KATHMANDU : Once fully dependent on foreign paragliding pilots, Nepal is now self-sustained. The country’s paragliding scene has been successful not only in commercial tourism, but also in competitive sports. Nepal won a silver medal in cross-country paragliding at Gunung Mas Puncak of West Java, Indonesia on 29 August 2019 during the 18th Asian Games. This happened to be the only medal bagged by Nepal in the prestigious continental games of Asia.
According to tourism experts, Nepal has become a paragliding paradise in South Asia in the last decade. Since its initiation in Pokhara in 1995, commercial paragliding since then has extended to various parts of Nepal including Dharan/Bhedetar, Belaka of Udayapur, Syanja, Kathmandu, among others.
Nearly all tandem paragliding pilots in Nepal are male. However, Trisha Shrestha Bomjan is one of the very few female tandem paragliding pilots in Nepal’s paragliding world, being the first licensed female tandem paragliding pilot in Nepal. In this interview, Shrestha talks to RSS correspondent Birat Anupam on the occasion of the World Tourism Day (WTD) 2020, which has been celebrated since 27 September 1980 at the call of the United Nations commemorating the day of the statue adaptation of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The slogan for this year’s World Tourism Day is ”Tourism and Rural Development’.”
In this interview for this auspicious day for the world tourism fraternity, Nepal’s first licensed female paragliding shared her insights of this adventure tourism in Nepal. Some excerpts:
What inspired you to be a professional paragliding pilot?
I was attracted towards this sector after watching paragliding activities in our family-run Sunrise Paragliding Company of Pokhara. I participated in a 15-day beginners’ course some 13 years ago. After accomplishing a solo pilot course, I was more interested in being a part of a professional tandem course. I joined a tandem course after five years of my solo pilot course. I am married to Rajesh Bomjam, the first licensed tandem paragliding pilot of Nepal.
You have been flying for 13 years and it has been more than five years of tandem flight. Which flight is better- solo or tandem?
Solo flight is the best because I can fly as I like when I go solo. Passenger’s interest, health and mental state matter the most in a tandem flight.
How many hours have you spent in the skies and how many passengers have you flown so far?
I have spent countless hours in the skies. I would fly almost six hours a day during my course period. After being a licensed tandem paragliding pilot, I have flown more than 900 passengers.
Could you share some places of your paragliding flight other than Pokhara?
I have flown in the skies of Indonesia. I have made flights in places like Syangja and the base camp of Mardi Himal. I have flown up to 4400 meters above sea level.
What are the preconditions to be a professional tandem paragliding pilot?
First, we must be curious and mentally prepared. Without curiosity and mental preparation, one cannot be a good pilot. First and foremost is also to adapt while pursuing a career as adventurous as this, not just for females but for everyone. Second, we need ample time, as being a paragliding pilot is not a matter of a few days, weeks or months.
To be a perfect tandem pilot, we need to invest at least three years of constant efforts in flying. Third, we need to invest a big amount of money. To be a perfect tandem pilot after continuing three years of practices along with purchases of all essential gears and equipment, it costs more than 2 million Nepali rupees. It may increase in the days ahead.
What is the average earning of a professional Nepali paragliding pilot?
If you are serious about the safety and security of your passengers, you will have a big demand. With a big demand, you will have good earnings. To talk about my personal income, I make around 50,000 Nepali rupees a month.
What is the role of physical fitness in paragliding?
Paragliding is not about physical fitness. It is all about technical accuracy and mental fitness.
How long do you plan to fly?
If my health supports me, I am planning to fly for more than two decades. I am 30 now; I want to fly until I turn 50.
Visit Nepal 2020 is troubled by the pandemic. How has been your business lately?
Paragliding in Pokhara is in complete halt. So are all other businesses here. It had been completely closed since the pandemic, but has reopened since week. However, it is a catastrophe to open business without any tourists here. Our company (Sunrise Paragliding) is still closed. Few other companies are operating but due to the lack of tourists, they, too, are struggling to sustain themselves.