Tandem Mario Hang Gliding
I will separate this flight experience into sections: How did it feel; Concerns; and, How do you do it (Price).
Tandem hang gliding was nothing like I imagined. Well... Not nothing, but to be honest it didn't have any thrill. It was a fairly relaxing experience. When you compare it to the rush of stepping out of a plane in skydiving it seems pretty relaxed. In fact, if you have ever gone sky diving, it's similar to the gentle float down after your chute opens. Also, when you compare it to the excitement of seeing the ground rush toward your face in bungee jumping, it also seems pretty lukewarm. Landing was pretty relaxed. I didn't do it well, but at the same time I never felt like I was going fast enough to seriously injure myself.
I know I sound like a "does stupid things" snob now, but to be honest, it was the most gentle flight experience ever. Even milder than boarding an airplane. The whole experience lasted five minutes. I know because I have a video of it all.
What makes the difference is probably the fact that it was tandem. If I were controlling everything on my own it would be a whole different ball park since I would probably mess up my approach angle or something. Pilot Wings (for SNES and N64) has taught me that I take unnecessary risks while landing.
Bottom line on the feelz: If you're afraid, dont' be. Just do it. It's relaxed and calm. I had a bad landing on the film but other instructors (with women usually) landed on a dime and took all the weight themselves. My guy for some reason decided to do a running landing. Fun.
I read up on the safety of hang gliding and the websites said that it was relatively safe but when accidents happen, they really suck. My pilot equipped us with parachutes, but I don't think they would be very effective at that height. It was probably just to make us feel better. The truth is, it's dangerous if something goes wrong, but the chances of something going wrong is slim. These guys jump four times a day, everyday, for decades.
My real worry was with the landing and Big Paul (Pilot man) didn't tell me squat about how to land. I probably should have asked. When the floor was approaching however, I realized that it was at a very controllable speed. So that worry can go out the window.
If you have a Carioca (someone from Rio) friend get them to book it. My price was around 420 reals for the whole experience, including ride up to the top and video. 20 of those reals went to registration with the hang gliding federation or something and it lasts 6 months. I made friends with some Americans after I landed and it turns out they paid around 500 reals each, so be careful and haggle a little! The weird thing is that they get the money after the experience. Maybe this is to prevent people from stopping due to monetary guilt. It's kind of awkward at the end. Keep in mind these prices are in the middle of Carnival, the most tourist season there is in Brazil. So expect lower prices if you go during the off season. (I inquired earlier in January and the price was 300-350)
Anyway, if you want to do it solo, just google Hang Gliding Rio and plenty of websites pop up. Or, just head over to Pedra Bonita and there will be plenty of pilots who approach you. If you try to book on the phone, Portuguese is good to know. If you are there in person, all the pilots seem to know English.
Again, show up early. All pilots have a 4 person max, daily. If you get there at a busy time all the pilots are finished by lunch time. If you want to get a sunset flight, I'm sure they'll do it. I just advise booking it in advance.
If you have a couple grand and some time, go for a license! That'll be amazing.