VIDEO: It's not flying, it's falling with style! We try Skydive Dubai
What’s On teams up with Keek to experience Skydive Dubai. Check out pictures, experience review and a Skydive Dubai video from skydiving over The Palm.
Up there with invincibility, the ability to fly tends to be top of most people’s superpower wishlists. The closest we can get to experiencing either is to hand ourselves over to someone, strap them to our back, leap from a plane at 13,500 feat and hope that when they pull a cord, the parachute will open.
Some of us handle this remarkable situation better than others. Some, What’s On web editor Matt Fortune for example, run through the very worst possible outcomes over and over in their head until they convince themselves out of what is a truly incredible experience.
For me, I’m one of those who has had it top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Having now done it, I can safely say it remains there. I want to do it again and again and again. I think it was that enthusiasm that finally saw Matt put pen-to-paper on the jump.
We were invited by Keek, the video-centric social platform which currently has 5 million monthly active users in the Middle East using the platform to share 36-second clips with 111 characters of accompanying text.
The day had started slowly, everything else feels mundane when you know what lies ahead. The excitement cranked up another notch as we arrived at Skydive Dubai, perched at the end of a run-off road in Dubai Marina. The giant hall in which parachutes are packed, jumpers and their moral support mingle, and instruction is given is a buzz with energy.
And then your name is called and the man to whom you are handing your very safety to introduces himself with a warm smile and a curious look. “Have I got a nervous one?” he’s thinking. He doesn’t, and you can sense his relief. Meanwhile, another instructor is reassuring Matt that he’s done this thousands of times. Matt seems unconvinced; surely he’s not going to back out?
“We are going to wear the harness now, be ready,” says my tandem, bringing my focus back on him. Before we head for the plan plane, we practice the exit tactic. It’s as easy as 1-2-3. One, ‘get into a squat position with both hands on the harness at the edge of the exit’. Two, ‘change to banana position as the freefall begins’. Three, ‘fly’. Simple, in theory.
We’re loaded in no particular order, and it’s when we’re sat on the runway that I realize I’ll be first out. An extra wave of anxiety comes over me, but there’s no backing out now.
As the plane begins its ascent, I catch a glimpse of Matt, chewing his nails to the bone without a strip of enjoyment on his face. Even a smile and thumbs up from me can’t bring him round. I occupy myself with the view, which is simply stunning. We’ve all seen the Dubai skyline, but from this proximity it’s an amazing sight. If I was told now I wasn’t able to jump, I’d still feel that I’d experienced something special.
At 10,000ft three sole skydivers jump out like skyrockets, one after other, casual as can be. Seeing them jump really got me going. ‘When’s it my turn?’ Matt, too, spotted them and looks much more at ease now he’s seen it up close. That changes, as does the colour in his face, about five minutes later when the light by the shutter door turns green. Our time is now.
At the edge, I see my cameraman (each jumper gets their own personal video and photo set) hanging with his thumps up encouraging my to shuffle forward until I run out of floor. And. We’re. Off, free-falling for almost 60 seconds, wind billowing around our heads, the man strapped to my back barely noticeable as I take in the astonishing view I’m hurtling towards, that of The Palm. Is there a better place to jump anywhere in the world?
The real task is trying to look into the camera and give away a perfect smile, something my Keek video shows did not work out well for me. I’ve certainly looked cooler!
A full minute later, a tap on the shoulder signals the chute is about to be deployed. The yank you feel as your brakes are slammed on isn’t nearly as bad as it may look to an observer, but nonetheless it’s a sudden shock to the system, allowing little time for you to collect your thoughts. Mine by that stage were a constant loop of the word ‘wow’. Matt, meanwhile, who jumped shortly after me, said later that he’d asked his instructor to get him back to ground level as quickly as possible. I, however, was lucky enough to be given the chance to steer… or ‘fly’ as I like to think. The sharp turns we took with the parachute were a little scary, perhaps the most fear I’d felt the whole day, sending me a little wobbly.
From the comfort of the harness you can see for miles, way out beyond the horizon at Sports City, out towards Abu Dhabi and over the Jebel Ali Palm, towards Burj Al Arab and Downtown, and every grain of sand between what seems like the Marina and Oman.
My awareness is bought back into focus as the instructor explains the importance of the right landing. “Legs and thighs in the air,” he says. “Don’t let them down until I tell you.”
And then it’s over. The landing is smooth, as is the dryness of my mouth, and my ear is blocked, all of which makes my instant reaction to the cameraman – who had somewhere pulled his chute after us yet landed way ahead – really rather tricky. Now I know why the instructors jump with a full face protector. Perhaps next time I will. And there will be a next time, and a next time after that. For Matt? Maybe less so.
Skydive Dubai is open throughout the summer between 6am and 10am, with jumps priced at Dhs1,999. Tel: (04) 3778888.