Holy #*&@! Jumping Out Of Airplanes Over Fiji

Skydiving Fiji
Skydiving Fiji
Nadi, Fiji

Tony yelled something to me. But I couldn’t hear him over the roar of the engine. “Are you ready?” he screams. Not really — 14,000 feet is a long way down…

I’ve wanted to go skydiving for a long time. Everyone who’s ever described it to me always does so with a twinkle in their eye. You can feel their joy as they re-tell the story.

Now it was my turn. Jumping out of an airplane over the Pacific Ocean surrounded by beautiful Fijian islands? It couldn’t get much better than that!

I like to think that I’m a pretty fearless person. I’ve been scuba diving with sharks, camped on an erupting volcano, gone kayaking with crocodiles, and trekked through the notorious Darien Gap.

Yet somehow butterflies still managed to infiltrate my stomach.

While the instructors at Skydive Fiji went over details like proper body position, flight time, and how to land standing, I was nervously watching Bola (yes, that’s his name) pack our chutes off to the side.

Lucky for me he’s been doing it for many, many years.

Skydiving Parachutes Fiji
Skydiving Parachutes Fiji

Tandem Skydiving

My first skydive would be a tandem jump, which means I’m attached to the front of an instructor using a special full-body harness. Four attachment points ensure I’m stuck to him like glue.

I was paired up with Tony, a veteran skydiver originally from New Zealand with thousands of jumps under his belt.

We left the shop and hopped into a van headed for Nadi International Airport.

Pulling up to a side gate, we sign in with airport security and walk out on the runway where a white, single-engine Cessna 182 is waiting for us.

This is a small plane. It looks like a car with wings.

I peer inside. There’s only one seat. “We sit on the floor” Tony tells me.

Skydiving Fiji
Skydiving Fiji

Colorful Island Landscape

There’s another tandem jumper with us today. A German, or maybe Austrian I think. It’s his first time too. Our tiny aircraft will only fit 4 passengers and the pilot — so we all cram in together nice and cozy on the floor of the Cessna.

The door shuts. We speed down the runway before gliding up into the sky.

It’s loud in this plane. I watch Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu get smaller as we climb towards the clouds. More islands reveal themselves across the ocean below.

A colorful mixture of turquoise blue water, white sand beaches, and vibrant green jungle. Kind of looks like a painting down there.

Soon I’ll be diving head-first into that painting.

Skydiving Fiji
Skydiving Fiji

Getting Intimate With Tony

Maybe 10 minutes into the flight, Tony asks me to sit on his lap. But I really don’t know him that well yet. Shouldn’t he at least buy me dinner first?

He explains it’s not personal, strictly business. We must link together and tighten down all the straps before the big jump.

He also pulls on a gauntlet loaded with two GoPro HD Hero cameras. One for video, one for photos.

This is obviously to record my last words for family and friends.

And to get a recent photo for the obituary.

Skydiving Fiji
Fiji

Showtime!

Twenty minutes after takeoff we’re finally at 14,000 feet — 2.6 miles in the sky. The pilot signals that he’s in position. Oh shit. It’s all happening a bit too fast… and it seems I’m up first!

I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Do I lean my head back and then cross my arms? Or is it the other way around? I can’t remember if it matters or not.

F*ck! The door is open. This is actually going to happen.

I’ve been pretty calm up until this point. Suddenly adrenaline is rushing through my veins. Wind is whipping around the cabin. I can’t hear anything.

Tony yells for me to stick my feet outside the aircraft. I do what he says. There’s a tiny metal step outside, barely big enough for both of my feet to rest on.

I look down at the earth — far, far below us.

I probably shouldn’t have done that.

My mind is racing. We jump.

Skydiving Fiji
Skyfall

Sensory Overload

For the first few seconds we tumble through the sky in a weightless front flip. I can’t tell which way is up. The earth spins. I’m completely disoriented.

Gravity is pulling us downward faster and faster. My mouth is open, and the air quickly dries it out completely. With no hair on my head, my goggles start to slip off.

Tony taps my shoulder and I remember to stretch my arms out into the proper skydive position. It’s difficult to process what’s happening though. My mind can’t handle the sensory overload. It’s never experienced these sensations before.

We’re still falling, but I can feel air pressure building up beneath us. We’ve hit terminal velocity for a tandem skydive. 120 miles per hour.

For about 60 seconds we plummet through the Troposphere. That may not sound like a long time. But it actually feels like 5 minutes.

Skydiver Landing Fiji
Skydiver Landing Fiji

Parachute Landing

Suddenly the free-fall experience stops with a jolt. Tony has pulled the ripcord, unleashing a massive parachute that quickly slows our decent to about 16 mph. The jump isn’t over yet though…

Hanging at either side of me are a pair of steering lines. We can control our direction with them, pulling right to turn right, left to turn left. Pulling hard on one side creates a fast (and fun) downward spiral.

We glide towards the Earth like this for another 7 minutes. Soon I spot the landing zone — Smugglers Cove. There’s a yellow mark in a field beside the beach.

The field has horses in it.

I briefly daydream about landing on a horse to ride off down the beach past bikini-clad girls. Total 007 moment! (minus the man strapped to my back of course..)

Unfortunately, the horses moved out of our way. Oh well, another time. But we do stick the landing.

