I am terribly afraid of flying as well as heights, yet when I was in New Zealand, I jumped out of a perfectly functioning plane at 15,000 feet to do skydiving… and yep — it was one of the most amazing things that I have ever done in my life!
…You bet that it was scary, but I’m just so glad that I have finally ticked this activity off of my list. It was also totally worth the ‘nerves’ and the money!
Fittingly, I did this in Queenstown — the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ — during my road trip adventure with Wild Kiwi and I opted to go with a reputable company called as ‘NZONE‘. I absolutely had so much fun with them and below was how my whole experience went.
Skydiving in Queenstown with NZONE
» Decisions, Decisions…
When I stepped in to NZONE’s office, I immediately saw the waiting guests who were equally jittery as I was — and who were also equally crazy enough to make ‘jumping out of a plane‘ their agenda for that day.
But I must say, at that moment, I was more ecstatic at how perfect the weather was; because if it wasn’t, I would have left New Zealand without accomplishing my goal of doing sky diving!
You see, I came to the town at day #19 throughout my 21-day NZ road trip. In all those days, no matter if the weather was great, I skipped on ALL of the skydiving opportunities in the other locations because I really wanted to do it in Queenstown. Why so…? Well aside from the fact that I love its topography, Queenstown is also the birth place of ‘tandem skydiving’ in New Zealand. Needless to say, I wanted to ‘commemorate’ my 1st sky dive jump in this kind of ‘adventure place’!
That being said, it was such a risky decision but I have gambled it all on this day; so you can see why I was so glad that the weather turned out great!
P.S. Skydiving is a very weather-dependent activity.
…I was swiftly brought back to reality though when I caught a glimpse of a promotional video in the lobby that showed Queenstown’s terrain from thousands of feet up high.
I gulped. “I’m going to be seeing that view in a while, huh?”
* * * * *
I will be doing what people would call as ‘tandem skydiving’. It’s where I’ll be strapped together with a qualified ‘Jumpmaster’. To date, NZONE has 3 different packages, namely…
- STRATOSFEAR: 9,000 feet at NZ$299 (freefall for 25 seconds)
- TROPOSFEAR: 12,000 feet at NZ$349 (freefall for 45 seconds)
- EXOSFEAR: 15,000 feet at NZ$449 (freefall for 60 seconds)
This doesn’t include photo and video packages yet which were at NZ$199 (for photos and videos taken with a wrist-mounted GoPro camera only), NZ$289 (for freefall photos and video taken by another freefall skydiver who will jump alongside you and your Jumpmaster), and NZ$359 (which is a combination of the former two packages).
I initially wanted to do 9,000 feet only because the difference in seconds didn’t mean much to me at first (not to mention that it was costly too lol) — however… I quickly changed my mind when a fellow guest in the briefing room told me that I should get 15,000 feet for my first time. He said that he has done skydiving for several times now and the difference in height and seconds were immense that he has never done anything below 15,000 feet anymore.
I was sold with the idea. Besides, I thought, “To heck with it! If I’m going to do it, I might as well go out with a ‘bang’!”
(At the same time, I had this funny mental image where I’m throwing dollar bills as I gradually fall down from the air).
Website: NZONE Skydive
Phone: +64 3 442 5867
Freephone: 0800 376 796 (New Zealand Only)
Address: 35 Shotover Street, Queenstown
Email: [email protected]z
After we arrived at the drop zone, I was paired up with two veteran skydivers: Vasi from Romania and Moyses from New Zealand.
“We’re going to be the BEST of friends today!” Moyses quipped as he took my hand. “Don’t worry, it’s only my first jump today.”
I laughed because I knew he had about 10,000 jumps under his belt (I saw his profile at the lobby).
After that, I looked over at Vasi’s direction after we did a little interview and he smiled, “Don’t forget to look at me when we’re up there! I’ll take lots of photos and videos of you.”
At this point, I knew I came with the right company because these guys were just so full of energy and warmth — and to think that they have already been repeatedly ‘jumping’ that day! (I say this because if I were them, I would have already been tired and grumpy.)
* * * * *
Moyses, Vasi and I proceeded to walk to the runway and towards our plane: a small Cessna Grand Caravan or “The Supervan 900” which could hold up to 9 pairs of tandem skydivers. The inside was modified in a way wherein the floor has been cushioned and divided into 2 rows.
Since I was jumping from the highest height, I was the first one to board the plane. Moyses went in first and I followed as he beckoned me to sit in front of him. “We’re going to be tight in space here, but just sit and relax. I’ll take care of everything!”
