Jumpers free-fall for a distance of 365 feet. // © 2017 Shearwater Bungee
The saying goes, "If somebody told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”
Well, I’m not normally one to give into peer pressure, and I’m no daredevil. But when a new friend asked if I wanted to accompany her on a bungee jump adventure in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I surprised even myself: I said yes.
And there I was shortly after — on a bridge that straddled the Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa — about to swan dive from a ledge and free-fall for 365 feet.
As a staff member from Shearwater Bungee bound my ankles and guided me into a full-body harness, I heard a faint “Emma!” echo from below, followed by “It wasn’t scary at all!” (In true cool-as-a-cucumber fashion, I had insisted that my friend go first.)
And with that, it was my turn. I stood up, gave a nervous thumbs-up to the GoPro tied securely around my wrist, bunny-hopped over to the ledge, looked down (oops) — and flew.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Bungee!
Although Queenstown, New Zealand, is known as the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping, Victoria Falls — which is classified as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — is perhaps one of the most scenic spots to perform a jump.
It’s considered an extreme adventure activity, but bungee jumping attracts more than just thrill-seekers craving a rush. As a somewhat cautious person myself, I found that it was the personal challenge of embracing fear and stifling my never-ending tendency to control that compelled me to make the leap.
This challenge also resonates with Diana Tsitsi Sitotombe, a marketing executive for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. She originally began bungee jumping for a professional reason — to better sell the product to tourists visiting Zimbabwe. But after her first jump at Victoria Falls, she turned it into an annual birthday ritual.
“My birthday marks the beginning of a new year that is filled with lots of things I can never predict,” she said. “Bungee jumping forces me to jump in the face of my fears; it teaches me to convert the fear associated with uncertainty into courage.”
On the other hand, Lisa Greyhill, my jumping companion and chief adventure officer of tour company Adventure Travelers Society, is an adventurer through and through. This was her second jump; her first took place in Taupo, New Zealand.
She describes the experience as a pull between a primeval, fight-or-flight response and another — more powerful — inner force that booms, “Go, go, go!”
“It would be hard to say who the ‘right’ client is for bungee jumping, because I think everyone who’s physically able should give it a try,” Greyhill said. “We should all do something a little crazy and scary in our lives; it reminds us that everything isn’t just boring or routine. The best advice is to not overthink it. Just be present, and just do it.”
Bungee Jumping 101
Shearwater Bungee is a Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe-based company operating extreme adventure activities from the Victoria Falls bridge — a landmark hailed as a civil engineering feat thanks to its cutting-edge design and swift construction in the early 20th century.
Here’s what clients need to know if bungee jumping with the operator.
- Injuries or death from jumping are rare, but travelers with certain health conditions — e.g. back problems or high blood pressure — are advised against jumping. A full list of health warnings is posted in the Shearwater Bungee registration office.
- Jumps take place each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Shearwater accepts both reservations and walk-ups. Reservations are recommended in peak season, which occurs from May to October.
- Clients will need their passports on the day of the jump, as the bridge is located about 1 mile from the border control between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
- Shearwater offers several other bookable activities, including a solo or tandem bridge swing, a zipline or a bridge tour. A single bungee jump costs $160 per person.
- Clients can purchase photos, video and GoPro footage of their jump.
- Victoria Falls Bridge is located about 25 minutes from Victoria Falls Airport. Several airlines fly from the U.S. to Victoria Falls via connecting flights, including South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and more.