Skydive Cape Town
A Travel Experience

South Africa > Western Cape > The West Coast > Cape Town

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 31 January 2008

If the weather's good but you've run out of things to do in Cape Town (though hard to imagine, one presumes that could be possible) why not jump out a plane? Experience our attempt at defying gravity, strapped to the crotch of a complete stranger, at 9000 feet.

Ok, "harnessed" to the crotch would be a more accurate description although, admittedly, it doesn't sound much better. Skydiving is an activity at which, it seems, half my friends appear to be well experienced. I mentioned that I was going to attempt it to a number of people (some of whom I would never have pegged as closet skydivers) and started hearing tales of multiple tandem jumps, Swakopmund skydiving, learning to jump alone, strict rules in New Zealand, and cheap thrills in Salt Lake City (that info courtesy of Jase).

What had I been missing? I was determined to find out.

I made a booking via email with Skydive Cape Town for myself and Jase for us each to have a tandem skydive. I'll skip the long story here, suffice to say that our scheduled jump was cancelled and rescheduled twice due to bad weather, but it's something to keep in mind if you wish to skydive in Cape Town. It's recommended that you call the drop zone about an hour before your skydive time to confirm the booking and check the weather, as the conditions can change quite quickly and the pilots and divers from each jump will assess the current conditions and report them back to the drop zone for subsequent jumps.

Skydive Cape Town: the view from the planeOur third attempt was the successful one. We arrived at the drop zone, signed the indemnity forms, and then were helped into our harnesses and we met our tandem skydiving partners - mine was Jean. I decided that I wanted the DVD and photo package as well, so I was introduced to my personal cameraman, Julian. Then it was off to the plane.

If Jean and I hadn't become firm friends already we were about to become them at this point. This was not one of those special planes you see on TV in which you can actually stand upright. It was small and very cosy and I practically had to clamber onto Jean so that we could fit into the plane and he could attach my harness to his gear. Thankfully the moment of uncomfortableness quickly passed because, hell, this was skydiving, dammit, and this guy was about to guide me out of a plane, hopefully to land in one piece. I guess I'll take my cheap (and expensive) thrills where I can get them.

A few days beforehand I had misplaced a wallet that contained all my store and bank cards, as well as my driver's licence, so that, rather than skydiving, was what was weighing on my mind and consuming most of my thoughts as the plane ascended. I thought the 20-minute trip went by quite quickly but Jase experienced it as painfully slow. I enjoyed the sights of Cape Town - you can clearly see Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the West Coast coastline - and Jase's instructor, realising he wasn't from Cape Town, pointed out various locations to him, while mine took the opportunity to catch 40 winks behind me.

The plane ride was quite loud and I noticed that Jase's instructor and Julian, who were both in front of me, were wearing earplugs. Jase's instructor had earlier told him that he had major hearing loss in both his ears and I wondered if this was the reason why.

As we neared 9000 feet our instructors gave us each an explanation of what was going to happen and what we needed to do. Soon after the pilot indicated to Jean that we were there and the wind speed was around "22", gusting to "33". Jean then passed that information back to the rest of the team on the plane.

Jase and his instructor then moved to the door and suddenly they had swooped away. It happened so fast that I wasn't quite able to compute what had happened (bar the fact that they looked really weird in their pre-jump pose and I had the briefest of wishes that I not look that dorky on my way out) before Julian was out on the side of the plane, cameras pointing my way, and Jean was edging us towards the open door.

Realising the moment was about to occur Jean's instructions jumped back into my head. Hold head back. Wrap legs under plane. Hold harness tight with both hands. I forgot the legs bit until Julian, now hanging from the side of the plane by one hand, reminded me because, really, wrapping your legs under a plane is a bit of an unnatural action.

Skydive Cape Town: no going back nowAnd then we were away.

Or, rather, plummeting to the ground. Really fast.

It took me a second to figure out what the hell was happening. While my brain knew perfectly well, my body took a while to catch up. It couldn't quite adjust to the instant speed. The almost-indescribable instant, plummeting-doom-like speed. Half my internal organs were briefly left behind in surprise at my body suddenly dropping hundreds of metres to the earth. I needed a moment to catch my breath but my lungs hadn't returned to their natural position. Some little subconscious voice way in the back of my mind screamed something to the effect of "Oh dear GAWD!"

