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Dominican Republic was an unknown paragliding destination not long ago. Argentinean pilot Julian Molina arrived there 8 years ago and decided to stay. Along with a few other enthusiasts he started pioneering flying sites, amazed by the variety of the flyable environment and the favorable conditions across this Caribbean country. His paragliding center 'Caribbean Free Flying' has been promoting Dominican Republic as a true natural paradise for free flight lovers and managed to run the first international paragliding competition in 2004, the Pre-World Cup Valle de Neyba, which gathered over 70 pilots from all over the world. Dominican Republic is no longer unknown...
The following is a recollection of its beauties captured by Julian’s camera, who is now in Europe organizing the upcoming winter paragliding tours to the island.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, YEAR-ROUND PARAGLIDING
(Text and photos: Julián Molina - Caribbean Free Flying)

The Caribbean... Remote lands for some... Exotic ground, tropical forest and beaches… ‘The most beautiful sight that human eyes have ever beheld’, wrote Christopher Columbus in 1492 after spotting the vast shore of the island he named Hispaniola. Today, being one of the most visited tourist destinations in the globe, Dominican Republic is for us who strive to spend our time far from the reality of ground, the supreme free flying destination in the Antilles, with more than 10 superb paragliding sites and outstanding flying conditions along the year and specially during the northern winter…

Four major mountain ranges pretentiously define the shape of this land emerging to divide the Atlantic ocean from the Caribbean sea. The silhouette of the earth covering that graciously created a group of islands in shape of a spiral curving along the east margin of the American continent has it’s major expression in the Dominican Republic, where the 3175 meters of the humid and fertile land of Pico Duarte rises gloriously over the rest of the mountains in the Central Range, laying along an East to West axis.

Due to the height of the various mountain ranges and their ability to deflect the moist Alisios winds blowing north-east all along the year, Dominican Republic has many different micro climates, each of them with their particular charm for free flyers.

Dominican Republic provides an assortment of paragliding sceneries, ranging from rough hardcore thermic conditions in the desert areas like Galván, home of the 2004 Pre-World Cup, to the mild and docile wide thermals of the higher valleys, like in Manaclita. Cross country potential is remarkable as two of the longest flights made along the down-wind side of the Central Range from Azua (60 kms) and Las Agüitas (50 kms) will sooner or later be linked to make a 130 kms route… Not bad for a Caribbean island! Finally, there are several perfect training sites for paragliders, including stunning laminar breeze soaring by the sea in La Playita and Cofresí for beginners or pilots who want to spend hours in the air, and also safe and easy routes for recreational pilots willing to start practicing and developing cross country skills like in Manaclita, Vallejuelo and Constanza.

Caribbean Free Flying, organizer of the Pre-World Cup 2004, offers it’s experience, local knowledge and it’s logistics set up for paraglider pilots from all over the world so that they can make the most out of their paragliding holidays…

More information, photos and flying sites map at www.CaribbeanFreeFlying.com

Photos © Caribbean Free Flying / 2004

Las Agüitas

The first thermal. The takeoff in the background.

The great Valle de San Juan.
Sabaneta’s dam. Mount El Naranjo 2000 m high in the background.

Getting to takeoff on the local transport facilities. Las Agüitas is the only flying site with no road to takeoff.

Top: The mountains in the south face of the Central Range in Valle de San Juan

Right: Transition from the takeoff ridge (left) heading east.

Azua

Cross country flight along the Central Range.

Reaching the Azuan plains above the clouds, from the mountains in the Central Range.
The takeoff area in Azua with the town in the background.
The Bahía de Ocoa as seen from Azua.
Constanza
Guaraguao (red tail hawk), main character among local birds of prey.

The valle de Constanza, in the middle of the Central Range.
El Manaclar
Mount X, with the Ocoa river and the Caribbean see in the background.


High mountain flying in the Central Range’s closest area to Santo Domingo.
Taking off from Mount X.
Galván


Top: A good thermal over the first ridges of Sierra de Neyba in Galván.

Left: Pre-World Cup 2004 takeoff in Galván.

Bottom left: Over the clouds a view of Valle de Neyba.

Bottom right: Over 2500 m
above the valley that lies 50 m below see level.


La Hoz
Evening takeoff for a 30 minutes descent flight.
La Playita
At 600 m in the dynamic lift from the laminar see breeze.
Ridge soaring over the 7 km long ridge to get to Playa Monterío.
A better way to end the day?
Evening light in La Playita.
Manaclita
The great plains of Valle del Cibao.
Rincón’s dam below the fair weather cumulus.
Vallejuelo
Blue skies in Vallejuelo.
A view of takeoff from the house thermal.
The Vallejuelo valley with the north face of Sierra de Neyba in the background Crossing the valley under convergence lift.

*If you're interested in travelling to Dominican Republic you can take advantage of one of the offers of online travel agencies, specially during the low season. The best season to fly there is during the northern hemisphere's winter specially in January and February, however, they say the flying continues all through the year.
If you chose to take your gear to the island the people of Caribbean Free Flying are probably the most qualified to give advice on flying sites and conditions or provide guiding and logistics services, whether you travel alone or with your club or friends.

CaribbeanFreeFlying.com The DR flying center
edreams.com cheap trips
lastminute.com cheap trips

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