Skydiving in Iconic Uluru (2016)

Skydiving in Iconic Uluru (2016)

As the first rays of the rising sun caress its smooth flanks, Uluru glows red-hot against the surrounding flat scrubland. From this height, it seems every bit as iconic and seductive as the posters make it out to be. But there is no time to admire the spectacular views. Our tiny tinbox plane is already cruising at 15,000 feet (4,572 metres) and it is time to jump off. Aloïs, my tandem guide from Skydive Uluru, slides open the flimsy door of the plane to let in a savage gush of wind that almost knocks us out. Aloïs has recently relocated to Uluru, all the way from his native France. He claims to have successfully completed more than 3,000 tandem dives so far, most of them in France. I have my doubts, though, considering his youthful face and impish smile. This plane can seat exactly two people, stacked like two teaspoons, legs stretched flat in front. The roof is inches above the head with little room for manoeuvre.

Aloïs nudges me towards the open door where I am supposed to dangle my feet outside the plane. This is the moment of reckoning, the Rubicon I am about to cross. I mutter a silent prayer and fervently hope that Aloïs had not been doing drugs the previous night or nursing a hangover. I swing my legs out of the aircraft and feel giddy instantly. “Banana, banana!” Aloïs screams in my ear, hoping to be heard above the din of the vicious wind. I cross my arms over my chest, arch my back, tilt my head backwards, mimicking the shape of a bent banana. The decision to let go—of control over life and limb—is not a conscious one anymore. It just happens.


In the next few seconds, I am spinning in the air, hostage to the elements that whirl me around mercilessly. There is a rush of adrenaline and a sensory overload, a sensation like no other. The feeling is more freedom than fear. I catch a fleeting glimpse of the underside of the plane which seems to have shrunk in size. It is then that I realise that I have already fallen quite a distance. As I begin to make sense of my bearings, I find myself horizontal; presumably Aloïs is floating somewhere above me. Aloïs taps me on my shoulder asking me to stretch my arms, Kate Winslet-style in Titanic. Although the earth is speeding towards me at 140 km/hour, I feel I am floating in eternity; in fact, there is a sense of indescribable tranquillity. Yonder, Uluru beckons. After about 30 seconds of free fall, Aloïs yanks the parachute open and suddenly both of us turn vertical with a jerk. From now on, the descent is gradual, allowing me enough time to savour the delights of the outback from this vantage position.

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