When my mind, body, and soul finally synchronised to my surroundings I noticed a slight bite in the air and then Julian was grabbing my arm in mid air and trying to get me to smile into the camera. It was probably just as well as the distraction helped to snap me out of the fact that I was falling really, really, really, really fast and there was a complete stranger strapped to me, holding my fate and entire existence in his right hand.

Thirty seconds isn't a hell of a lot of time. You realise that about 25 seconds in when you've finally adjusted to what is going on and start to enjoy the experience, and then soon afterwards someone pulls the damn parachute cord and suddenly you're upright and drifting gently towards the ground with Julian far below you waving goodbye. Once we had settled I asked Jean to show me his wrist altimeter. The needle was on 4000 feet. We had dropped 5000 feet in 30 seconds. I experienced a rather long moment of profound loss, as well as the realisation that if I wanted to have another go at those stupidly brief little 30 seconds again I'd have to repeat the anticipation-despondency dance with Cape Town's increasingly erratic weather and shell out a whole bunch more money for another attempt. Thanks OPEC and the fuel-price monopoly. I love you so.

Skydive Cape Town: the parachute opens, thankfullyMy mind turned to more serene thoughts as we drifted lazily towards the airfield. I was immediately struck by how quiet and peaceful it was up there. The only blight, as Jean pointed out, was the lovely Koeberg nuclear power station decorating the coastline. Ah, Eskom, I love you, too.

As we whiled away the next few minutes Jean gave me basic instruction on how to manipulate the parachute. Occasionally we swirled left and right in lazy circles that I have to admit made me feel a little nauseous, although they were still fun. A few minutes later, and far too soon for my liking as I was enjoying the quiet atmosphere and the feeling of freedom, the ground started to approach and I watched in amazement as Jase and the skydiving people, who were waiting for us at the landing spot, quite rapidly increased in size from tiny ant people to full-size human beings. Jean manipulated us to the ground and we landed softly on our feet. Julian was immediately there, beaming manically, with the cameras in my face, asking about my experience. I couldn't stop grinning. What a rush.

Cost be damned. I'm officially addicted. Next goal: six-continent drops. And Antarctica, if she'll have me (preferably intact), although I suspect it may be rather cold out there....

Oh yeah. They make you wear dorky transparent eyewear worse than the eyewear they make you wear in chemistry classes. They don't tell you about that until it's too late to run off to Occhiali screaming "Fashion emergency!".

Key Facts
Where: Just outside Cape Town along the R27 (West Coast road), Western Cape, South Africa
Getting There: Directions | Map
Skydive Cape Town is about 40 minutes from Cape Town along the R27. Follow the N1 east or the M5 north through the Paarden Eiland interchange. Keep going for a couple of kilometres and then turn left to head towards Milnerton, then right onto the R27. Continue heading northwards. Eventually you will pass a farm stall on your right and then will reach the Melkbosstrand traffic lights. Continue onwards for approximately 8.5 kilometres, past Koeberg on your left. There will be a small airfield sign on the side of the R27 pointing to a dirt road on your right. Turn here, then follow the road for about 2 kilometres, and turn to the Skydive Cape Town hangar at the sign.
Costs*: Tandem jump: R1300 [?] (all inclusive); DVD and stills: R500 [?]
Note: You can only pay with cash or a bank-guaranteed cheque on the day, or by electronic fund transfer in advance.
More details on pricing, skydiving courses, and gear rental.

*Prices are correct at time of posting. Opinion
Overall Experience: What a rush! Skydivers are all slightly odd, so you need to be prepared for that, but we didn't die, so I have nothing major to complain about. I appreciated that the drop zone kept in contact with me on the days that we had scheduled a jump to let me know the weather conditions. Although it's frustrating to have your jump cancelled it's preferable to getting killed, and therefore only a slight inconvenience.
Costs: The skydive was expensive (and the price has actually increased slightly since we jumped) but much of it, I presume, goes towards fuel costs.
DVD And Stills: The DVD is about 6 minutes long and was well filmed and edited. The stills were taken with a decent Canon camera at a resolution of 3456x2304. I received 97 images on my disc, covering the preparation, flight, jump, and landing.
Additional Notes:
• It's recommended that you remove all the stuff from your pockets before you jump, for obvious reasons, so the best thing to do is leave most of your junk at home. There is a place to store your stuff in the hangar, although it is not secure, but nothing of ours was stolen. You could also lock your stuff in your car.
• We did not receive the certificate that is mentioned on the site. Comments

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