Skydiving bringing a lifetime’s experience to Zanzibar tourism

Sky diving bringing a lifetime’s experience to Zanzibar tourism

What you need to know:

  • Authorities are optimistic that the skydiving experience is already giving Zanzibar an edge over other competing tourist destinations as its location is among only five places in the world that hold their landing area on the beautiful white shores of the ocean.

Zanzibar. It is a few minutes past 11am local time. The sky above is bright. The sound of ocean waves calmly splash the shores, welcoming another busy day on the beaches of Nungwi in Zanzibar.

Excitement is palpable among a group of people gathered around a coffee table nestled on the white sand in Kendwa Rocks Hotel. Foreign and domestic tourists are ready to sample one of the most exhilarating experiences on offer in Zanzibar’s tourism circuit.

Members of this group are about to go skydiving! Yes, you read right: skydiving! Can you imagine that...?

As late as 2019, skydiving as a leisure and sports activity was a foreign phenomenon in Tanzania. But not anymore! More and more adrenaline seekers are travelling to Nungwi to experience the thrill of a breathtaking skydiving: jumping out of a plane over the pristine beaches on the northern side of this magical island. This is skydiving at its finest and is a great addition to the new attractions that are making Zanzibar a must-go destination for global and local tourists.

Authorities are optimistic that the addition of skydiving on the island, will give Zanzibar an edge over other competing tourist destinations. Skydive Zanzibar not only offers an exhilarating free fall and parachute flight from 3 kilometres up in the skies over Zanzibar; but is also among only five places in the world that hold their landing area on the beautiful white shores of the ocean. For this reason, investors say they are determined to make it the best experience in Africa.

This unique sport was a vision of Gerry Hope, whose experienced skydiving team have partnered with a number of local contributors to make their vision a reality. One of these partners is Tanzanian Ali Kilupy, who is also an experienced and licensed skydiver. The two were brought together by the vision to make the sport part of Tanzania’s tourism magic.

“I have always been a bit of a daredevil myself. I completed my skydiving licence back in 2002, but I had to go all the way to Namibia to do it. I was really excited when Gerry approached me to open this unique experience at Kendwa Rocks,” says Kilupy, who excitedly speaks of the satisfaction that clients get during the jump.

“The rush of the free-fall is one thing, but the view of Zanzibar gliding down are unmatched. I am really impressed with the work the Skydive Zanzibar team and contributors have done thus far; they’re all about offering a safe, exhilarating and unique experience and that’s exactly what we’re all about at Kendwa Rocks,” Kilupy says.

The hawk-eyed team are hands-on, working around the clock to deliver results that have made first time jumpers always come back for more. The team is made up of highly trained skydiver instructors and ground support crew with many years of experience. Together, they assure the best and safe experience for future skydivers.

The sport was made possible with the establishment of the Nungwi airport, which is some 60-plus kilometres from Zanzibar’s Stone town. The airport was inaugurated in 2019 by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar as it looked to improve infrastructure to service the tourism sector, which is the leading source of income for the local economy.

North Unguja’s Regional Commissioner - in whose jurisdiction the sport is located - Ayoub Mohammed Mahmoud, is excited at the prospects that the initiative brings to the local economy. “The impact of the Skydive Zanzibar is very positive for the development of the tourism industry within Zanzibar and Tanzania tourism market at large,” says Mahmoud.

According to Mahmoud, Skydive Zanzibar is among the prime activities that attract more tourists and enlarges the tourism value chain within Zanzibar Island.

“It is my pride that Skydive Zanzibar is located within the Northern Region at Kendwa and Nungwi, that has famous tourist attractions as white sand beaches and accounts for more than 60 per cent of the total attraction for Unguja Island.”

A breathtaking view of the Island from 3km high in the sky as fun seekers ascend for a memorable jump. PHOTO | COURTESY

The top regional official has called for further integration of skydiving in the bigger tourism picture, that will market Zanzibar far and wide.

According to Gerry, Zanzibar had always been his dream to start the sport and is happy the venture is finally taking root. “As far back as 2014, I was eager to make it work but the absence of a working airport close by presented some small challenges.”

