If there’s one place in the world to jump out of a plane, it’s New Zealand
I’m not really a serious bucket list person in that I don’t travel for the sake of crossing items off of my list but when it came to our epic 3 week trip to New Zealand, I knew this would be our chance to make it happen. Like bungee jumping in New Zealand (which we refuse to do), there are opportunities to do it left, right, and centre but when it came time to find the perfect place to go tandem skydiving, we asked my friends over at Flying Kiwi and locals, that’s how I discovered Skydive Abel Tasman.
As part of the Reverse Traverse itinerary, the area of Motueka, Marahau, and the Abel Tasman is a big part of the New Zealand bus tour experience and the timing worked perfectly for us to slot skydiving in.
Skydive Abel Tasman Experience
When it came down to picking where we would be skydiving, it really came down to a company that had a good reputation, solid and consistent reviews, were capable of taking epic footage of the experience, and lastly could back the experience with stunning views. Skydive Abel Tasman was able to tick off all those boxes.
The ability to skydive above the famous Abel Tasman National Park, be able to see various mountain ranges, see the western, and north coasts of the South Island, the Tasman Sea, rivers, and have a chance to be able to see the North Island on clear day really sold me.
Offering different attitudes of 9,000, 13,000, and 16,500 feet, I settled on the medium elevation because it seemed like a good middle ground. It honestly wasn’t based on any sort of science but it made sense at the time.
Shuttle pick up
Flying Kiwi dropped us off in Motueka and we waited for our Skydive Abel Tasman pick up at the town’s info centre called i-Site. As we waited in anticipation, that’s when it really hit that we were going to be doing this. Days and weeks leading up to this, I had been trying my best not to think about it. It wasn’t like I wasn’t looking forward to it but I figure that the less I thought about it, the less I’d have anxiety over doing this crazy thing.
The funny thing is that I kind of implied to Chantelle that we’d be doing this but since she didn’t know the day-to-day itinerary of the trip, for her it was kind of the nebulous thing that I may or may not have been joking about.
With the Motueka airport minutes away, it was a short shuttle ride to the main headquarters for Skydive Abel Tasman. “Dust in the wind” was playing on the radio and I wasn’t sure whether to take that as a little foreshadowing or not.
Check-in and briefing
The main reception area of the skydiving operation is a welcoming space with a huge circular table where the friendly staff greeted us and got us checked in. We filled out the usual sign-your-life-away forms.
We learned that we didn’t have to pay first but instead the big decision we needed to make was about what video package we wanted to pick.
There are three tiers:
- Outside Cameraman with HD video and 80 stills
- Tandem Master Handcam video and stills
- Combination of the above
As Vicky, our Flying Kiwi travel mate put it best, why would you do something as crazy as skydiving and not get video evidence? It’s a big cost and practically the same price as the experience itself but how do you not pick the outside cameraman option?
With the others we’d be jumping with, we went into a briefing room where we watched a brief video that covered what to expect from the experience and a sample of the type of footage they are able to capture. This was also a good chance for the skydive team to cover other basics and to answer our anxious questions.
After that, we got a chance to relax on the giant beanbag chairs and sofas that flank the reception desk, drink water from the free dispenser, and contemplate what message we wanted to write on our hands.
Julie from the front desk helped Chantelle and I with the writing of our hand messages that we could write. There were a bunch of suggestions on the placard that they have but ultimately I ended up with “Awesome As” on the outer part of my hand and “Send Help” on my possibly-sweaty palms.
Behind the waiting area is the staging area and when our names were called up, we stepped through the double doors and got ready to suit and harness up.
Once you’re at this point, it’s all kind of a blur because there’s so much happening around you and you’re just trying to follow instructions and go with the flow of it all. There’s no real time at this point to think about your fear of heights or any last minute regrets.
In this big area that can only be described as a gymnasium of sorts, you have big lockers where you can store your things, a big open area where they presumably fold up parachutes, and hangers for all the harnesses. We’re greeted by our tandem skydive instructor, and we each go into a corner of the room to get geared up. My instructor’s name is Scruffy.
