Skydiving’s popularity is as much about the adrenaline as it is the view (Photo: Digital Vision)
From niche sport to a bucket-list staple, skydiving has grown in popularity for many reasons: the street cred, the triumph of looking death in the face, temporary insanity. Extreme sports enthusiast Marshall Rockey, a former Recon Marine who now specializes in BASE (building, antenna, span, and Earth) jumping, believes people leap from high places because of the “massive adrenaline dump.” One oft-overlooked facet? The view.
Consider this: when dropping out of the sky from up to 15,000 feet, you’re typically in for a 60-second free fall and then another 4 to 5 minutes of flying under the parachute. That’s a lot of time to ponder the curvature of the Earth and gain a perspective on life like no other.
So while skydiving may be a thrilling sport, no matter what — and relatively safe for newbies, since they’re strapped to an instructor in a tandem jump — a beautiful drop zone (DZ) can enhance the experience. We interviewed a handful of prominent skydivers, from world record holders to world-travelling fun jumpers, and compiled a list of the most scenic drop zones in the world.
From the green caterpillarlike islands of Palau to the futurescape and dunes of Dubai to the snowcapped peaks of the Swiss Alps, here are 10 DZs that will take your breath away.
Skydiving over the Palm Jumeirah is an amazing view (Photo: Skydive Dubai)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Skydive Dubai
Even though Skydive Dubai has only been around for a few years, it has already staked its claim as one of the nicest DZs in the world. Peter Shankman, author, adventurist, and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., says he “fell in love with Skydive Dubai for the amazing sand views all around the Desert Campus, and the incredible city views of their city campus [at The Palm].”
The Palm Drop Zone, best known for its starring role in Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” video — and the only Dubai site that offers tandem jumps — affords views of Dubai’s most famous sites: its palm-shaped artificial island, the sail-like Burj Al Arab hotel, and the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, all from 13,000 feet over the sparkling, blue Arabian Sea.
The Palm: Open September until the end of May
The Desert Campus: Year-round
The Swiss Alps are one of the only places you can skydive tandem from a helicopter (Photo: Skydive XDream/Facebook)
Swiss Alps: Skydive Lauterbrunnen
“Skydiving is one minute of your life where nothing else matters at all,” says Chad Ross, a skydiver with over 9,000 jumps and several skydiving records to his name. For Ross, the “amazing views” at Lauterbrunnen make it the perfect DZ to “be able let everything go for 60 seconds.” Those views include waterfalls, glacial lakes, and lush green fields surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps.
Bonus: Lauterbrunnen isn’t just one of the most scenic places in the world to skydive, it’s also one of the few places in the world where tandem jumpers reach altitude via a helicopter.
The Mediterranean coast near Barcelona makes for incredible skydiving views (Photo: Skydive Emuriabrava/Facebook)
Empuriabrava, Spain: Skydive Empuriabrava
Located 40 miles northeast of Barcelona, near the world’s largest residential marina, this drop zone is nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountain range — doubling the terrain for amazing views. It’s considered one of Europe’s top drop zones, and first-time jumpers often fly to altitude with some of the finest skydivers in the world.
Related: Flying with Ease on the Trapeze!
Skydiving near Cairns, Australia gives you a view out over the Great Barrier Reef (Photo: Dalton Chaung/Flickr)
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Skydive Cairns
According to Erica Shane, a skydiver based in Southern California, skydiving is the “quickest way to get instant perspective. … It’s therapeutic, relaxing.”
The smorgasbord of visual delight that awaits those willing to brave one of Australia’s highest tandem jumps (14,000 feet) is certainly a great way to gain perspective. Skydive Cairns puts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites — the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland — within eyesight. If that isn’t exciting enough, for an extra fee, tandem jumpers can steer the parachute, too.
From above, the green landscape of the Poconos is like a beautiful carpet (Photo: Nicholas Tonelli/Flickr)
Pocono Mountains, USA: Northeast Pennsylvania Skydiving Center
Don Kellner, the co-owner of the Northeast Pennsylvania Skydiving Center, knows a thing or two about skydiving. With over 41,000 skydives logged, he holds the world record for most parachute descents. Kellner says, “There is no place like home. I absolutely love hanging out under canopy, watching the sunset over the Sugarloaf Mountain and the beautiful, green Pennsylvania forests and fields.” He may be biased, but the views don’t lie.
Sky diving attitude over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand (Photo: NZONE Skydive)
Queenstown, New Zealand: NZONE Skydive
As the self-described “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown is the obvious place for New Zealand’s first tandem operation. Dropping over some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in the world? Well, that just follows. After exiting the plane at 15,000 feet, skydivers can survey the Remarkables, a lake-pocked mountain range renowned for its snow skiing as well as for the mirrorlike waters of icy blue Lake Wakatipu, the country’s third largest lake.
Cape Town, South Africa — what a view! Now imagine it from 10,000 feet up (Photo: Thinkstock)
Cape Town, South Africa: Skydive Cape Town
Skydive Cape Town is the only game in town and the only place to see South Africa’s second-largest city from altitude. Although the drop zone operates outside of the city, the scenery won’t disappoint. As they plummet 10,000 feet from the plane, jumpers can gawk at the Mother City’s iconic flat-topped Table Mountain, the nearby Cape Winelands, and the South African coastline, including Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
A tandem dive over the Florida Keys (Photo: Skydive Key West)
Florida Keys, U.S.A.: Skydive Key West
A panorama that includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, coral reefs, and a plethora of islands, plus the highway that connects ’em all landed this Sugarloaf Key-based operation on the list. “Amazing views of mostly water with variations in color and strands of land all connected by Route One” is how world record skydiver Don Kellner recalls the view from his jump at Skydive Key West.
High above Kenya, just remember one thing: Aim for the beach (Photo: Skydive Diani)
Diani Beach, Kenya: Skydive Diani
This gem of a DZ is at a popular beach resort town an hour south of Mombasa. From 10,000 feet, you can expect to see the outlines of coral reefs, and, on lucky clear days, the Shimba Hills National Reserve off in the distance. A large swath of white beach collides with the turquoise blue water of the Indian Ocean. This DZ’s slogan is “every jump is a beach jump.” So, pay attention to that beach. Wearing shoes for the jump, that’s optional.
The Micronesian islands of Palau are even more goregous when views from above (Photo: Thinkstock)
The Republic of Palau: Skydive Palau
The Republic of Palau, a country comprised of hundreds of green tropical islands in the Pacific, east of the Philippines, is mainly noted for its white sand beaches and incredible scuba diving, but savvy adventurers are now looking (way) above the water as well. John Leming, a former member of the U.S. skydiving team who now trains Navy SEALs, called Palau “the most visually spectacular place” he has ever jumped. Only thing: It doesn’t have a full-time drop zone. But every once in a while, skydivers flock to the area for a skydiving “boogie” (a party), so keep an eye out for the next one, if you too want to rave about the views from above.
Clint Van Winkle is an author, traveler, and former U.S. Marine who is currently living in the Middle East. He
jumped was pushed out of an airplane 13,000 feet over the Palm Jumeirah (Skydive Dubai).