For the next 8 hours my face aches from a massive smile I can’t seem to get rid of. Adrenaline is powerful stuff. ★

Where to stay in Fiji?

If you’re wondering where to stay in Fiji on a budget here are my recommendations:


Nadi

Smugglers Cove Backpackers – For just $5 you can get a lot of privacy in the dorm, free airport pick-up and an evening show.

Check prices on: Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda

Mana Island

Ratu Kini Dive Resort – For less than $20 per night you can stay on a beautiful island. Day tours and diving courses are offered.

Check prices on: Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda

Taveuni

Garden Island Resort – More expensive, but one of the best places in Taveuni. All rooms have an ocean view.

Check prices on: Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda

I also enjoy using AirBnB from time to time. Make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels too.

Watch Video: Skydiving In Fiji


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(Click to watch Tandem Skydive: Fiji on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources for Nadi, Fiji
Company: Skydive Fiji
Cost: F$735 (about $400 USD)

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

READ NEXT: Camping On An Erupting Volcano

Ever been skydiving before? Do you want to?

Adventure made possible in partnership with Tourism Fiji. Content & opinions are entirely my own.

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Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
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Comments (40)

  1. Wow man! this looks sick, I haven’t done this yet. But definitely this is in my bucket list. The sooner the better.
    Fiji is indeed a lovely place. Thank you for sharing this amazing blog. I loved reading it.

  2. I just did my first tandem skydive jump yesterday here in Hawaii. It was awesome! The anticipation, fear, and rush of adrenaline is something I’m not going to soon forget. Your face jumping out of the plane was classic haha.

  3. I read the entire story of yours and even tough we do parasailing for a living, jumping out of a plane seems way more fun. Loved it really cool, I bet you had a great time!

  4. My brother recently showed me footage of his first skydive. I already felt butterflies in my stomach!
    Think I’ll hold out a bit before jumping myself:D

  5. We were just in Fiji this April and absolutely loved it – especially for their traditions and village life. We’ve skydived in Spain and wanted to do it in Fiji but didn’t get a chance to do it. It looks like SO much fun! Glad you enjoyed it. ;)

    • Fijian people are so open & friendly. It was a fantastic trip. Visiting the local villages was a highlight for me as well Nellie. PS. Great to finally meet you in person!

  6. Fiji sounds like a wonderful place for skydiving, some of the best photos you see are always from above and they look so beautiful!

  7. One of my favorite post Matthew. You described it just as I imagined it would be. Skydiving is one thing I’m going to do this year. I think I’m going to wait until I get to New Zealand.

  8. Next step? Solo Accelerated Free Fall – even better than tandem. Kudos and happy you stuck a safe landing. I’m heading to Macau for the highest bungee jump on earth in a month after finishing up in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Did you enjoy the gentle ride down once the parachute opened or the free fall the best?

  9. Love the photos where you can see the curved horizon. I am sure there is a proper word for for it, but hopefully you know what I mean. I don’t think I could ever skydive. Not only would I pull faces like you did, I’d probably also poo myself…:-)

  10. Loved the story and the video! Your bald head looks like a wrinkly bathing cap as you fall :)
    I’ll just have to live vicariously thru you, because I have trouble with tops of ladders! Glad you landed safely!

  11. I really envy those who do this because it seems like the ultimate in adventure activities. Unfortunately I probably never will do this. I’m terrible with heights. The mere thought of it makes my palms sweat.

  12. Hahaha that video is AWESOME! Coolest expressions on your face and looks like so much fun. I am terrified of heights, but if I had one place to choose to go sky diving, Fiji looks like the place to do it!

  13. You know what? You ALMOST convinced me that I need to do this. Eric LOVES sky diving. Unfortunately, I have a fear of falling….Great post though. I enjoyed living vicariously through you and letting you do the falling!

  14. I can completely relate to the feeling of having the plane doors open when your at that height. Everything after the jump is fine, but getting out of that door was pretty hard for me.

  15. Niiice!! I remember my first – and only – skydive. I looked down, too, just before jumping. But amazingly, it almost felt as if the earth was too far away to be all that scary. Really surreal but quite a fun time. Your views looked amaaazing!

    • Completely agree. After my initial moment of panic, I quickly started to enjoy myself. I’m curious to find if bungee jumping is scarier, as the ground is much closer when you jump.

      • Funny you say that because I honestly thought there’d be no contest and jumping out of a plane would be far scarier. But ultimately I think bungee jumping was a bit scarier. Go figure! :)

  16. Haha I LOVE it. The first time I went skydiving was with my best friend and my dad. It’s the scariest feeling to see your own father jump out of a plane and then be gone. Glad to see that you had such a great time.

    • It’s hard to grasp the fact that you (or others) are jumping out of the airplane. Just a bit surreal! I’ll never see commercial flights the same way again. :)

  17. Tony looks like he is having fun. You don’t at first. You look like a scared Shar Pei with bad gas pains. 120 miles an hour is nothing. My wife goes that fast to a Black Friday Sale.

  18. This is on my list of things to do in Fiji while we are there during our RTW. We will be there November 2013, can’t wait! Budget pending, I do plan on doing this! Also considering bungee jumping in New Zealand might not be able to afford both…stupid budget! Looks like you a great jump!

  19. Wow, I got nervous just reading that. I would love to try skydiving sometime but I’m not sure if I’ve got the nerve. I may have to build up to it with some other adventures first.