Since Chantelle and I both got the full photo and video package, there was another skydiver following each us which made a team of 3. For me that meant it was me, my tandem instructor, and camera guy. As part of pre-flight we were also pulled aside for a quick sound bite interview for pre-jump jitters and expectations.
The propeller plane pulled up right in front and we proceeded out to the plane. With barely any time to say anything to Chantelle, we loaded into the plane one at a time. I was first in so I got up and down into the slot of the plane.
You have to realize that that skydiving planes are different from a standard passenger configuration. Instead of seats, you have two parallel benches that run the length of the plane. To sit, your butt goes on the bench and legs to the left and right. As you load up, each person faces the back of the plane and like a stack of Pringles.
The propeller roared on and before we knew it, we were in the air. It was during this 20 minute scenic flight, spiralling higher and higher, that I started to get a little nervous. With nothing but the view of what we left behind in the small port hole on my right, my tandem skydive instructor behind strapping us together and doing the final check, and trying to make small talk with my camera man, Ricky, it set in that this was happening for real.
Clipped together with Scruffy, there was no turning back at this point. Synced to his breathing and closer than you’d ever get to any stranger, he gave me a few last minute reminders. “Tilt your head up and tuck your legs in” he said.
Facing the rear of the plane, I couldn’t see much of what Chantelle was doing but I knew she couldn’t really hear me because the cabin was rumbling with noise.
The plane ride took longer than I expected but once we got to altitude, the plane doors opened and Chantelle was up first. I was in awe and disbelief that it was all happening so fast but there my wife was on the edge, ready to jump. I remember attempting to say “I love you!” but she definitely couldn’t hear me. Two to three rocks back and as if sucked out by a vacuum, they were gone.
I was next. Scruffy asked me to rotate around and together we crossed over to the other bench and shimmied into our spot along the edge of the plane. Goggles on.
My heart starts to race.
My legs dangling on the edge of the plane, Scruffy gently reminds me to tilt my head upwards. Ricky, the cameraman, climbed out to the outside of the plane as if straight out of a Mission Impossible movie. I can’t remember if Scruffy asked me if I was ready or not but we started rocking back and with the forward momentum, we were thrust out of the plane. Thank goodness my instructor was the one back there pushing me out.
I honestly don’t remember too much of what happened the next few seconds.
It was pure chaos. It was a flood of the senses.
My head is tilted up but we eventually level out. The earth below is massive. I look down and I look at the horizon but I don’t know where to lock my eyes. It then dawns on me that as my legs flailed wildly, I completely forgot to tuck my legs in. Scruffy’s got me covered though as he smoothly tucked them for me. I try to shout “this is awesome!!!” but nothing comes out of my mouth. Instead, my lips flop wildly and I realize that I need to keep them shut. Milliseconds pass by.
Out of nowhere, Ricky swoops in and he motions to put my hands together and so I did. My eyes followed him as he darted away but quickly comes back. Grabbing my hands, we briefly synchronize a spin. Once he flies away, I finally have time to look around. I can see all the farm land down below, Abel Tasman National Park, the turquoise coast, golden beaches, snow-capped mountains, and see how the South Island wraps around up towards Nelson.
Free fall lasted 45 seconds and I knew I had to make the most of it. I made a few superman poses and a few eagle flaps for good measure as Ricky made a few passes in before falling away.
YANK and PHOOOM
And just like that, our chute deployed and I was vertical once again. With 5 minutes under the canopy, we gently made our way down back towards the airfield that we started in. This is where I really got a chance to appreciate everything around me. Scruffy also threw in a few spirals for good measure.
He told me to get my legs up to be perpendicular to my body as we got ready for the landing. With pin-point precision, we made the perfect landing with my butt sliding on the grass.
With that, there were high-fives all around to Scruffy and Ricky who was waiting for us on the ground.
Decompress and smiles
Reunited with Chantelle, we head back inside to take off our windsuit and other gear. Grabbing our things from the locker, we head back out to the waiting area.
From there, we waited for the video team to put together their video and USB key. We even got a screening of it in the briefing room which was really awesome.
