Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking leap from the edge of space put skydiving on the front page of newspapers around the world last week. Here Sarah Cannon, a current skydive world champion and member of the British skydiving team, picks five great places where complete novices can experience the sport.
Mount Everest, Nepal Amazingly, it is possible for complete beginners to skydive from a height of almost 9,000m, with Mount Everest as a backdrop. The 11-day trip begins with a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, then there’s a two-and-a-half day trek to Syangboche, a Sherpa hamlet situated just above Namche Bazaar. From there a Pilatus PC-6 aircraft flies up to higher than the summit of Everest, and novices are strapped to highly experienced instructors for the tandem skydive of a lifetime. The jump altitude is more than twice the standard height and requires supplementary oxygen and enough kit to make James Bond green with envy. The trip costs $35,000, but the photographs of freefalling against a Himalayan backdrop will put you in an elite minority of jumpers. www.everest-skydive.com
Sibson, UK Beginners who want more than a one-off jump should consider taking the Accelerated Free Fall course – an intense series of training sessions that can lead to a qualification in as little as four days. At the end of your first full day of training, you’ll make a jump wearing your own parachute from 3,700m above Cambridgeshire. Two expert instructors jump alongside and give hand signals in freefall as you learn how to fly your body and check your altimeter. At 1,800m you’ll open your own parachute then fly it solo to a safe controlled landing. The full course consists of eight instructional jumps, plus 10 solo “consolidation” jumps, after which you can gain a solo licence to jump at any parachute centre around the world. The first day’s instruction costs from £300 per person, consolidation jumps cost from £35. www.skydivesibson.co.uk
The Palm, Dubai For spectacular views, head for Skydive Dubai. This is one of the most incredible drop zones in the world, located on a man-made peninsula right at the base of the Palm Jumeirah. As they drop from 3,700m, skydivers here will not only get a perfect view of the palm-tree shaped artificial archipelago, but also the Burj Al Arab hotel, the luxury yachts in Dubai marina and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. A tandem jump costs 1,750 AED (£296). www.skydivedubai.ae
Ambri, Switzerland For just one week in August every year you can make a vertical tandem skydive or tandem “mountain swoop” at the Mountain Gravity event at the Ambri Aerodrome in Ticino, southern Switzerland.
For a vertical tandem, once you have received your brief and been introduced to your instructor, your aircraft will take off in the valley and climb to 4,000m, surrounded by snow-capped alpine peaks. You will be in freefall for a full minute, before landing on the valley floor. On a tandem “mountain swoop”, once the parachute has deployed, you and your instructor will swoop low over the mountainside, passing over tall trees, ridges and waterfalls as you gradually descend towards the valley. There is simply nothing else like it. Tandem jumps cost from 365 SFr (£245). www.mountaingravity.ch
The Bay of Roses, Spain This part of Catalonia is great for shopping, vibrant nightlife, museums and jumping out of planes. Skydive Empuriabrava is on the coast 40km north of Girona and 125km from Barcelona, so a jump here can easily be combined with a city break.
There are spectacular views over the Bay of Roses and reliably good weather all year round. Beginners of all ages can make a tandem jump for just €230, and those over 18 can book a package of a tandem jump, instruction and a supervised solo jump for €490. www.skydiveempuriabrava.com