Suspended from a polyester awning, my friend Peter spirals down from a dizzying height of 1,300 meters.
I landed just three minutes ago myself, brushing the heads of drunk vacationers sipping cocktails at a beach bar.
Even on the ground, I hear Peter’s paraglider instructor shouting, “Run, run, run! as they make their final approach.
However, Peter is so adrenaline pumping and so lost in the majestic scenery that he pays no attention to his instructor.
He makes no effort to run and lands on his back, sliding across the black volcanic sand to rest beside a table of drinkers with a silly grin on his face.
No wonder Tenerife is so popular. Expect sunny days and 20C temperatures even in December, making this a great place to work on your tan when the leaves are turning brown at home.
While many might want to spend days lying on a lounge chair, some of us shudder at the thought of spending a week by the pool.
Unlike Gran Canaria or Lanzarote – neighboring islands that locals here consider “mere rocks” – Tenerife is home to five distinct microclimates and is blessed with trade winds, volcanic peaks, desert parks and lush forests.
Take into account those clear, warm seas – still at 21 ° C in December – and Tenerife is a perfect location for hiking, biking, mountain biking, snorkelling, scuba diving, kite surfing, kayaking. and, of course, paragliding.
Our flights had started with the same instruction: “Run, run, run!”
Our instructors – strapped behind us like the tail of a Pegasus pantomime – urged us to pump our quads and take a leap of faith on the side of a dormant volcano while huge fabric wings swelled behind we.
The landscape here is far from the beaches, wide highways and luxury hotel complexes.
Small farms are dotted along winding mountain roads, and secluded trails plunge through lush green national parks popular with hikers and mountain bikers.
My instructor is a master at his craft and it takes over 40 minutes for my feet to hit the ground. Instead of floating towards the beach, we catch thermal winds that push us towards the stratosphere.
As I scan the rocky spiers and volcanic peaks below, I realize that we have climbed at least 300 feet above our starting point in a matter of minutes.
We’re not just sliding around. We want.
This is not the first time that I have experienced the feeling of weightlessness that melts away the stress during my brief trip.
While others spent their days soaking up the sun, I went sea kayaking and snorkeling with giant stingrays.
“Neutral buoyancy” is the diving term for what happens when you pack the right amount of weight in your scuba gear and become immune to both gravity and our natural tendency to float upwards.
The sea is so clear that I almost forget I’m under the waves. It’s like drifting through space.
It certainly feels like another world to me as I explore hidden underwater cliffs, caves and wrecks around the coast.
You don’t need to be a qualified diver, as the dive instructors can accompany you to witness wonders that seem to come from another planet.
As I descend under the sea, I am immediately greeted by a stingray fever.
The tallest I’ve ever seen, these giant stingrays are twice as long as my instructor – and very curious.
They swim up to us and reach out to be touched with their wing-shaped pectoral fins as we scour the seabed.
Here we find sharp-toothed morays – bizarre flatfish that have both eyes on one side of their crepe heads – and schools of fish that, ironically, have made their home among the sunken remains of fishing boats.
Observing a very small cave at the foot of an underwater precipice, I swim to the bottom of the sea to find that the three-foot hole has been transformed into an underwater Catholic shrine, with a statue of the Virgin Mary standing at its entrance.
As I marvel at this underwater altar, I spot a brilliant white lightning bolt – a ghost-like specter appearing behind the statue.
Dashing towards the back wall of the tiny cave, it quickly cycles through several colors before disappearing completely against the craggy rock.
I have dived in the Red Sea, off the Australian Great Barrier Reef and around the Maldives. . . but I have never had the chance to see an incredible octopus in the wild that looks like a chameleon and changes shape.
My octopus teacher friend could definitely give camouflage lessons because I can’t find it even in such a small space a few feet away.
Fortunately, a few minutes later, I spot another one, his eyes sticking out between the rocks on the seabed.
This time, I wait and watch. Eventually, the octopus becomes curious, rushing from one hiding place to another before cautiously coming towards me to see me better.
While I’m looking for my camera, my octopus friend gets tired of my attentions and, with a quick inkjet, she sends me spinning 20 meters from the surface and towards new adventures.
COVID: All British travelers to Spain over the age of 12 must now be fully immunized at least 14 days before arrival.
Children under 12 are exempt if traveling with an adult. Current rules require a pre-departure test before returning to the UK and a PCR test by day 2 at the latest.
GO / STAY: Seven-night half-board at 4H Spring Arona Gran Hotel & Spa in Los Cristianos starts at £ 723 per person, including flights from Stansted in January, 22kg checked baggage and transfers. See jet2holidays.com
OUT AND ABOUT: James went paragliding with Parapente Canarias (parapentecanarias.com), hike with Teno Activo (tenoactivo.com), kayaking with Adventoure (aventoure.com) and scuba diving with Ocean Friends Diving (oceanfriendsdiving.com).
BEFORE THE JOURNEY : Airport parking and hotels (aph.com) offers a week’s parking at Meet & Greet Airport at Heathrow from £ 53.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit webtenerife.fr
We pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for the Sun News Bureau?