Skydiving has been at the top of my bucketlist for the longest time. You may ask, why would anyone pay good money to step out of an aircraft door from thousands of feet in the air. The real question is why the hell not?
Be warned, this extreme activity is not for everyone. The build-up leading up to the actual jump can be nerve-wracking. Your mind goes on overdrive as you think of everything that could go wrong. But once you leap out of the plane, you’re overtaken by this overwhelming feeling of bliss. It’s pure zen as you freefall at 200 km/hour through the clouds. Skydiving is both exhilarating and yet so peaceful at the same time. Your whole body and mind just drifts as you plummet to the ground below at terminal velocity. You want the feeling to last forever.
There are lots of places you can try this out around the world. Skydiving in Queenstown was the cherry on top of our family vacation to New Zealand. Queenstown in the South Island, has been dubbed “The Adventure Capital of the World.” I found out that skydiving was one of the many extreme activities you can do here. Queenstown is one of the most beautiful destinations I’ve ever been to. When you see the landscapes and raw scenery, you understand why this place was picked as the setting for Middle-Earth. It just breathes pure magic. Despite the cost of the skydive, the thought of being able to tick this extreme activity off my bucketlist in such a place was something I couldn’t pass up. I was there already, so I might as well do it, right?! Right! I’ll just deal with my credit card bill in the future!
Queenstown as seen from the Sklyine Gondola viewdeck
There are three skydive tour operators in Queenstown: NZONE Skydive, Skydive Wanaka and Skydive Paradise. All three offer tandem skydives with similar rates, starting at $NZD 299 to 439 (roughly Php 10,000 – 15,000) depending on the height you jump from. It’s expensive, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I know tandem skydiving is offered in some places in the Philippines like Bantayan in Cebu, but it starts at Php 18,000.
But that doesn’t cover the photo/video package. The Ultimate Combo, which includes services of a skydiving photographer who jumps along with you to take awesome photos from afar costs almost as much as the skydive itself! I decided to jump from 12,000 feet and opted for the cheapest Handicam package with a GoPro strapped to the pilot’s wrist.
Sample shot from Ultimate Combo (shown on TV screen at NZONE’s Reservation office)
Skydiving is a very weather-dependent activity and the spring weather in New Zealand can be pretty fickle. On our first day in Queenstown, we went mountain biking and it was crazy cold, rainy and overcast the whole day. According to local tour guides, the best time to skydive is first thing in the morning to ensure clear skies. The weather forecast didn’t look that good in Glenorchy and Wanaka during our last free day, so I went with NZONE, which had available slots for noon.
Of the three, NZONE offers the nearest dropzone, where you start the skydive near the domestic airport, which is about 15 minutes away. The other two require longer travel time since their jump off points are in Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown and Glenorchy, 45 minutes away.
NZONE Skydive is NZ’s first tandem skydive in operation, currently celebrating over 25 years of skydiving. They’re the only tandem skydive company to have been awarded the Supreme Tourism Award and have jumped over 250,000 tandem to-date. My assigned Skydive Master was Sasa Jojic.
The whole activity takes 3.5 hours, including orientation, getting to the jump off point, gearing up and the activity, so you can do it if you have half a day to spare. I was the only solo traveler in a group with 3 other couples. It would have been nice to have a companion, but Art, who hadn’t gotten his fill of biking wanted to just spend the whole day biking again, so we went our separate ways. Thankfully, the weather was fair during the jump. Aside from the jump, the bonus was getting to control the parachute on the way down once it opened. I’ve attempted to try tandem paragliding 3 times already in the Philippines, but weather conditions have always been unfavorable at the last minute. This time, everything was perfect.
Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Check out the video and judge for yourself.
For those heading to New Zealand and want to try this out, here are a few tips and basics you should know.
You can reserve slots for your jump easily online or do a walk-in reservation (subject to availability) at their office or any of the tour agencies around town. I was able to book a slot for the next day with no problem. The jump-off point is NZONE Skydive Centre in the middle of town in Queenstown (35 Shotover St). From here, you will take a shuttle to the Dropzone where you skydive. You’ll also be brought back to town on the shuttle.
WHAT TO WEAR:
You will be issued suits, so you can wear whatever you want underneath depending on the season. In Winter, tour operators recommend that multiple layers be used instead of one large jacket. Wear secure footwear that won’t fall off. You’ll also be issued a cap, goggles and safety gloves. You can wear prescription glasses under the goggles.
WHAT TO BRING:
You don’t have to bring anything much. Unfortunately, personal cameras and Go Pro’s are prohibited from being on board the aircraft due to safety and insurance reasons. All of the equipment has to be checked properly due to the extreme nature of skydiving. But you can take photos on the ground while getting ready. There are lockers at the hangar right before you dive where you can leave your bags and any items of clothing you don’t want to wear under your suit.
- 15,000 ft – ExosFear (freefall for 60 seconds at 200 kph) – $439
- 12,000 ft – TroposFear (freefall for 45 seconds at 200 kph) – $339
- 9,000 ft – StratosFear (freefall for 25 seconds at 200 kph) – $299
NZONE offers professional skydive photographers who will jump with you and take photos/video during your skydive. A cheaper option is to avail of the Handicam package, with a GoPro strapped to the wrist of your Tandem Skydive Pilot. Photos and videos are made available on the same day. They’ll be uploaded on NZONE’s website gallery for immediate sharing on social media, and you can get a USB with all the photos and videos. The Photo and video options can be booked upon check-in. Quality may vary due to weather conditions and style of the photographers or tandem masters.
- Handicam Photos & Video – $189
- Freefall Photos and Video – $259
- The Ultimate Combo (HC and Freefall combined) – $329
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- Allow 3.5 hours return trip from central Queenstown reservations shop for the whole activity.
- Trips run every half hour from 7:00am until 3:00pm in Winter, or 6:00am until 4:00pm in Summer. Trips are subject to availability and are weather dependent.
- If jumps are cancelled because of the weather, they will try their best to rearrange the jump on the next available time slot.
- If you have a limited time only, book your skydive immediately on the first available time slot in your holiday and keep a back-up day free just in case.
- If you are not available on the next trip, you will be refunded in full from wherever you paid originally.
- The aircraft used (Cessna Grand Caravan) can hold up to 9 clients per jump.
- The best time to go is the morning. Check the weather forecast before you book your trip.
- There is no minimum or maximum age limit! They have taken passengers up to 94 years of age. Passengers under 18 years require written parental/guardian consent.
- The maximum weight limit it 100kgs/220lbs. There is no minimum weight limit although children have to be big enough to fit into the harness.
- Non-jumping companions (only 1 per client) may be allowed to join the shuttle up to the drop-off point subject to space availability, but they can’t board the aircraft. They can watch and take photos from below.
- If you have more companions, who want to watch, they can take alternative transport to get to the drop-off zone.
- All clients are required to use the restroom before boarding the plane to avoid accidents :p
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
NZONE Skydive. Reservations Office. 35 Shotover Street, Queenstown, New Zealand.