It’s about six seconds of screaming gut-drop and mind-scrambling hell from the moment you move to dangle your legs outside the airplane to when you finally regain the feeling of your stomach in its appropriate place. But then, when you can coherently appreciate what you’re doing, it’s pure bliss. A heavenly assault of chaotic winds blister past your face and you experience the actual physical sensation of spiritual expansion. You’re a goddamn bird, if only for a minute, and that’s a glorious thing.
There’s only one problem with skydiving: cost. Unless you’re certified, you’re looking at parting with $150 at a minimum, and it isn’t rare to drop $350 or more. So if you’re going to bite that financial bullet you may as well do it in one of the world’s premiere skydiving destinations, where views of commanding mountain peaks dominate the surroundings, or far below there’s water so clear you can see ocean creatures swimming within it at 15,000 feet above the surface. When you can look below you and see eagles flying through the air, you know you’re taking part in something grand. We’ve included five of the world’s best drop zones for you to consider when deciding where you want to take the plunge.
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
In April 2009, Russian skydiver Valery Rozov parachuted into an active volcano here in the Kamchatka Peninsula and landed safely on a patch of ice in the volcano’s crater. You won’t be able to pull this off, but a highflying stint amid formidable snowbound peaks is not to be passed up. Plus, you’ll cruise past the volcano and land where there are hot springs for a post-flight dip to soothe you back to earth-bound reality.
The crystal clear waters surrounding Hawaii are what you’ll gaze at after the chute opens. From the 10-14,000 ft. drop you can see the entire island including kaena Point, Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor, not to mention passing whales and dolphins. If you’re a student, you’re in luck. This could be yours for $125. Otherwise, take a look at the Skydive Hawaii site and keep an eye out for web deals. If you’re willing to part with nearly a grand, you can jump from 20,000 feet.
Interlaken is an adventurer’s dreamscape. You can skydive in the morning and canyon jump in the afternoon with a wild band of adrenaline-crazed instructors and then spend the next several days crashing down mountainsides zorbing, canyoneering and drunk sledding. For the actual skydive, you’ll get views the glaciated-enclosed and snowcapped peaks of the Swiss Alps. Stay at the Funny Farm where they’ll party you out of your adrenaline haze and into an alcoholic trance, a nice way to round out the evening.
If you’re a fan of the vast, open spaces of lonely deserts devoid of greenery, wildlife and civilization, then Namibia is your place. The view is dominated by caramel colored sand dunes and an endless blue-sky panorama.
Queenstown, New Zealand
An adrenaline sports list isn’t complete without at least one mention of the crazy Kiwi city of Queenstown. Jumping out of planes and off of high bridges is the heartbeat of the place; it’s the unseen gear that keeps life moving. After all, it is known as “The Adventure Capital of the World.” Jumping here means flying above the Remarkables Mountain Range that surround Lake Wakatipu, the second largest in the southern district.
If you’re one of those types who has always been scared of heights, it’s time to get over it. And anyways, after a few thousand feet, humans have no perception of height, meaning that only the initial plunge will give that gut-drop freak-out sensation. Once you hit terminal velocity, it’s smooth sailing.
By Bryan Schatz