CNN explores Kenya’s skydiving scene

This week on Inside Africa, CNN International travels to the Kenyan coast where the Skydive Diani team are one of the only fully operational skydiving centres on the continent, outside of South Africa. Diani Beach is one of the few places in the world where skydivers can jump out, over the ocean and land on a beach all year-round.

Chief Supervisor, Gary Lincoln-Hope tells CNN about how the company first started: “Skydive Diani started by complete chance… A bunch of skydivers found themselves in Kenya and were missing their passion, missing their sport… we floated the concept of what if we started a skydive centre here in Kenya. And that’s pretty much how it went on. And then six weeks later, we had Skydive Diani.”

Lincoln-Hope also tells CNN what makes his skydiving centre different: “It was a very new idea for a permanent facility here… On the continent… not just unique within Africa, but we are particularly unique globally because we get to land on the beach and there are only this many drop zones, skydive centres in the world that can enjoy that luxury. Yeah. So, there is, there is probably, it’s a handful, maybe even 10 in the world.”

One employee, Saidi Bakari Chanda started working at the company in security, however, after undergoing an intensive training program, Chanda was awarded his official rigging permit and certificate; the only person in Kenya to have such a qualification. He proudly tells CNN: “In Kenya there is no one who has it except me. I am the first one who did the course and I hope, maybe there’s some guys coming but, for now it’s only me…It took me two years.”

Chanda now teaches other students about the inner workings of the parachute. One student is Othmane Taky from Morocco who tells CNN about what he has learnt so far: “I’m curious, so I kind of checked the physics behind it, but I had no idea how complex it is to pack it back. So, it’s really not something I would have thought to be that complex. I do kitesurfing, so I get to play with lines but it’s not something I expected to be as complex as that… This is a hard job. This is a really hard job.”

On women in the sport, CNN speaks to another student, Anne-Marie Burugu, who hopes to see more female involvement in skydiving: “I think definitely among Kenyan women we have this thing where we put everything else first. So, we’ll put our family first, our children first, our jobs first and we sort of take the last slot. Everything for us is if we have time. My idea was I’d love to be able to inspire women to be able to really believe that there is nothing wrong with putting themselves first and that there is nothing wrong with prioritising that. I would love to see more Kenyan women get into it… guaranteed, they would learn something new about themselves.”

CNN learns more about Skydive Diani as they prepare to host a boogie on Kenya’s Swahili coast. Lincoln-Hope tells CNN about the event: “So, a few times a year we put together events where we open the doors to skydivers from all around the world and say, ‘Come and see what it’s like in Kenya. Come and jump with us, come and land on the beach, come and enjoy some parties, come and enjoy some dinners.’ So, we put together these events and they’re, you know, effectively… a skydiving boogie… We are blessed with wonderful people from all over the world.”

Chanda explains why he enjoys how inclusive and international such boogie events have become: “Boogies bring people from different places and you know, on skydiving we have, it’s like a family. Skydiving is like a family. So, I have so many friends from all over the world.”

For Othmane Taky, skydiving is more than just a sport. He tells CNN: “It’s also a welcoming family. Usually in other sport communities the new guy is always the one you make fun of or laugh at because he’s a newbie. While here people will come and check your gear, ask you how you have been doing and they’ll listen to you, which is interesting… And again, the fact that it’s so international, and you meet people that are from all over the world. And I think the bonds are very strong once you start jumping.”

‘Inside Africa’ airs on Friday 12th October at 1130 EAT on CNN International