Skydiving is the one activity I know capable of reducing most people to a vocabulary of only 6 words. Namely “Oh my god! That was amazing!” or some combination of those words and many more exclamation marks. Even 3 years on when asked to describe the experience I am so awe struck by the amazingness that words like “amazingness” seem appropriate.
I first tried to tick skydiving off my bucket list on the South Island of New Zealand but due to bad weather (in the middle of summer) and businesses closing down I had to put it off until I got to Swakopmund, Namibia.
I was travelling round Africa on a GAP adventure tour and one of the optional activities was skydiving. When it comes to skydiving you often hear people ask “why would you want to jump out of a perfectly good plane.” My response now is why not. There were four of us from the tour who chose to skydive which I think made it a little less terrifying. For me though, the reason I was not afraid to jump out of that perfectly good plane was the amazing skydiving instructors at Ground Rush Adventures.
Tandem skydiving is all about trust, trusting that you are strapped in tight, trusting that your tandem partner will open the parachute and then trusting them in the end to break your fall. My tandem partner was a lovely, funny man from Perth. It was probably his jibes about how being from Adelaide must make me want to jump out of a plane that set me at ease and made me feel right at home in his capable hands.
You start by filling out a questionnaire about your health and all the legal documents. You then slide into a very attractive jumpsuit which is made even more attractive when you add the harness, tightened to show every bulge and the plastic goggles reminiscent of year 10 chemistry. There is a briefing about what will happen once you get in the air and then its just a matter of waiting until its your turn to board the plane.
Not all skydiving experiences are made equal. You can usually choose what height you jump from and I would strongly recommend the highest altitude your budget and nerves can handle. The higher you climb the longer you fall 8,000 feet jumps have about 25 seconds of free fall while 14,000 feet gives you about a minute of free fall. If you can’t afford the high altitudes, don’t worry too much. 25 seconds lasts a lot longer when you’re 8,000 feet above the ground.
The flight up in the plane is probably the most nerve-wracking part. Luckily for me my instructor was talking and joking with me the whole way up to take my mind off things and there was a group of experienced skydivers behind me play fighting with foam swords they had brought for their jump.
After what seems like an eternity it is time to jump, the door of the plane opens and all you can see is sky. For a tandem skydive you are strapped to the front of your instructor and it can take a little effort to move, in a crouched position over to the open door. A friend jumped before me and all I can say about her jump is that one minute she was there the next she was gone she fell so quickly, truly amazing to watch.
The it was my turn, perched on the edge of the plane I peer down and see the photographer for my jump hanging underneath the plane, holding on waiting for me to jump then its 1, 2, 3 and out you go, pulled more than jumping and then the pure unadulterated joy of freefall. There is nothing like the feel of the air rushing past your face as you fall, you don’t even notice the ground, just the falling, this was the experience that I had hoped to get with bungee jumping.
Most skydiving companies will offer you some kind of video and photo deal either with a camera on the instructors arm or another skydiver filming you I opted for both which in Namibia cost me about $90 AU in Australia they tend to cost between $150 and $200 on top of the skydive costs. A word to those who want a great video.
When they tell you that you need to keep in the position they show you for jumping while you freefall this does not mean you can’t move at all. Most of the filming is done while you’re free falling so its fine to wave your arms about. My video shows a massive smile on my face but sadly not so much movement as I try to give thumbs up and wave while keeping my arms bent out at my sides, lets just say it looks a little awkward.
After your tandem partner pulls the cord and the parachute opens your harness can get a little tight and some readjustment is needed before you can sit back and truly enjoy the view. In Swakopmund the view is of the beautiful coastline and Sossusvlei desert. While the free fall is the highlight for me, picking a jump site with great scenery can be just as exciting. Imagine skydiving over Hawaii, taking in the whole island as you gently fall to the ground or skydiving over Mount Everest.
People sometimes worry about the landing but for a tandem jump all you have to do is lift your legs up high and let your partner take the brunt of the fall. Then its time to unstrap, turn around, give them a massive hug and kiss and shout “Oh my god! That was amazing!”.
Skydiving in Namibia with Ground Rush Adventures costs approximately $220 for a tandem jump. In Australia for instance it can get a little more expensive. I’ve done a tandem dive with Skydive Adelaide at Langhorne Creek for $479 for a 10,000 foot fall and around Australia they can cost anywhere from $200 to $700 depending on where you are and how high you jump from, so cost really depends on where in the world you want to jump.
Be warned though, skydiving can be addictive and you may find yourself signing up for some costly but rewarding lessons so that you can jump out of planes without a friendly instructor strapped to your back or planning holidays around where the best jump spots are.