28 Feb - 6 Mar 2014 #696

It’s a bird

A combination of paragliding and falconry is gaining its own popularity
Hariz Baharudin

A TripAdvisor review promised parahawking to be the closest-ever to nature kind of experience. However, I had my reservations. Did I really want to fork out an extra Rs 10,000 to have a bird be my guide and eat off my arm?

While I sat calculating the worth of undertaking this adventure, my pilot introduced me to Kevin, a small, curious-looking Egyptian vulture, nothing like the huge, ravenous bird that I had pictured. In a way I was glad. In the case of an attack, I could escape with minimum injuries. However, Kevin had a fierce habit of turning his head and making eye contact with everyone in his sight. When our gaze met, my biggest fear about this whole experience resurfaced: what if he bit my finger off?

With the thought still looming in my head, we took off and before long were high up in the air. My pilot began to read out instructions on feeding Kevin. Even though a little hesitant, I held my hand out with shaky confidence. Kevin, the veteran that he was, swooped down and took the piece of meat from my hand expertly and then went back to flying in his seamless way. This was his reward for guiding us to thermals, currents of warm air that are used by both birds and paragliders while flying to conserve energy. It was amazing to see a bird so close. The sight of his shiny feathers in the clear blue sky was picture perfect.

A combination of paragliding and falconry, parahawking was developed by British falconer Scott Mason in 2001 and pioneered in Pokhara. Although the feeling of feeding the birds in mid-air while taking in the majestic views of Pokhara is hard to match, what made my experience really enriching was knowing that part of the proceeds from the parahawking would go into different vulture conservation programs like the feeding centre in Gachok. The flight operator even offers you the option to visit one of the vulture restaurants in the area, which is another incredible experience in itself.

Hariz Baharuddin




Read also:

Dining with vultures, TOH EE MING

Visitors' Interactive Map of Pokhara, AYESHA SHAKYA

Lakeside living

I just ride, MEGHNA BALI

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