We had just moved to Abu Dhabi a few months earlier. Still new in the country, we lived in a sad little hotel apartment, didn’t feel like there was much to do and hadn’t met a lot of people yet. The only people we knew at the time were some of Nick’s colleagues who had also just been relocated from London. Living in the same hotel as us, they were usually up for happy hour drinks after work. It was on one of those typical evenings that we got a great idea.
We were planning on going out and had a quick G&T with the guys, sitting outside, enjoying the excellent weather that we were still amazed about. New in the Middle East we were joking around about what we could possibly do on the weekends. Being a Muslim country, most of us still had strong presumptions from the media around this region, and what we could and couldn’t do. Suddenly someone suggested skydiving. We all just laughed about it. However, as the suggestions continued to roll in, they somehow all sounded increasingly boring. We turned back to the skydiving idea but didn’t really expect we would be able to book on such short notice. At the same time, we were all a bit hesitant. It seemed like the craziest thing you could possibly do. Both of us had always wanted to try it, but when it came to actually taking the decision, the pipe suddenly sounded different. That’s an old Danish saying – meaning we were swallowing our words.
Fast forward a few G&Ts later, and we had all booked and paid for a 5am jump the day after the next in Dubai. We were psyched about the idea and went on to celebrate the decision with a few more drinks in the city. None of us realised what we had actually done, besides the 600 USD missing on each of our bank accounts. The next day we didn’t give it much thought, probably because we were ‘tired’ from the day before. We enjoyed some relaxation at the pool and in the afternoon we took a taxi to Dubai Marina where we had booked a hotel close to the dropzone. When we woke up at 4am to get ready and find our way to the office, we still weren’t nervous or particular excited. It was probably too early for such emotions to kick in. That would soon change.
On arrival, the first few steps involved a lot of waiting around. First for registration, then for the parachutes to be folded and for our instructor to arrive. Managing to stay awake, even at this ungodly hour, we had to read through some lengthy statements and guidelines. We signed that if we should somehow end our days over the next few hours, it wasn’t their problem. We were then introduced to our instructor, who we would rely upon for survival. This was a tandem jump, and he would be our sole lifeline. He taught us how to hold our head and body when jumping out of the plane as well as when free-falling (spoiler-alert: like a banana).
At this point, it started creeping up on us, that we were really going to do this! Nick, in particular, was looking a little concerned. He had figured out that he was the only one of us, who hadn’t been given a pair of goggles. When expressing his concerns to the instructor, he was promptly told to pay attention to the parachute and the instructions instead – apparently “those are the important things which keep you alive”. Of course, he eventually received a pair, and all was good and well. Then came the time to board the tiny Twin Otter plane. Only 5 people can jump at a time, but the flight was packed. Each one of us had an instructor as well as our own private cameraman. That makes it 15 people on board, plus a pilot, which might help explain the price tag.
Even with Kia being somewhat afraid of heights and Nick having an increasing fear of flying, we were both okay. Then just seconds after take-off, with the wheels barely off the tarmac, they decided to open the big door that we were destined to jump out of. Nick was seated at the front of the plane, directly opposite the open door. When they proceeded to take off our seatbelts, turned the aircraft with the door downward facing, and with the wind howling through it, it felt like you might just slip out.
Of course, that didn’t happen, but Nick gazed at his watch, and the heart rate sensor was already reading 120 bpm and climbing.
It helped that the view of Dubai Marina and the Palm was spectacular. Looking at the altimeter on the instructor’s wrist, it read 3,000. We knew we had to jump at 4,000m (13,000 feet) so it was getting close. That was pretty obvious from the view too – the city and its skyscrapers were getting ever smaller. Nick asked his instructor if we should be getting ready and strapped on soon. Turns out, the altimeter was measuring in feet and that we were actually less than 1000m high. We needed to go 3 times higher, and there was plenty of time to the jump. Perhaps to distract us a bit, we all had to do a small interview with our personal cameraman. There was definitely some darker thoughts under the surface, but according to the footage, we both seemed just fine.
