The Thrill of Skydiving in South Africa

Seasoned skydivers know all about the adrenaline rush that this sport offers and usually don’t want to miss the chance for a jump especially while on holiday. Fortunately, South Africa has skydiving clubs in all the major tourist centres as well as in some smaller towns, such as Pietermaritzburg and Grahamstown, so the opportunity to indulge in skydiving in South Africa is never that far away.

If you have never skydived and are considering giving it a try, what can you expect? A typical jump involves jumping out of an aircraft which is travelling at about 4,000 meters in altitude and free-falling for a while before activating a parachute to slow the descent until landing. Once the parachute is opened, the skydiver can control his direction and speed with cords (steering lines), by means of hand grips (toggles) that are attached to the parachute and in this way head for the landing site, resulting in a relatively gentle landing in a safe environment.

Skydiving is considered by many to be the closest a human can get to actually flying, because with skydiving, the body is the flying instrument instead of a machine. A skilled skydiver can influence his direction by manipulating the shape of his body, experiencing forward and backward motion and even, to a limited extent, lift.

Many are put off skydiving because of the mistaken belief that they will experience an unbearable “falling” sensation, but this is generally not the case. Skydivers reach terminal velocity (the constant speed of a falling object when the upward drag on the object balances the downward force of gravity) at around 190 km/hour for belly to earth orientations and because they are no longer accelerating towards the ground they do not experience that falling sensation. It is acceleration that causes the strange sensation of “stomach in the throat” that we experience, for example, on a roller coaster ride.

The best and safest way to find out if skydiving is for you is to take a tandem jump with an experienced skydiver. With tandem skydiving, the student skydiver (passenger) is connected via a harness to an experienced skydiver (tandem master) who controls the entire jump. The student requires minimal instruction before a jump and must co-operate with, and trust, the tandem master. The beauty of this type of jump is that you get to enjoy the view without worrying about the technicalities. However, it is almost inevitable that once you have taken the first jump, you will be hooked for life.

There is some magnificent scenery throughout South Africa and many of the skydiving clubs are situated in and around some of the most picturesque areas. What better way to see all this beauty, than from the air.