Sandstorms slice through Swakopmund's streets past chalets and baroque storefronts that would look far more at home in Munich than here amid the deserts of Namibia. In the local supermarket, blonde locals peruse bleached copies of Allgemeine Zeitung before rushing off to find their boards and the next wave. The culture is a strange mix of Mitteleuropa and Südafrika, but there seems to be a consensus about adventure: Namibians want more of it. That native impulse and a jolty local currency makes this spectacular, barren country the easiest and most affordable place on Earth to go sky diving.
So what makes Namibia such a fantastisch spot to take the sky-dive plunge? "It's the incredible contrasts," according to Craig Milne, a tandem master from Ground Rush Adventures with more than 10,000 dives under his harness. "We have all the space in the world to play around with here between the untamed sea and dune landscapes – plus the beers are pretty cheap, too."
Divers begin their adventure with a short transfer out to "China Town," a drop zone in the desert named after a recently built Chinese satellite tracking station. Once suited, booted, and briefed at base, tandem passengers and solo static liners hop a 30-minute flight aboard a six-seater Cessna 210 up to 10,000 feet. There are rarely clouds. Everyone waits for the captain's final cross-check cue call, "It's Raining Men," then make the leap.
The 30-second, 125-mph free fall is a gut-wrenching sprint toward terminal velocity. Adrenaline is released in waves before parachutes are deployed and the slow drift toward earth begins. It's then that Swakopmund's immense topography finally has a chance to make an impression. Some of the largest sand dunes in the world collide with the raging Atlantic Ocean beating against the shipwrecks that line the Skeleton Coast.
After finally toggling the reins back to terra firma about six minutes later, the Ground Rush personnel immediately start a post-jump jol (party). Being Namibian, the sky-dive blokes tend to crack open the coolers for some local "Nam brews," which tend to have everyone truly on the ground in no time.
More information: Getting to Swakopmund could be your main adventure here: The town lies a five-hour drive from the Namibian capital, Windhoek, or a pretty epic three-day road trip from the popular gateway of Cape Town. South African Airways fly from the U.S. to Windhoek via Johannesburg beginning at $1,250. Jumps with Ground Rush Adventures start at $85 (static line) to $210 (tandem), while their base hostel, Amanpuri Lodge, makes a handy spot to crash for $40.