It was in 1996 that the first commercial ultralight service was launched in Pokhara. The service was an addition to the long list of many ‘touristy’ things to do at one of Nepal’s most famous holiday destinations.
Unlike today, it was mostly foreigners who enjoyed riding among the clouds above the seven lakes of the city. The main reason was the service did not come cheap. But now, 25 out of every 100 people boarding the planes are Nepalis, says Rijan Rijal, manager of Avia Club, one of the first ultralight companies in the Lake City.
There are three companies that can fly over Pokhara. The flight, which lasts for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour-and-a-half, offers a unique perspective on the valley below.
With the sky as your vantage point, you not only get to see he vistas of the mighty Himalayas, but also the placid and serene lakes. Compared to a ‘mountain flight’ operated by commercial airlines, an ultraflight is more personal, and offers a tailor-made experience.
While the services has come a long way since its inception, Rijal says that there is an immediate need for state-run programs to attract more visitors to the region.
“For the first two years, we operated the service free of cost,” says Rijal.
It was done to make the travel agencies and government bodies understand the nature and prospect of the services, adds Rijal.
The ticket price now is between Rs 7,500- Rs 33,500, depending on the duration of the flight.
In a city, which has immense potential for tourism, the list of attractions and activities are still limited. The success of the ultralight brings to fore the need to explore other ventures.
While doing so, Pokhara and the government of Nepal should understand the ground realities, and not get carried away!