Jumping out of a plane from 14 000 feet isn't always the easiest decision to make. Other thoughts may factor into the equation. Forget the fear, what about the big questions - where should I jump, will the weather be good, and how can I get a decent view to boot?
Look no further thrill-seekers. I have found the best spot for plummeting out of a lightweight plane. The answer to this question is – drum roll – Mission Beach, Queensland! OK, fair chop, I have only ever skydived one other spot and it wasn't even in Australia. But (the big but), I have skydived Mission Beach and I can tell you, it would be a hard feat to find a better landing strip.
Skydive Australia has arranged a shuttle bus to pick us up from our accommodation in Cairns. It's the wee morning hours and after initial paperwork at the Cairns base they transport us to their jungle shack cum fear headquarters, in Mission Beach.
They organise us into groups and sit us down to watch the instructional DVD. Our jump isn't for a few hours so we take a picnic lunch down to the beach and whittle the hours away comfortably on a perfect stretch of powdered sand. The weather on this September day is seamless perfection. The water is transparent; the temperature is just how I like it. I could spend the entire day relaxing here with a few cocktails, if there wasn't the impending jump hanging over my head.
I just finish eating when I get a phone call telling me they are ready for us now. Lunch doesn't sit well in my stomach. The schedule is running ahead. We seize the moment and scramble up the beach back to the "crack shack" and very quickly are literally geared up for our flight. A few moments later we are shuttling away on a bus to the airstrip.
The plane is tiny. We all pile in and get hitched onto our dive masters. I am at the back, which means I will be one of the first out of the plane. I actually feel quite nervous. I'm surprised, because like I said, I have jumped before. My instructor or partner in crime, Rory, says it is common to have more fear on your second dive. At least, he remembered feeling the same way. I tell him he just better have me clipped on properly!
The flight up is worth the money itself. The view is incredible. I can see dams and creeks and the Tully River, not to mention the ocean, which is a stunning deep blue, except for where you can see the reefs and sand bars. Dunk Island appears exquisitely below, with its long pier that stretches out to greet us. I'm nervous all right, but I'm in awe.
As we reach our target of 14,000 feet the roller door opens. One lot jump out, before it's my turn. The fear courses through my veins, but then, upon Rory's instruction, I scoot out to the edge of the plane. I look over the side at this incredible vista and instantly my anxiety fades to nothing. I'm ready. I look over my shoulder to say goodbye to my friend, I rock back into the correct position and then my stomach lurches forward as Rory rolls us out of the plane.
The freefall is a mere 60 seconds, I just feel wind gushing past me. We must average about 230 km per hour, but I'm sure it feels faster. I'm slightly confused and a little bit out of my body. It's a very overwhelming feeling and hard to focus on the intensity.
Previously, I told Rory about my first jump and gave him permission to make this one more adventurous, but I am so lost in space and time I can't even take it in. Finally the chute pulls. And up we sail. And then down again. I'm excited, and also half deaf. I take a deep breath and a good look around. People have told me they saw sharks and rays and turtles on their dive here – I don't see any of these things, but it is no disappointment.
Rory gives me the reins and control of the parachute. We do a few spins and other tricks that are a little thrilling, before preparing for landing. The landing is so smooth. I know now that the only way to skydive is to land on sand. Ditch the paddock.
We must have been a lot lighter than the others because my friend is waiting for me on the beach, already out of his harness when I run over to greet him. Later, on the bus back to Cairns, I muse to myself that Skydive Mission Beach definitely ticks all the boxes and then some. As Arnie says, "I'll be back".
Great review Katie! I jumped for years and it always thrills my heart when I read or hear about a persons first (or second) jump. And yes Mission Beach is awesome, there is nothing like seeing the ocean from another perspective! L:)