Video: Paragliding over Pacific atolls

Free flying paradise – Horacio Llorens and Tom de Dorlodot launch off islands and soar over water.
© Tom de Dorlodot/Search Projects
By Josh Sampiero

Flying to tropical islands isn't easy – and flying over them is even harder.

Far from their respective homes in Belgium and Spain, Tom de Dorlodot and Horacio Llorens are busy exploring the atolls of the South Pacific. Two days of journey took them and their paragliding gear to Tahiti, for the start of the two-month journey between a dozen Pacific Islands.

This is how you get to shore. © John Stapels

What makes flying in the islands difficult is the same thing that makes sailing easy: wind, and plenty of it. If the wind is more than 50kmh, they can't fly – their paragliding rigs would literally be flying backwards. That's in addition to hacking through the jungle to find a suitable launch.

“Once we made it to the Marquesas, big winds, big waves and weather made flying very difficult,” says Llorens. “Often the wind came up to 150kmh – so even if we found the perfect take off, it wasn't possible to get in the air. So when we were on Ua Pu, the highest peak of Marquesas, we didn't get the chance to fly, the wind was just too much!”

Home is a boat in the bay. © John Stapels

The trip has provided some unique experiences for the locals, too. “In Nuku Hiva, I did a tandem with local child. He was on the beach with his horse, when I landed from a flight, and was lost. He brought me to his home, introduced me to his parents. They helped me find my way back to the boat. I came back the next day and invited him up for a tandem flight. He was pointing out sharks, and manta rays - stuff I didn't look for, because I'm always focused on flying!”

A flight above the fields. © John Stapels

While time on the sailboat is something new for de Dorlodot, it's familiar territory for Llorens, whose father is a boat captain in Mallorca. “I actually worked on his boat to save up money to buy my first paraglider,” he says. “Now, paragliding has taken me on a wonderful sailing journey in an beautiful part of the world. It's safe to say my father is a little jealous!”

Be sure to check out the photogallery here, and stay tuned for one final update from The Search in a few weeks.

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