Jumping off a plane with Skydive Wanaka

The bright orange of my overall was the only thing that was lighting up my face at this point. I look at Meagaan’s face, and am somewhat glad that it is marked by a certain nervousness. My travel buddy is not impervious to pre-skydive jitters after all, despite her constant efforts of trying to talk me into jumping out of a plane.

Skydive Wanaka

The “before” picture…

Needless to say, her efforts paid off. All kitted out with bright colourful overalls, tandem harness, aviator fleece hats, aerodynamic goggles and warm gloves, I stood in the departure lounge of Skydive Wanaka, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, feeling lost. Stripped of my phones, camera, sunglasses and day-pack, I felt a bit exposed – I was about to do one of the craziest things ever, and had nothing to document or fiddle with but my safety harness. Not even the foosball tables could distract me. I tried to take comfort in the fact we’d be jumping off a bridge the same day, but to no avail.

Skydive Wanaka

Skydive Wanaka’s departure lounge, with bean bags and foosball tables

The moment of nervousness and no photo taking was short-lived though, as my fellow jumpers and I were greeted by our tandem masters; wearing big smiles, kick-ass overalls and some serious-looking equipment, they looked like they knew what they were doing. Geoff came over and introduced himself, the only Kiwi tandem master at Skydive Wanaka, checking that my equipment was all good to go, and off we were, climbing onto the stylish orange airplane, after taking a few more photos of proof on the ground.

Skydive Wanaka

The most stylish little airplane!

Scenic flight meets emergency exit

From that moment onwards, everything was so foreign and curious, I had no time to be nervous. Who’s ever sat on a plane straddling a bench? The atmosphere on the plane was hilarious – lots of photos being shot and videos being recorded, jokes being pulled, Geoff pointing out the landmarks, it was a weird but wonderful cross of scenic flight meets emergency exit procedure – you get to enjoy the marvellous views but you still have to jump off!

Skydive Wanaka

Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, and the Clutha River

And then the moment came – we were at 12,000 ft, and the camera flyer next to me opened the door. HANG ON A MINUTE!!! Oh wait, I guess that was part of the deal. At that moment, it sunk in. I wasn’t here to enjoy the views from the plane.

The scariest part

The contentedness of knowing Geoff and I were not the first ones to jump was short-lived when my jaw dropped watching the scenes unfolding in front of my eyes. The camera flyer stepped outside – yes, he stepped onto the narrow railing, clinging to the plane with Spiderman-like elegance. The first tandem jumpers got in position, sitting at the exit, and with a synchronous nod from the camera flyer and the tandem master, they jumped. And they dropped out of sight. Very. Quickly.

Skydive Wanaka

Stepping outside for a little air…

My heart was racing. I had just witnessed the most badass thing ever, but Geoff suddenly started moving, and since I was tightly strapped to him, so was I.

Skydive Wanaka

About to jump off a perfectly fine aircraft

My turn to pull a James Bond!

And with an encouraging last few words, Geoff and I were off to the exit:

So, are you going to take care of me for the next 10 minutes, Christina?

Skydive Wanaka

Great idea, at 12,000 ft … 🙂

Yeah right mate, is what I thought, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Although the way to the exit was the longest few seconds of my life, once I had reached the exit, I had accepted what was going to happen and was, strangely enough, practically free from fear; or perhaps, close to fainting. Legs tucked under the plane, head back on Geoff’s shoulder and hands on my harness, all I could see was the bright blue sky, as with one quick push, we had stepped outside for some air!

Skydive Wanaka

Hips forward, head back, hands on harness, legs tucked under the plane – ready to jump!

I suddenly saw the beauty that is the orange plane above me, quickly followed by white cloud and the amazingly blue Lake Wanaka and the mountains.

Freefall!! Woohoo!!

Skydive Wanaka

Bye bye wee little orange plane!

I let go of my harness as Geoff tapped me on the shoulder, and put my arms out. Man, flying feels awesome! Well, technically it’s falling, but let’s just roll with flying. Truthfully, it didn’t feel like falling at all. I guess when you’re that high up, you don’t realise the ground is coming closer at about 60m per second. So flying it is!

Skydive Wanaka

The closest to the clouds I have ever been!

For 45 seconds we were floating horizontally. The wind was quite fierce and loud, and I was, excuse the pun, totally blown away. All I could say was:

My face has frozen off!

And of course:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!

Nonstop. I’m astonished to this day that Geoff is not deaf after jumping with me!

Skydive Wanaka

Enjoying the views from up high, without a plane. So much nicer!

The 45 seconds were over all too soon, and with a slight tug, I was being dragged upwards. It all happened so quickly that I was momentarily bewildered until I saw the bright yellow canvas of the parachute unravelling above our heads. I felt so exhilarated, and, admittedly, although unconsciously, relieved, I had to give Geoff an impromptu reverse hug and thank him for this amazing experience!

Skydive Wanaka

Those cars are becoming bigger by the second…

And so I was enjoying looking at Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains 3km above the ground. It is hard to find the words describing what it means to float in the sky without being enclosed by an airplane or surrounded by the metal and glass of a helicopter and marvelling at the breathtaking scenery. I have to say, my vocabulary was pretty limited coming down. It consisted mostly of “Wicked!” as a verbal outburst of uncontrollable euphoria. There may also have been a few expletives on jumping out of the plane, but my memory might betray me…

At one point the ground seemed an awful lot closer, and the crawling ants morphed back into cars and people moving about near the airport. And right on cue, Geoff prompted me to practise the landing position – lifting my outstretched legs up, and a few moments later, we had an ace landing – not dragging our bums across the lawn, but elegantly setting foot on the ground, jogging to a halt.

Skydive Wanaka

Ah, what an experience! O for Awesome!

Well if the adrenalin hadn’t kicked in earlier, this was the point when my body realised just how much it could produce. Jumping up and down I ran over to my buddy Meagaan who had just touched down as well, and we couldn’t believe what we had just done!

A word of warning on skydiving

It is highly addictive. #JustSayin. 😀

Skydive Wanaka

The “after” picture!

And let’s not forget why I did all this: I jumped off a plane to raise funds for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, as part of my fundraising tour through New Zealand for the Blog4NZ project. You can still donate until the end of January, and your donation will be doubled by Microsoft. The money will allow the appeal to support the people of Christchurch with much-needed social and community projects.

A BIG BIG THANK YOU to Geoff, Jools and the crew at Skydive Wanaka for an awesome and unforgettable experience. I can honestly say, I love skydiving. Even more than bungy. I’m going to have to come back and pull a James Bond form 15,000 ft!

 Have you ever jumped out of a plane? Would you do it?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  8 comments for “Jumping off a plane with Skydive Wanaka

  1. 6 December, 2012 at 10:59

    Wow, Christina. You’re one cool girl. That’s all!

    • Christina
      6 December, 2012 at 21:54

      Haha, thanks Sophie. Some call me cool, others crazy. I can live with that and my appetite for adrenalin 🙂

  2. 8 January, 2013 at 08:16

    Such awesome photos!! John was going to skydive during our trip to NZ but didn’t end up doing it…definitely not for the faint of heart but looks like you had a blast =)

    • Christina
      8 January, 2013 at 13:16

      Thanks! Funny, I wasn’t going to jump, and will forever be grateful to my friend Meagaan who convinced me to do it. You should do it next time you’re in NZ, or maybe in Norway. Pretty amazing scenery there, too!

  3. 7 August, 2013 at 23:27

    I bet that would have given you the feeling of being on top of the world. Thanks for the info and advice. I agree definitely the scariest part would be watching the person in front of your disappear. Good luck with future travels.

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