One of the most dramatic growths in Pokhara has been in paragliding off Sarangkot and surrounding hills. There are now 60 paragliding companies which employ 350 licensed pilots. After the lockdown was lifted in September, paragliding took off as companies offered 50% discounts for Nepalis.
“There are now young Nepali tourists from Kathmandu, Chitwan, Butwal and other cities making up to 300 flights a day,” says Krishna Bhandari of the Nepal Airsports Association.
Even as the streets are emptier than usual, the skies are dotted with the colourful paragliders. Up at the jump-off point in Sarangkot, the excitement is palpable among Nepali tourists lining up to buy tickets. As he checks on his equipment in preparation of a flight, pilot Aayush Shah notes that he has seen more Nepalis lining up to paraglide lately than before the pandemic.
Nepalis have been attracted by discounts for flights. Says Krishna Bhandari, “Usually, Nepalis make up 30% of the total paragliders annually, this year it is 100%.”
Paragliding companies did a total of 800 flights a day on average during the Dasain holidays after the lockdown, now it averages 300 a day.
The three ultralight companies which operate sight-seeing flights to the Annapurna from Pokhara airport have also seen an increase in interest from Nepali guests. Pokhara also has zip-line and bungee jumping, but these have not seen a tourism rebound as the other adventure sports.