Eventually, we were strapped to our instructors, which gave a weird sense of security. It felt like wearing a giant seatbelt. Then we waited some more. While you are waiting, you stare at this red light at the front of the plane. As soon as you hit 4,000 meters, it turns green. It reminded us of a military aircraft and that we were parachuting out over a warzone. At this point, it was starting to get pretty cold in the plane. Even though it was a baking 36 degrees Celsius on the ground, up in the air, the temperature was closer to 10 degrees. We were shaking a bit, definitely because of the cold. What else could it be?
Suddenly the light turned green. Kia wanted to jump first, but Nick would get the honours as he was sitting closest to the door. There’s not exactly a lot of space to manoeuvre, so you jump in sequence. They strap you even tighter, which is precisely what you want. You move slowly towards the door, not super gracefully as you are strapped tight to another person who is much bigger than you. Soon you are next in line. Now it’s time to concentrate. You try to remember all the stuff you were taught about body and head positioning and that you need to look the right way and smile for the camera. Only Kia got that last part right.
1… 2… 3…
And you are jumping out of a freaking aeroplane. You are doing your best to keep your body in the shape of a banana, and your legs bent. It doesn’t really matter though, the instructor got you covered, and everything goes down so fast you don’t really realise what’s happening. For the first couple of seconds, you are just screaming until you can’t scream anymore, and then you start laughing. You can barely hear yourself screaming and laughing like a maniac because the wind is blowing around you with close to 200 km/h. That’s just about when the photoshoot over Dubai Marina and the Palm starts. All you need to worry about is enjoying the view, occasionally looking at the camera, smiling, and perhaps giving the thumbs up. In fact, you are still not realising that you just jumped out of a plane midair.
All of a sudden, the free fall ends. Your instructor pulls the parachute, and you haven’t even had time to consider whether it is working or not. It brakes your descent dramatically. This is where the second most uncomfortable thing of the trip happens (the first being the suicidal jump itself). The instructor will unstrap a small hook, meaning you slip down 5-10cm in your harness. It feels more like you slide all the way down to the ground and your untimely death. It’s all good though because you are now much less tightly strapped and you can suddenly breathe again (although you never realised you were out of breath).
From jumping out of the plane and until the parachute is freed, not more than 60 seconds have gone by. It felt longer, and shorter, at the same time. Now you have time to actually enjoy the magnificent views of Dubai Marina and the Palm. You can tell from the pictures how great that was. They also managed to fly us close together, so we could wave at each other high up in the sky. That was pretty cool, to say the least. If you are as lucky as Nick, they might even let you control the parachute for a while. When you are gliding, the wind is no longer rushing by, and everything becomes quiet. This gives a lovely sense of serenity. You get to really enjoy the view and the feeling of flying like a bird. The next 4-5 minutes of flight time felt much longer and was probably the best part of the whole charade.
Then it is all about the landing. For Kia, this was easy, as she had been doing some yoga. Nick, on the other hand, is a little less flexible. When you are a few 100 meters up, you will practice the skill of pulling your knees up as high as you can. Nick’s first attempt at that was not approved by his instructor. He let him know that “you need to do better than that, or you will break your ankles”. That seemed to do the trick and up the knees went. We proceeded to land at a big grass field, where you just scoot your butt over the grass until you stop. Simple as that. Somehow they manage to hit all the biggest puddles so we should have brought a spare pair of pants. We didn’t, so instead, it looked like we had gotten a little too scared about the whole thing.
After the jump, we were very excited. But we were also stunned somehow. We couldn’t really express our feelings for quite some time. It really is hard to explain how you feel after you have done the craziest thing of your entire life. However, we would do it again a million times! Even considering the steep price.
Next time we want to jump somewhere that can beat the view of Dubai Marina and the Palm. Any suggestions out there? Please throw us a comment below!
Company: SkyDive Dubai
Location: Dubai Marina
Dropzones: Dubai Marina or in the desert
Price: 600 USD (Marina), 460 USD (Desert)
Weight limit: 100kg
Photos and videos are delivered on a USB drive