Florida,Great Outdoors,Tampa Life

Hang Gliding in Florida, No Mountains Needed

Hang Gliding in Florida

Exhilarating, Heart-Stopping, Thrilling, Amazing! All of those words come to mind to describe last weekend. I checked off one of my bucket list items. I went hang gliding!!! I wasn’t abroad or out west so how is this even possible that I hang glided in Florida since we don’t have cliffs or mountains?  Just off of I-4, a hop skip and jump away from “The Mouse”, there’s a little plot of paradise called Wallaby Ranch, in Davenport, FL.  Wallaby is a hang gliding mecca where people have come from literally all over the globe to learn to glide.  It’s actually the first and largest aerotow hang gliding flight park in the world.  By aerotow, I mean a small 1 man plane pulls the glider up into the air to 2000 feet and then you detach and glide until you make your way back down to Earth.

Here’s a play-by-play of what my morning was like:

6:00 AM

Yawn. Alarm is blaring. It’s 6 am on a Saturday morning. Tired. So very tired. Hit snooze.

Text alert from friend that she’s on her way. Crap. I have to get up now. Who gets up at 6 am on the weekend?

Get ready. Stomach hurts. Uh oh.  Bubble guts means nerves….

Having second thoughts. Maybe this isn’t a good idea.

7:00 AM

Knock at the door. She’s here; too late to turn back now. Besides they have a zero fatality rate. It’s fine.

Driving. We chat about other things to take our minds off of it.

Crap that was it! We passed it. Turn around.

8:00 AM

Pull up to winding road. Oh look at the sign. Cool. I need a picture.

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Keep driving up the road.  They direct us to park.

“Hi. You’re the blogger? You’re late!!!!”

8:02 AM

You said come at 8. It’s 8 now.

“Winds are changing. We gotta get you up right now! Tour after.”

I’m signing my life away on waiver forms.

Getting fitted for helmet. Hand my camera to complete stranger and ask to please get some pics.

8:05 AM

I’m getting instructed on getting into the harness. My guide climbs in after me.

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I ask what’s your name? “I’m Malcolm.”

Malcolm,I’m Lauren. Please don’t kill me.

8:06

Plane is pulling our glider along the grass.  I feel like I’m on a runway.

hang glide

8:07

We are lifting off the ground! Am I really doing this?  I can’t believe I’m doing this. I hope we can get off the ground!

8:08

We are climbing. Malcolm is explaining that we will climb to 2000 feet.

“Welcome to my office. I get to do this everyday.”

hang glide profile pic

8:10

This is what a cloud feels like?  Cool! It’s wet. I’m like Super Mom in real life! This is awesome. More awesome than awesome. I’ve run out of any other adjectives other than awesome because that’s what it is — Awesome!

Look at the cows down there. They are so tiny!

So this is what birds feel like? I’d never come back to Earth if I were a bird.  **Singing Nelly Furtado to myself now.  I’m like a bird….**

God you are amazing.

Is that my friend flying over there?

This is simply beautiful!

hang glide smiling

8:17

Pilot gives us a signal. We are at 2000 feet.

We release from the plane and we are now gliding solo!

Wait, that means there’s nothing connected to us. It’s just us and gravity?!?  Ish just got real.

8:20

Whoa! I see the pilot’s halo Malcolm was telling me about! It’s our shadow surrounded by a 360 degree rainbow.

I think I might actually cry. I’ve never seen anything this awe-inspiring.

hang glide thumbs up

8:21

Uh Malcolm if your hands are there, who’s flying this thing?

“You are.”

Malcolm we didn’t discus this.  Slightly freaking out.

And people think Soaring, the Epcot ride, is cool…nothing compared to this.

hang glide i'm steering

8:23

The ground seems to be getting closer awfully fast.

Touchdown.  We landed.

I didn’t die! Thank you Jesus!

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THIS WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!!

hang gliding florida

It’s hard to articulate just how I felt when we landed.  I was on a high. The adrenaline was pumping.  My heart was racing.  It was an indescribable feeling of euphoria.

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I jumped on Periscope right after to live stream and try to catch my friend landing but she landed just as I got on.  My original plan was to broadcast right before and leading up to getting strapped in and taking off.    Because of the changing winds, we had to really hustle so I didn’t have time.  I didn’t even get a chance to really be nervous or think through what I was about to do.  That might have actually been a good thing afterall.

brunch

After all of the morning flights were done, we were invited to the main compound for a morning brunch.  It was quite the spread of fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, ham, sausage, coffee, and tea.  We chatted with Malcolm Jones, the owner, about how he got into hang gliding and he made us laugh with his laid back sense of humor.  He’s had the ranch since 1991, but he’s been gliding since he was a teen. There were also people there who are either working on the ranch or who have come for an extended stay to get lessons and become pilots.   It feels like a family.  It was a great way to come down easily from the morning high.

Wallaby Ranch is 500 acres of beautiful open Florida scenery.  There are shaded places to relax and individual cabins.  If you wanted to hang out and swim, Malcom would certainly let you.

wallaby ranch

We got a tour inside the hangars where he showed us an old sea plane and the trike, a motorized 2 person hang glide with seats.  It looks like a glider attached to a motor scooter.  I would certainly like to try that one as well.

motorized hang glide

 

wallaby ranch

Even if you have done traditional hang gliding by jumping off of a cliff or mountain, the aerotow experience is still very different.  Add a trip to Wallaby Ranch to your adventure list.  This is also a great option for a day trip if you live locally or something to certainly add to your activity list if you are here visiting Central Florida.  No roller coaster or simulated ride can compare to this experience.

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Watch the videos below!  

If you have any issues playing it from the embedded video you can also open it from this link.