In front of me sat Vasi who made sure that my helmet and goggles were put on properly; whereas Moyses worked away at the back as he made sure that I was strapped on to his harnesses tightly. While they working their magic and as the engine revved, I couldn’t help but feel that I gained two big burly ‘brothers’ who were there to ensure that I was ready and safe.
Meanwhile, you might be wondering: how was I feeling? Thankfully, I was calm whilst I ogled at the amazing mountain ranges that surrounded us — but of course, my anxiousness was there. In a way, the “technique” of ’emptying one’s mind’ worked heaps for me. After all, I knew that if I think too much of things, I would become a huge mess.
I guess I was really doing great because Moyses didn’t feel that there was a need for me to use an oxygen mask. (Case in point, a fellow jumper who was sitting beside me and who was also going to do the 15,000 feet jump was given an oxygen mask because she was getting too excited. When I caught her eye, I gave her a reassuring nod as if to give her some encouragement; and she nodded back nervously.)
* * * * *
It took about 15 minutes for us to reach 9,000 feet. When we did, the pilot put out the signal and the jumpers were in position.
One by one, I saw them dive out of the plane, and for each person that disappeared from my view, I felt my pulse slowly rising up.
By the way, my sister was skydiving too and we were put in the same group. However, since she was going to do the 9,000 feet, I saw her jump out of the plane first — but mind you: she did it with flair, and by ‘flair’, I mean the kind where she screamed bloody murder when it was her turn. I was laughing so much at the sight of her that somehow, my nerves temporarily eased a bit. (I think I might be the kind of person who feeds off on other people’s anxiousness and fear).
» The Jump
It was an additional 5 minutes or so for us to reach 15,000 feet. When it was my time to jump out first, Moyses tapped my shoulder and I looked at him holding a thumbs-up sign. “It’s our turn!”
I suddenly felt my stomach in knots and a rush of thoughts went through my brain.
Oh no. I don’t think I’m ready!
What was I supposed to do again?
Oh my god, this is really happening…
Oh wait, ‘banana position’! Banana position!
Moyses dragged us to the edge of the door and put the both of us in position. I gulped as I saw the vastness before me — and below me.
In that same time, I saw Vasi hanging on the edge of the door, ready to jump before us.
Oh my goodness, Vasi!
You crazy person!
Dang, these people are really crazy.
I am also crazy!
Okay, okay, wait, the position.
Be a banana, Aileen.
I am a banana!
Moyses mumbled a countdown.
In that split second, I let out a tiny squeal as I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach that I hated so much.
* * * * *
For a few seconds, everything around me was spinning. I didn’t know which way was up anymore — and also, I think I messed up my ‘banana position’ (the optimal position for aerodynamics when exiting the plane in which your head is back with your body shaped like an inverted banana shape) because I think I was looking down too much at the scenery.
My mouth was also open so it all felt too dry. It didn’t help that I was wearing braces so it took me a while to adjust my lips.
Anyhow, when we were in a more stable position, Moyses tapped my shoulder. That’s when I remembered that it’s the signal that tells me of how I could now spread my arms.
I did, and as I felt the pressure against my body — take note, we were falling at 200 kilometres per hour!!! — I gradually felt more at ease.
That’s when it hit me: I’m freakin’ flying!
“So this is how it feels to be a flying superhero,” I thought as I looked at the breathtaking scenery before me while my arms flapped against the air.
In a few seconds, Vasi also came into my view and we had some fun as he continued to document the whole freefall while I was strapped on to Moyses.
I started to laugh in a while, because I simply felt like a badass like these two Jumpmasters.
* * * * *
After 60 seconds — which somehow felt a bit more than that — Moyses pulled out our parachute and I felt my body being pulled up abruptly in the air.
I gotta admit, it was painful on my thigh area; but thankfully, I got more comfortable with the position.
During this time, we spent gliding around the air doing turns and spirals in order to get a better view of the whole of Queenstown.
…Boy, it was amazing.
After some time, we caught sight of the landing zone and we did a smooth landing.
Now I definitely know why everyone is gushing about their skydiving experiences, because I personally had a smile plastered on my face for hours after I did mine!
I’m also extremely happy that I did the highest jump at 15,000 feet. If I didn’t, I probably would have regretted it. So I say: go and do the highest for your first try. You might never know when you can do it again anyway; and as for the money, we can always earn it back — but for our time? We really can’t.
As for the concept of fear, I won’t lie: it was scary, but only for a short while. After all, the rest was pure bliss that it will become an experience and memory that you will surely treasure forever! (Even more so when it’s about conquering your fears like I have.)
Overall, even if you aren’t in New Zealand, I highly suggest that you sign up for a skydiving experience if your destination offers it. But if you’re in New Zealand, I would highly recommend NZONE in Queenstown for your jump. Like I’ve been saying: it’s going to be worth it!
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