I really appreciated that they were able to do all of this on the spot as opposed for waiting for it to be uploaded later.
Watch us jumping out of a plane
What You Need To Know
Address: 16 College St, Motueka 7120, New Zealand
Hours: There are slots between 7AM and 4PM but that may change depending on season
- 9,000 – NZ$279
- 13,000 – NZ$329
- 16,500 – NZ$419
- Photo/Video (everything is loaded onto a USB key, video is curated and assembled)
- Outside Cameraman with HD video and 80 stills – NZ$259
- Tandem Master Handcam video and stills – NZ$189
- Combination of the above – NZ$309
What to bring:
- Comfortable loose clothing and shoes that won’t fall off – they provide the rest including goggles, cap, and one-piece windsuit
- You can request a free shuttle for anywhere in Nelson through to Kaiteriteri and Marahau if you don’t have a car
- There’s a huge parking lot of the skydive centre and this is free
- Go to the bathroom right before suiting up
- No need to arrive early – just show up at your booking time
- Can I bring my own GoPro? – I would have loved to have used my GoPro Fusion but as you can appreciate, no personal recording devices are allowed because they want you to focus on the experience
- Where can I change? I’d recommend putting your swim wear on in the car or at your hotel/B&B ahead of time. When you come out of the beach, there’s a new change room facility which is well maintained and clean
- Do I need an oxygen mask? This is only required for those doing a skydive at 16,500 feet. In talking to other people that did this, it’s not a big deal at all. They give you a mask to wear as you ascend in the plane and it comes off right before jumping
- Should I book in advance? Yes! This is a popular activity and if you want to get a specific time slot to fit your itinerary, I recommend booking in advance
- Is there somewhere I can store my things? There cubby boxes and lockers available so your things are nice and secure
- How many go up with you on the plane? In terms of customers, this is a question of weight balance. Depending on the weight of the skydivers, and need for extra cameraman, there could be up to 5 or less
- Is there a weight limit? Yes, it’s 100kgs / 220lbs for every tandem passenger
- Is there that rollercoaster drop feeling? I’m afraid of heights and honestly there wasn’t anything scary at all. I barely feel that drop at all and once you’re in free fall, it’s not like bungee jumping where you see the earth coming right up at you really fast. You can’t perceive how fast you’re falling so it just feels like you’re floating in the air with a lot of wind coming at you.
- This or bungee jumping? One big key difference between skydiving and bungee jumping is that someone else is pushing you out of the plane whereas in bungee jumping, you have to will yourself off the platform
- What video package should I pick? Personally I feel like either the outside cameraman or the combo package are the best options to choose. With just the tandem master camera, you have to realize that this is just a camera on their wrist so it’s very much a first-person perspective. With the separate skydiver following you around, you get way more epic footage. If you want it all, just go all out and get the combo
Where To Stay
If you’re looking for a place to stay near Motueka and the Abel Tasman area (Marahau), here are two recommendations that I have.
WE STAYED HERE
With Flying Kiwi, we stayed at this charming holiday park that was definitely one of my favourites from the whole trip.
Book with Flying Kiwi
We were able to fit in the Skydive Abel Tasman experience thanks to our trip with adventure tour bus Flying Kiwi where Marahau and Abel Tasman was an extended stop. If you’re curious about what we did with Flying Kiwi, make sure to head over to my full review.
Remember, if you’re interested in booking, make sure to use code “GOINGAWESOMEPLACES” to get a free sleeping bag rental (valued at NZ$60) for your entire trip!
I’m scared of heights and I refuse to go bungee jumping but if you were to ask me if I’d do it again, I’d say “YES!” in a heartbeat. If that’s not an endorsement to go, I don’t know what else is!
It may be hard for you to believe but it wasn’t scary at all because that dropping feeling isn’t there and you really can’t tell that you’re falling at 200 km/h. If anything, I felt like the free fall was too short.
Take it from me, you have to go skydiving in New Zealand and Skydive Abel Tasman is the place to do it!
Helpful New Zealand Resources
Got questions about the experience or want to share your first skydiving experience? Drop a comment below!