Tips

Here are all the things you need to know to have your own Outdoorsy adventure at the ranch:

  • Cost: $170  They have deals for groups or multiple lesson packages as well.  Check out “Dreaming Awake at the Wallaby Ranch” for some cool footage of flights.
  • Attire: People glided in everything from jeans to tank top and shorts. Just be mindful that it’s chillier up there than down on the ground.
  • Reservations: You should call ahead of time. You want to make sure there’s not a large group and you will want to make sure the winds are favorable. If he tells you 8am then get there on time. There was a family that showed up during brunch after 10 and they were not able to go up because the winds had changed.  Also, off season is the summer so this is good time of year to go.  The cooler months is much more crowded.  He can have as many as 4 pilots going up at one time on a given day.  Calling will get you a much faster response than emai.
  • Camera: Unless you have your own GoPro camera, pay the extra money to have them record it for you!  No 2 gliding trips will be the same so even if you think you will return again, you may not see the same things you see on that trip.  If you can mount it then you can wear it but you can’t have anything in your hands.
  • Limitations: There’s really no set age limit.  They have taken up little ones as young as 4 years old and someone who was 100 years old.  There is an individual weight limit.  I think it was around 245 lbs, but you should call for details if you have concerns about size.
  • Pro Tip: Take off your shoes and glide barefoot.  Feel the wind between your toes.  I didn’t even have a chance to notice Malcom and Eric, the other instructor, were barefoot before we went up so I didn’t do that this time.  Next time I will for sure.  And there WILL be a next time because you know the daredevil teenager of mine wants to do it and I couldn’t bring him along this time.

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Saturday, 07/25/2015 I will be having a little Periscope Watch party to watch the video footage from my flight at 11:00 AM.  Join me and I will answer any questions you have about the experience!  

Periscope: @OutdoorsyDiva

Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure is a lifestyle.”

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Beth
    July 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Holy crap…is there anything you won’t do??? I went ziplining in the Costa Rica rain forest but this seems a little less “controlled”. You go girl!!!!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      July 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      LOL! Beth I haven’t skydived yet. I’m saving that one because my son wants us to do it together when he turns 18. And bunjee jumping is actually not on my list either. Other than that I think I’ll try anything.

  • Reply
    Kita
    July 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I can’t do it. I am too chicken but kudos for you and trying this out. I am so afraid of heights that I would be so busy with my fear and I won’t enjoy the experience

    • Reply
      Lauren
      July 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

      I can understand that fear. Just enjoy the pictures LOL Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Shivawn Brimage
    July 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Wow… That is amazing… I am inspired to go hang gliding now… I wonder can I find a place here in Virginia Beach where I live. I love God’s natural scenery…

    • Reply
      Lauren
      July 29, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      I don’t know but I know there is paragliding in West Virginia. I saw it on Pinterest. I hope you can try hang gliding though. It’s really a neat feeling!

  • Reply
    Tanay
    July 29, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    This sounds amazing. I would probably die from the nerves. Trip over. I wouldn’t have made it passed 6am 😂.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      July 29, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Hahaha! Tanay I think you could at least make it to the ranch. Thank you so much for reading!

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    July 29, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    This year, I am seeking to conquer my fears. This looks like something I may want to do.

  • Reply
    Kiwi
    July 29, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Well look at you brave girl! Great shots I would of been freaking out so bad!!

  • Reply
    Chasing Joy
    July 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Wow! What an experience. I’d never heard of this type of hang gliding before. I think I’m too chicken to try it though. I like my feet on the ground.

  • Reply
    Aisha Johnson Adams
    July 29, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    WOW!! Looks like you had the a big adventure. Sis I can’t imagine enough feeling the wind between my toes…. I think this is something I will add to my bucket list…lol

  • Reply
    Ramona
    July 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Wow. That looks really cool. I would love to know what a cloud feels like and to experience the inside of a halo rainbow. I’m adding this to my bucket list!

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  • Reply
    Ty
    July 29, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    OMG!!! You go, girl! I got butterflies just reading this and looking at the pics. You are fearless!!!

  • Reply
    Adanna
    July 30, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Oh, it doesn’t get braver than this my friend. I would love to get to the point were I am brave enough to try this.

  • Reply
    Katherine G
    July 30, 2015 at 10:35 am

    This sounds like a great experience. I’m adding hang gliding to my bucket list. You make it sound like so much fun.

  • Reply
    Meg Faulconer
    July 31, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Looks like so much fun! I might just have to try this!

    It was so nice meeting you at the Hyde Park Blogger Event at Anthropologie

    Sending my best,
    Meg

  • Reply
    Keisha
    July 31, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    OMG! Getting in the air is one of my bucket list items. You have secured that for me in 2016!

  • Reply
    Camesha | Mama Motivator
    July 31, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    What.An.Experience. So freaking awesome! The view from up there… my goodness! I don’t know that I’m there yet!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    August 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I am so jealous!! Adding Wallaby Ranch to my list of VACA spots…looks like so much fun

  • Reply
    Adventure Series: Hang Gliding in Florida-BarrisTourista
    April 20, 2016 at 1:28 am

    […] Read the play-by-play commentary of this adventure and see video footage from the flight on Lauren’s blog, Misadventures of an Outdoorsy Diva. […]

  • Reply
    Naomi
    April 20, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Well I just found what I’m doing for my next birthday! I didn’t even know there was hang gliding in the Tampa area! I’ve done parasailing, skydiving (UTTER FAIL lol) ziplining over alligators, bungee jumping (again, UTTER FAIL) and I didn’t know what else to do….but now that I see hang gliding in near me…DEFINITELY DOING IT!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      April 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      That’s awesome Naomi! I’m happy you found the article. If you’re in the Tampa area make sure you join the Facebook group: Adventure Is A Lifestyle

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