Wait so you want to go to Africa to go Paragliding? This was my response to Scott Rogers when he first told me about the One Sky Project. I had just started flying myself and totally fell in love with the sport. Scott and I were sitting in my living room in Mammoth Lakes, CA packing up all of our camera gear and gearing up for what was to be a 6 week expedition in Nepal to document and climb the 10th highest peak in the world Annapurna 8,091 Meters. My head was everywhere else except thinking about riding motorbikes across the continent of Africa and flying paragliders along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. I quickly said yes. I'm not quite sure if I was even invited but all I could think about was this great adventure and even greater opportunity to photograph such a new and beautiful sport in such an incredible landscape.
This is why I am a photographer, to use my photographs and experiences to inspire others to go for the impossible and spread joy and love throughout the world. Below you will find our vision for One Sky Project and hopefully be inspired by our journey to spread the joy of flight to kids all over Africa.
One Sky Project is a collaboration between five paragliding and hang gliding pilots. Our vision is simple; we plan on providing free tandem paragliding flight experiences throughout Southern Africa to those that could not afford the opportunity otherwise. Embarking on a cultural exchange, we’ll discover the most beautiful flying locations in the continent. We intend to go beyond simply flying in these places and using them for our own enjoyment, but rather immersing ourselves in the communities we visit, embarking on a cultural study involving the following: the source of happiness and inspiration in people’s lives, the compulsion for uninhibited playfulness, relationship with fear and death, and the beauty of flight.
Our short term goal is to provide the various people we encounter the opportunity to see their home from the sky. Long term we intend to develop tourism industry in the most promising flying locations, establishing infrastructure not only for qualified pilots to come fly, but to promote a locally owned and operated, safety-conscious, tandem paragliding operation. To do this, we will create relationship and community ties in rural villages and schools. By sharing our experiences of flying, we hope to embark in a two-way cultural exchange both providing a wonderful opportunity for the people we interact with and opening our own eyes to valuable cultural traditions that can and should be preserved while simultaneously promoting a self-sustaining tourism industry.
With motorbikes and a support truck, we will journey over 15,000 km over a three month period. Our support truck will be loaded down with paragliding / hangliding gear and production equipment. Our crew consists of not only pilots but a skilled and experienced production team, thus enabling us to create visually compelling media not only documenting the trip, but portraying the main premise of our story: that once in the air, borders dissolve and the beauty of our planet surrounds us, no matter of privilege or circumstances.
Despite any sort of base cultural differences, it is rare that a person hasn’t dreamt of flying (particularly with the sharp and creative imagination of a child). This project will take us all back to a simpler way of life and will prove that even in the harshest socio-economic conditions, that beauty, community, and your wildest dreams are never out of reach; and in fact, with a stronger cultural emphasis in playfulness and general happiness, much is to be learned about how we develop and accomplish our own dreams with our western mindset.
During this portion of One Sky Project we will travel over 15,000 km through nine countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland.
Leg 1: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (SA) to Cape Town, SA. Here there are established flying sites and numerous schools and organizations which will help with a solid and positive start to this great journey. We will continue towards Xolweni (informal settlement) providing our first glimpse of the start contrast between the wealthy and underprivileged residents of South Africa.
Leg 2: Walvis Bay, Namibia. This will be the driest and most desolate part of the trip. The team travels alongside the skeleton coast and the sand dunes of Swakopmund and the Sosusvlei, while navigating difficult terrain. This will be a great opportunity to spend time with local, small, farming schools. Walvis Bay, known for being a major natural deepwater harbor, is the start of the leg through Northern Namibia.
Leg 3: Past the game-filled Etosha Pan and through the Caprivi Strip we will journey towards the stormy Victoria Falls on the Border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. As we pass through the Caprivi Strip, we will be encountering bigger villages with a high prevalence of poverty. Schools have very few amenities but will be very welcoming to new faces who are willing to be a part of their day.
Leg 4: Leaving Victoria Falls, Zambia, the team will head towards Lilongwe, Malawi. There we will meet up with Godfrey Masauli, a local pilot. Lake Malawi is known for its enormity, small fishing villages, and the Great Rift Valley. By collaborating with the Cloudbase Foundatio (a paragliding non-profit promoting the well-being of local communities near and in relation to flying sites around the world) we can work off of existing infrastructure to further develop the people and communities in this area.
Leg 5: The journey then continues up into Tanzania towards Kenya. This area includes Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Arusha, Tarangiri, among others. This is a great opportunity for the team to immerse themselves in the rich Massai culture. Imagine a Massai in the sky! This area will be the halfway point and a big milestone for the One Sky Project.
Leg 6: The next part of the journey takes us south, toward Maputo, Mozambique which consists of dunes, sandy roads, wild animals, and very difficult borders. The journey through this area will not be easy, but is guaranteed to be spectacular flying. We can take some great coastal soaring tandems and use the stable air to get some amazing shots.
Leg 7: Swaziland and Lesotho. These are small countries that border South Africa. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is the biggest water catchment for the region. The famous Sani-Pass is found in this region, as well as some of Southern Africa’s biggest mountains. Concluding our trip, we will drive through Drakensberg, SA and the Transkei, SA. Transkei is an extremely poor area. It is also the Birthplace of the late great Nelson Mandela. In his lifetime he was a large part of many school development projects in the area. What better place to finish our incredible journey sharing the sky with those who would never have had the opportunity otherwise.
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