Paragliders from across the country took to the skies as the third edition of the Paragliding Festival took off at the Yelagiri Hills on Friday. Gaining popularity among the paragliding community in the country, Yelagiri Hills is seen by paragliders as a spot with great potential to promote the adventure sport.

Being a new spot for paragliding in this part of the State, Yelagiri is slowly turning out to be one of the hotspots for the adventure sport in the country, according to a cross-section of paragliders. They appreciate the improvement in infrastructure since the beginning of the sport three years ago.

It is the first visit to Yelagiri for Astrid Rao, who has been paragliding for eight years and owns Nirvana Adventures at Kamshet near Pune. She is “amazed” at the infrastructure laid out for the adventure sport.

“It is definitely a very nice site. It is picturesque and has a lot of potential for taking the sport forward. I am just amazed that so much of work has been done in such a little time in providing adequate infrastructure such as creating roads and clearing the site.”

Some paragliders noted that the launch site and ridge were “excellent” at Yelagiri. Anita Deshpande, who runs the Temple Pilots Paragliding school at Kamshet in Pune and a regular face at the event, called Yelagiri a “beautiful flying site.”

The experience was more than just breathtaking for Malini and Sridhar Raghav from Bangalore. They took off in the tandem flight for the first time. “It was a little scary in the beginning but I enjoyed after we jumped off the cliff. We are planning to take up a three to four-week course in paragliding… It is just out of curiosity to see how to fly without wings and while not in an aircraft,” said Mr. Raghav, a chartered accountant.

Malini, who flew for half-an-hour, enjoyed the view. The duo felt that more infrastructure development could be taken up in Yelagiri.

Auronevi from Auroville in Puducherry, who has been part of the event from its beginnings at Yelagiri, said two pilots from Sikkim were part of the festival this year. “The take-off quality has improved with the boulders being removed and a green cover coming up. We need interested and dedicated people to come here and take up the challenge…” she said.