We flew out on Sunday 30th March, landing at the Croatian capital Zagreb in the north of Croatia...

Flybubble Paragliding Exploratory Trip to Croatia March-April 2008

By Carlo Borsattino, CFI of Flybubble Paragliding

At the end of March 2008 I went on an exploratory paragliding trip to Croatia to investigate the paragliding (and travelling) possibilities of this beautiful country which finds itself at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Central Europe, and the Balkans.

Travelling with me were Lawrence Fansa, Chris Joel, and Trevor Giddings, all 'Southern Club' members. We flew out on Sunday 30th March, landing at the Croatian capital Zagreb in the north of the country, to be met by 'our man' in Croatia, Josip Dragic who was to be our amiable and good-humoured guide for the week. Josip drove us to his house, where we were to stay, and we met his wife Jasmin, a great host and a fantastic cook, as we were to find out - much to the heavy burden of our well-stuffed stomachs!

In summary, we had an absolutely fantastic trip with excellent springtime cross-country flying conditions on four days out of seven, and one (epic looking!) day lost due to an unexpected visit from the US president (find out more later). All of us were highly taken with the region of Croatia we visited, not just for the great flying but also the friendly people, the relaxed atmosphere (very safe and civilised), the beautiful countryside, the abundance of culture, and the seemingly never-ending things to see and do. Everyone in the group certainly wants to go back again!

Regarding the flying, cloudbase was between 5-7,500ft ASL (4500-7000ft AGL) each day with abundant thermals averaging between 1-4 m/s on a 20-second averager (peaking 3-6 m/s). Although not a place we would particularly recommend to new pilots straight out of school (mainly due to slightly technical take-offs and some of the possible tight landing options in thermic conditions) the thermalling and cross country potential is truly excellent. There is a wonderful variety of big hills, small mountains and flatlands, generally free of the problems and stresses associated with flying paragliders in the big mountains.

The take-offs and landings shouldn't present too much problem for reasonably competent paraglider pilots with 100 hours airtime plus, and the local area is very well set up (i.e. the local topography) for flying up and down the ridges, practicing your thermalling, doing nice triangles and out-and-returns, and going for distance - assuming you can thermal reasonably well and navigate adequately, of course!

On one day Lawrence Fansa did a 45km cross country flight, having climbed to over 7000ft and flown for nearly 3 hours. His furthest XC in the UK to date - not for want of trying - had so far been around 10km from a Southern Club site. The excellent thermal conditions and high cloudbase in Croatia meant that Lawrence was able to get up, get high and go far more easily.

On another day there was a last-minute visit from the US president, George Bush, to Zagreb which meant there was a no-fly zone (which unfortunately included our area) set up for one day - which rather annoyingly turned out to be an absolutely epic day, with one of the best cross-country skies I have ever seen!! By the time President Bush was on his way and we were allowed to fly again (4pm) the day was just starting to shut down, the launch fell into shadow and all of the thermals fizzled out. Aaaarrrgghh!!! Needless to say, this did not enamour us - or the local Croatian pilots - with Mr Bush. >B-/

On behalf of everyone in our group I would like to thank Josip Dragic of Extreme Croatia Paragliding and his wife Jasmin for looking after us so well during our week in Croatia, and for making us all feel so welcome. Josip was a great all-round guide and he ensured that our airport transfers went smoothly, we got to take-off on time to make the most of the given weather conditions on each day, and that we were retrieved without too much delay - despite the fact that none of us spoke any Croatian, and many of the locals spoke very little English (not that I would expect them to)! In addition to being an excellent cook, Josip's wife Jasmin was incredibly friendly and kept us all entertained with her wacky sense of humour!

As well as being an excellent paragliding guide Josip, who speaks very good English, turned out to be an equally good tourist guide and all of us learnt a lot about Croatia and even a few Croatian words and phrases. Chris was much happier once he had learnt how to order beer (and then got to know all the different beers intimately) whilst I was more content once I'd learnt how to order espresso coffee, which is excellent in Croatia - highly recommended (assuming you like strong espresso coffee)!

If you haven't been to Croatia yet, then I would highly recommend you do! If you do then from our experience you could do a lot worse than getting in touch with Josip & Jasmin at Extreme Croatia Paragliding.

See paragliding photos from the Flybubble Paragliding Exploratory Trip to Croatia March-April 2008.