“ Freefall / Sky dive at Lake Taupo New Zealand „
During the planning of my New Zealand trip, I had pencilled in a skydive because thats what you do in NZ isn't it - "extreme" activities? Taupo was one of the places that had been highly recommended for this owing to its quite breathtaking scenery for the freefall. As it was also one of the first places I was to be visiting (as I was going North to South) I swallowed my fear of heights and went for it!
Taupo is known as the skydiving captial of the world with over 30000 people hurling themselves out of planes every year here! Becuase of this, you are spoilt for choice with a number of companies offering skydiving packages. I opted for Skydive Taupo which is a British run operator with the campest pink plane I have ever seen! After booking my slot, I travelled to the airfield for my briefing altohugh the staff will collect you from town in a limo!
Skydiving in Taupo is clearly big business and there a re a number of prices for your experience. It is worth having a general idea of how much you're prepared to spend beforehand as you can easily get persuaded to part with $500 for the full package (remember, these people are professional sales people!) After watching a DVD of someone's jump, you are asked if you wish to jump from 12000 or 15000 feet (decisions decisions!) and whether you want your experience filmed by your tandem jumper (this is the max price option). If you choose not to, you will still be bombarded with photo and merchandise options to part you with more cash when you've landed.
I opted for 15000 feet and no filming (as I wanted some money for the rest of my holiday!) I was kitted up and introduced to my tandem jumper who funnily enough was also from Birmingham (its a small world!) After a few promotion shots (for the photo package I would be offered later) we headed over to the pink plane and headed up.
If you've never been in one of these planes before, I cannopt stress the difference between it and the 747 I came over in! The plane was tiny and cramped, with no seats and the pilot decided to helpfully allow us to experience "zero G" by nose diving the plane suddenly making us all stick to the roof! One lady did not find this helped with her nerves and turned a nasty shade of green! As the roof is glass, there is a wondeful view of the breath taking Taupo surroundings which include a huge lake and snow capped mountains. Suddenly, at 15000ft, the doors slung open and I was encouraged to slide towards the opening. My mind questioned what had happened to my sanity as everything about you screams "what are you doing?!?" as you edge closer! As we leapt form the plane my mind went blank...
The next thing I recalled was hurtling at alarming speeds through the air. My face was being pulled in directions I had never felt before and my hearing stopped working. As I slowly got my head together, I started to enjoy the experience and looked down to see the perfect patchwork quilt appearance of the land below along with the huge lake and mountains. After we had spun and twisted a few times, I felt the force of the parachute open above me for the first relaxing part of the experience!
The glide down is truly wonderful and words cannot describe the feeling of relief on one hand, with the enormity of what you've just put yourself through. I decided not to celebrate too much yet, as we still hadn't landed! I managed to get one of my ears to "pop" allowing me to hear my tandem friend talk me through the sights. I could quite happily have glided forever as there really is no other feeling like it.
I noticed the airfield start to get closer and remembered what my instructor had told me - "just keep your legs up and land on your arse" (his words not mine!) The landing was not as comfortable as I had hoped but at the end of the day, I had just jumped 15000 feet and survived without my fear of heights kicking in at any point!
I resolutely brushed past the sales staff offering me T-shirt, DVDs etc and paid about £150 for my experience whilst the other waited for the soundtracks to be added to their polished max price package! Would I do it all again? Hell yeah!
The next installment of my adrenaline activities!
While in New Zealand, I really wanted to do a sky dive (surprising after all, this was after I had thrown myself off a bridge tied only to an elastic band - see my previous review). Here, unlike home in Belfast, you would be jumping out over beautiful scenary in great weather and all would be well with the world. So when I was in Lake Taupo which is up kind of in the middle of the North Island I deceided that I would do. Also, having researched sky diving in New Zealand, I discovered that this was the cheapest place in the country to do it. The price for a tandem skydive is now $339 to jump from 15,000 feet (3,000 feet higher than you can jump from in the United Kingdom). You can also do a jump from 12,000 and this costs $249.
I did the 15,000 foot jump package, as this came with a free video (it is now a dvd) and a free t-shirt. In all the package costs $499.
So what was the experience like? Well it was an early start and my friend and I drove over to the dive centre. First things were first and we had to sign our life away!
Here we were given a brief run through of what will happen and it was explained to us how we jump. Basically we are strapped to the front of a dive instructor who is in control of pulling the cord to release the parachute and guides you to the ground. So really I had nothing to do!
So after the safety talk, we were given suits to wear, along with a kind of safety harness thing that you step into and this is what keeps you attached to the instructor - so it is important to make sure you get it on properly, but they do make sure you do have it on right. You are also given googles and a cap thing for your head.
So about 10 of us were there to jump, we were taken out to the airstrip and introduced to our jumpers. We got attached and then jumped aboard the first custom built skydiving plane in New Zealand. We had to sort of shimmy ourselves into position. Be warned though as last in is first out - which I was soon to learn to my peril.
So up up up we went in the plane and it was then that the nerves started to hit - what on earth was I thinking? Only James Bond jumps out of planes for kicks. It is really noisy in the plane, bearing in mind it is not a commercial plane, so it is really difficult to hear. My instructor was saying something to me, but I couldn't really hear him.
But then the weirdest thing happened. We started to descend. Then i realised what the instructor had been saying - we were going to land. it turned out that there was too much cloud cover to safely jump, as if we did by the time we came through the cloud and if we were over the middle of the lake there would not be enough time to get us over dry land. The instructors were laughing as they said they had never landed in the plane before!
Basically then they said that they would wait a couple of hours but if it was not safe enough there would be no jump. We were all gutted, but went over to the hangar and had a cup of coffee. Only about 30 minutes later though the skies cleared, so we were hurried back out (in case it clouded over) and we went back up. The weather forecaster at the airfield said that there should not be any more cloud, so we were good to go.
Although I tried to make sure I was not the first out of the plane, I still somehow managed to be second out!
The weirdest sensation is when the instructor shuffles you out to the door. He is still sitting in the plane, but you are dangling out in the air, strapped on to his front, it feels so odd. Then he leans forward and off you go, hurtling through the sky at 200km/h. It is really fast. Despite the goggles, my eyes were watering like crazy. You are in a free fall for one minute, then the instructor pulls the cord which feels like putting the brakes on when speeding down the motorway. To be honest this bit does hurt a bit, well it did for me, as the harness dug into me between my legs!
However, then you are just seemingly floating down to earth and you really do get the most spectacular views over the whole area.
It was over very quickly though, as we were soon coming speeding towards the landing point, where you have to try to lift your legs and run at the same time to avoid falling.
All in all, this experience was absolutely magical, so much fun and so much better than a bungy jump. I would definitely recommend that you try a sky dive, I will certainly do another one if I get the chance.