(As seen in The Star Newspaper 05/09/2014)
In October 2011, I watched a memorable Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which directly translates to “You Only Live Once” — Yes, YOLO! It was about three friends who go away for a Bachelor Party in Spain where each of them had their own dares: Scuba diving, skydiving and running with the bulls. Ever since, all I wanted was to scuba and sky dive.
Mid July, on Facebook, sponsored posts by Skydive Diani kept popping up on my news feed. I watched a couple of videos and made an inquiry.
Ingvild of Skydive Diani wrote back with a great brief and this bit would probably scare people away: “At 10,000 feet, you’ll jump out attached to the front of an experienced instructor, and you can feel the rush of freefalling in 200 km/h towards the Earth”.
My birthday was coming up on 22nd August and thought this would be the perfect gift. Knowing my leave was from 25th August, I booked my jump for the 27th.
I asked a couple of friends if they would want to jump with me, and many thought I was nuts. Except for one dare-devil, Nabil, who is an extreme sports junkie!
August 27 arrived and we drove down to Diani. We were pretty early and well chuffed. The jump was set for 10am. Only to get stopped by cops for speeding. Now sitting there thinking, perhaps it’s an act of God, that the jump should not happen; it’s risky; the parachute might fail.
Negative thoughts. After a three-hour frustrating wait for the magistrate to arrive at the mobile court, we got fined Sh25,000 (speed limit was 100 km/h, got charged Sh1,000 for every km/h beyond the limit — we were doing 125). The urge to jump out of a plane seemed quite relevant now.
Eventually we got to Skydive Diani, signed a four-page disclaimer — mainly so the company is not liable if we die or get injured jumping out of the plane and it was a risk we decided to take.
They put on a couple of videos of previous jumpers, trying to hype us up for our jump. I had a quick chat with the owner and instructor whom I was going to be attached to, Gary Lincon-Hope.
Skydive Diani launched in Kenya in December 2013. They have had many jumpers from Kenya and around the world and are quite happy with the response so far.
Gary is from the the UK and has been skydiving for a number of years now. He moved to Kenya and thought Diani was perfect as skydiving is also all about the view and Diani is quite the sight!
It was time. Geared me up. Straps all over. Gave instructions on what to do in the plane before the jump. “Have your feet hanging under the wing, shoulders back, head up straight and then we fall.”
Go-Pro’s attached to capture every moment. We drove to the Ukunda Airstrip. Adrenaline started to kick in. When we got on the plane and took off, my first question to Gary was “what am I supposed to do again?”
Clearly nerves were setting in. I asked Nabil, “What was I thinking doing this?” It was cold at 10,000 feet, with an open door of an airplane.
But the view from up-top was spectacular. Count down began. Six minutes to go. Started to attach his clips and buckles and all to mine. It got tight. There was no way out now. I’m attached to a guy I met just half an hour ago.
One minute to go.
Swung my legs out the door, feet hanging under the wing. The wind was so strong. Gary yelling in my ear, hyping me up, Go-Pro in my face and me yelling “Ohhhh yesssss”. And he leaned over and we fell out of the plane.
The free fall was unbelievable. We were floating. Spinning. Flipping. Went down through clouds. The air was so light. It felt so fresh.
So surreal. I must have gone into dream-mode during the freefall. Until the parachute opened and it was snap back to reality! And the first thing I said was “Oh my God, I just jumped out of a plane” and stared at the skies and clouds and the amazing view of Diani Beach below me. Spun around in circles with the parachute and the final instructions came along for landing. Just to keep my knees up and feet flat so we can land gently.
Gary’s team was already at the beach ready to catch us as we landed. Gary sticks the Go-Pro back in my face and asked me how it was, I just said “it was absolutely amazing!”
The entire experience from my inquiry to freefalling to landing was professional and flawless. They know what they’re doing and take really good care of you. I recommend anyone who has always wanted to skydive to save up and just do it; it only costs Sh30,000. It will be one of the best moments of your life!