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Hang Gliding in Rio, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro
Tel: 55 21 7837 1055's insider take:

Tourists have leaped off Pedra Bonita's 1,800-foot summit for more than a quarter century, when Rio became one of the first cities in the world to authorize tandem jumps over municipal areas. The 10- to 20-minute flights, which end with a dramatic landing among startled sunbathers on São Conrado's Pepino beach, have become a popular way for thrill-seeking tourists to gain a bird's-eye view of Brazil's most-visited city. The best-known pilot, Assad Júnior, has been jumping with tourists at his company, Hang Gliding Tours, since 1981, taking each to a wooden platform that juts out from the Pedra Bonita ridge. Below, dense stands of jungle lap at the gates of ostentatious mansions and helipad-equipped high-rises. A coastal highway is just visible through the heat haze, edged by the searing white sand of Pepino beach. After strapping the passenger into a harness, Assad rehearses the jump with several practice runs, each stopping just short of the abyss. At the final countdown—"Um, dois, três, já!"—both fliers run forward and throw themselves bodily into the void. With luck, the hang glider catches a decent thermal, rearing up over the jungle's canopy for some 15 minutes before the long loop downward.

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