He eventually got the opportunity to showcase the sport on the new Nungwi airport runway, during the Zanzibar revolution celebrations in 2019. He explains that after the celebrations, he returned in 2020 to launch the project but the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic caused a short delay in operations. Despite the challenges, the Skydive Zanzibar team took it in their stride and were dropping their first parachutes over the island in December 2020 as part of the CAA procedures.

Since then, Skydive Zanzibar have so far welcomed over 400 skydivers. Enthusiastic tourists, some who are first timers and some experienced, come for yet another thrill, sharing their joy of the fact that they now have the opportunity to sky-dive in Tanzania, which is famed for its Safari and beach tourism.

Diana Zelenkovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was jumping for the second time and already planning a third jump, said, “Two-and-a-half months ago I jumped for the first time and I am excited to be doing this here in Zanzibar.”

She was accompanied by Sasha Alexiavic from Serbia who was set to do her first sky-dive. “I have no fear of heights and was so excited doing this. The view is amazing from above,” she explains, noting that jumping out of the plane to landing takes about 10 minutes. “I wish it lasted longer.”

For those with fear of heights, the jump is just as satisfying, with the experienced instructors at hand to guide them throughout the whole experience.

“The view from above is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life,” says Diana as she and the team of instructors poured through recorded video images of her jump and descend. “I can’t wait to share this with my family and friends.”

A tandem sky-dive is what a first timer would experience; it involves a flight, enjoying the incredible views of the island while ascending to 10,000ft. While attached to the instructor, the passenger then jumps from the plane to experience an exhilarating 40 seconds of free fall over beautiful Zanzibar safe in the knowledge their highly experienced instructor is with them the whole way. After this, the parachutes opens for a 10-minute descent to land on the white sandy shores of the Indian ocean.

During a jump, a team of about 15 people work around the clock to ensure a smooth execution. They use special communication gadgets to monitor the entire process and ensure utmost safety for the jumpers from 10,000ft above. That day of the jump, Diana descended with an instructor, and beside her was Kuaadjo Bonin, an experienced jumper.

“I’m a fun jumper and have done this 203 times. This was my first time to jump in Zanzibar and I have never seen a more spectacular ocean view than this. I’m definitely going to do this a couple of more times before I leave,” he says. The jump is done between 9am to 6pm every day.

As the third jumper of the day was being prepared, the ground support team were packing another parachute. “As a team on the ground, we instruct and inform the pilot on the situation with the clouds and wind direction, this will help the pilot know where and when to release the jumpers,” explains Mohamad Athuman, who is a certified parachute packer.

FLY Zanzibar - themselves a long standing and highly experienced air operator from Zanzibar - are providing the aircraft for skydiving. The captain and pilot Mohamad Mazrui say they are satisfied with all the management systems deployed to make the sport enjoyable and safe for all. “Every aspect you can think of has been assessed, approved and certified by the regulating authorities as well as in house due diligence. This is a recreational activity that attracts both locals and foreigners.”

Gerry is appreciative of the support he has received from authorities, that include the commissioner of tourism, the regional commissioner of Zanzibar North, Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and Zanzibar Airports Authority (ZAA).

“Without these four key partners we would not be able to execute this, we are grateful for the authorities for being visionary and creating space for tourism to stay afloat, as well as to go beyond their usual comfort zone to embrace this new activity in Zanzibar and handle it amidst the pandemic successfully”.

ZAA’s Public Relations manager Mulhat Yussuff says the authority fully supports the establishment of Skydive Zanzibar and notes that it has given mileage to tourism product in the Isles. “It is the first time to have this kind of recreation in Tanzania and ZAA fully supports the investor who operates through our airport located at Kigunda, Nungwi, in North Unguja.”

She says ZAA ensures that the facility operates while fully subscribing to the civil aviation rules and procedures under Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We’ve also set out standard procedures for skydiving investors to abide with for them to be cleared to operate and luckily, Skydive Zanzibar and the airline sustains the security needs and demands in collaboration with local authorities.”

Miss Mulhat adds that skydiving brings advancement to the airports, as well as an increase to the national income through the tourism industry. “As tourists visit Zanzibar and Tanzania in large numbers, they no longer have to travel to places like Dubai for skydiving. They can instead enjoy the scenery of Zanzibar as they partake in this great activity.”

Skydive Zanzibar operates under the most rigorous regulations of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority and the United States Parachute Association to provide the safest and most reputable sky-dive experience possible to its customers.