When I decided I was going to take on my biggest fears in New Zealand, my two biggest concerns were bungee jumps and skydives.
PROS AND CONS
The thought of doing a skydive is scary because it’s such a great height to fall from. You’re freefalling for about one minute, which in everyday life might not seem like a long time, but when you’re plummeting towards the earth, is enough time to process thoughts like ‘I hope the parachute opens!’
A bungee jump, on the other hand, is over in seconds, but relies on your mental ability to actually jump. There’s no expert strapped to your back and you have to have one hell of a lot of will power. Not to mention the fact that you fall head first and the ground comes rushing up to greet you far too quickly!
By the time I arrived in Wanaka, I’d already got the Auckland Harbour Bridge bungee out of the way and had flown a stunt plane in loops, but that feeling of dread associated with anything involving heights or falling hadn’t lessened one bit. As we neared the Skydive Wanaka air field, the butterflies in my stomach were dancing with more gusto than ever before.
I had to sign a few forms stating that I understood the risks and had no medical conditions – even the common cold can cause problems due to the rapid change in air pressure – and then I climbed into an attractive pink and orange jump suit.
You have the option of a handy cam video or video shot by someone who dives with you and, due to the fact that the difference in price was only small, I chose the latter. You don’t look too hot as the air contorts your face, so the further away the camera is the better.
The plane is quite small and is empty in the cabin except for two long benches. Skydive Wanaka has the strapline ‘Strap yourself to a beautiful stranger’ and, as soon as this is done, they get you to straddle a bench and shuffle backwards. Last in, first out!
As you gain altitude, the guides give you a little more information about the jump, but mainly use the opportunity to tease you. Comments like ‘This is actually really dangerous’, ‘I don’t have a good feeling about this’ and ‘Oh God. What am I doing?!’ are banded about by the experts.
APPROACHING THE EXIT
A few of our companions leapt from the plane’s open door at 12,000 feet but I’d opted for 15,000. At the higher altitudes, the air was noticeably thinner and some passengers used the oxygen tubes to keep the lightheadedness at bay.
After moving onto Robbie’s lap so he could tie our harnesses together, and receiving ridicule from the other instructors for being ‘so inappropriate’, we edged forwards.
HANGING OUTSIDE THE PLANE!
All too soon, I was hanging with my legs wrapped around the outside of the plane waiting to jump. There was no going back now!
Suddenly, we were somersaulting through the air. We righted ourselves and I struggled for a few seconds to free my hands from the harness and arrange myself into the freefall position.
From this point on, it was pure fun and excitement. The views over Wanaka, the lake and Mount Cook were incredible.
As we plummeted towards earth, my guide and the camera man engineered their falls so that we met up in free fall. We even managed to grab each other’s hands and to spin in a circle for a few seconds.
After one minute of free fall, Robbie opened our parachute. We spun from side to side and spiraled downwards, enjoying the views while catching our breath, and the landing was effortless.
Without a doubt, skydiving was one of the best experiences I’ve had. The rush of adrenaline lasted for hours and the memories will last a lifetime.
So, which is scarier – a skydive or bungee jump?
In my opinion, a skydive is moderately less terrifying for the simple reason that you have an expert to reassure you the whole time and you don’t have to make judgement on when’s the best moment to take a leap of faith.
I’d also recommend a skydive over a bungee jump because the whole experience lasts much longer and you have time to appreciate the spectacular views as you fall, instead of them rushing by in a blur while your mind momentarily goes blank from terror.
In terms of value for money, the skydive definitely comes out on top, but if you can afford to splash the cash, they’re both in my top 10 adventure experiences. New Zealand is also the perfect place to get involved due to its high safety records and unbelievable scenery.
- Based a short drive from Wanaka’s town centre, Skydive Wanaka operates jumps from 12,000 and 15,000 feet, giving you 45 or 60 seconds of freefall, respectively.
- On the flight up in their new turbine plane, you will see some incredible scenery, including the snow-capped peaks of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring.
- The instructors are hilarious and make you feel as comfortable as possible considering what you’re about to do. They are experts in safety and professionalism, while creating an exciting and incredibly fun atmosphere.
- Skydive Wanaka will pick you up from your accommodation and show you a safety video on your way to the hangar.
- They have free internet at their base so you can share your photos or DVD with the world just moments after landing! They even have a choice of songs that they will edit in with your footage.
- Make sure you wear shoes that can withstand 200 kph wind pressure.
- Note that, unfortunately, it isn’t possible to participate if you weigh more than 100 kg.
GETTING TO WANAKA
Intercity Buses provide services to Wanaka from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Queenstown (1 hour 40 mins); Mt Cook (3.5 hours); Franz Josef (6.5 hours); Christchurch (7.5 hours). Further transfers are available from these locations. Use the tool below to search for a specific journey or click through to the Intercity homepage to learn about their discounted passes and activity tours.
WHERE TO STAY
It’s worth booking your Wanaka and Queenstown accommodation well in advance. While other destinations don’t seem to get fully booked in the Kiwi winter, these two towns are havens for adventure sports seekers all year round. I was there in July, which was a very popular time for skiing and it was tough to find somewhere that wasn’t fully booked. I ended up in a place called Matterhorn South and they were very accommodating – converting a motel room into a mini hostel dorm for me and a few other girls. Most of the hostels are within walking distance of each other so at least if you need to knock on a few doors before you find a place, it shouldn’t take you too long.
FIND ACCOMMODATION DEALS
I’ve recently started using HotelsCombined to search for accommodation as I travel. It’s become one of my favourite tools because it aggregates the results of online searches from over 40 travel sites to bring you the best deals much faster than if you had to look them up to compare them separately.
I was a guest of Skydive Wanaka. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.