PARAGLIDING ADVENTURES at MAASIM, SARANGANI

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The name of the municipality of Maasim in Sarangani Province of the Philippines means “sour”, but going there yourself will only confirm that the name doesn’t quite match the place as it is now. Serving as the gateway of sorts to the western section of Sarangani from General Santos City (which separates western Sarangani from eastern Sarangani with their namesake bay to the south), Maasim has also greatly benefited from being adjacent to a “highly urbanized first class” Philippine city, with the progress and technological advancements from there quickly reaching to the municipality, especially global communication and the connectivity afforded by a modern highway for ease of transport.

Maasim is dominated by forested hill and mountainous areas in its northern portion, where exotic creatures such as a subspecies of the Philippine Tarsier – most prominently located in Bohol province – might be found in the wild. But the elevations of Maasim combined with the strong breezes coming from Sarangani Bay has gotten the attention of a certain sort of sports enthusiasts to the area, those of a mid-altitude persuasion. One elevation on Maasim, 950 feet above sea level, became a new mecca of aficionados for the sport of paragliding, to the point that the site is now a regular spot that is frequented by the Sarangani Paragliders Club.

The SAFII Ranch Paragliding Fly-site is located in the grounds of a ranchland area owned by the San Andres Fishing Industry Inc. or SAFII, a major fishing concern which has its own shipyard at the seaside nearby. It’s considered to be the third such prominent paragliding site in the country after Carmona in Cavite province and Bontoc in Mountain Province, both in Luzon. Paragliding excursions have been going on there since 2010, to the point that a winding access road has been concreted to make easier reaching the windy summit.

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Getting to that paragliding haven of the south is easy enough; Maasim as stated before shares the city limit boundary of General Santos. The city is: from Manila a 1-hour-40-minute flight or 2-day ship ride; from Cebu a 1-hour-10-minute flight or 1-day ship ride; and from Davao City a 2-hour bus ride. From the city center it’s an estimated half-hour public utility van ride to reach the entrance to SAFII Ranch. Transport to the fly-site itself is courtesy of 4×4 vans, driven by tour guides and pilots of the Sarangani Paragliders Club.

In fact, if you’re looking to spend a few days around these parts then it’s highly recommended to stay at nearby Lemlunay Resort, which also arrangees transport to the fly-site. Of course, it’s a prime idea to check the weather for the day so that it’s brightly sunny and windy for when you decide to give paragliding up there a whirl. Morning from 8AM to noon is the optimum time of day for this. Note that booking for the paragliding adventure starts at a minimum 3 persons (P3500) so it’s best to have buddies along for this, and also the essentials (snacks, water, sunblock and cameras). If anybody in the group isn’t going to paraglide at the top then there’s a P100 charge for them.

Once you’re at the fly-site itself, then leave it to the nice folks of the Sarangani Paragliders Club to show you the ropes for what exactly you’ll be in for. While you’ll be provided the gear for your “flight”, you’re expected to be dressed for action with long sleeves, pants and rubber or outdoorsy footwear. Thankfully you’ll get to watch a video as part of your orientation on paragliding, along with training in wearing, carrying and moving the paraglide harness. Total first-timers will be paragliding in tandem with an instructor who will handle most of the maneuvers when airborne.

When all the briefing and training is done, it’s time to take to the air! A running start from the summit towards the sea wind will be enough to take you and your glider airborne, according you a spectacular view all around and below. The rolling lands of Sarangani stretch under your feet in all directions save for the south, with is dominated by the blue of Sarangani Bay. Gaze in wonder at the sights, or take photos and video to preserve the moment for posterity. It’ll be an experience that will stay with you long after your tour guide has maneuvered you towards the landing zone and your feet gets back to the ground.

The Sarangani Paragliders Club and the SAFII Ranch Paragliding Fly-site already has some worldwide recognition under their belts, having hosted the 2014 International Paragliding Accuracy Championship. Only time will tell when another global event like that will take place there, but until then, the Paragliders club will always welcome those brave souls who wish to fly for only a brief while to see Sarangani at its finest.

For further information and inquiries, visit the Sarangani Paragliders Club Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/saranganiparagliders.

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Photo courtesy of southcotabato.org

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