal.
- She has also secured bronze medal in the first Sikkim Paragliding Red Panda International Championship which was held in Reshithang, Ranka Sikkim.
- Rinzing is also representing Sikkim in a documentary by Inspire Crew, ‘Project Wild Women’ as one of the women athletes involved in extreme sports to send a positive message of women empowerment.
By Sujal Pradhan
This feature was first published in Eclectic NorthEast Jan 2019 issue