There comes a time in your life, when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book. For me, that moment came when I was sitting with my feet dangling outside a plane flying over Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. I was at a height of 9,000 feet and readying to jump out. My hands shook and my only thought was, ‘will I land safely?’ Just that morning, I had switched my phone off to psychologically prepare myself for the jump and avoid taking calls from my mom, who had already asked me to reconsider my decision, several times .
The jump went off well and I didn’t become yet another part of some statistic of adrenaline junkie victims that the world scoffs at. Ever since, I have tried my hand at parasailing, bungee jumping, cage shark/crocodile diving, ostrich riding (laugh at your own peril), white water rafting and more. The most common questions I’ve encountered when I’ve recounted these tales to friends and co-workers are ‘don’t you get scared?’ and ‘was it easy?’
Yes, it was scary and it wasn’t easy. But that’s not the point. Faceless horrors lie waiting in the silent darkness of night. Phobias haunt us day in and out. But it doesn’t take some phenomenal skill to overcome them and attempt adventure sports. Nor is it an act of bravery. There is an element of risk involved, but we live in India — we laugh in the face of danger on a daily basis as we take shortcuts across the railway tracks, drive through knee-deep water in the rains or commute by hanging outside a train compartment.
At least with adventure sports, you have professional help! So just keep a few pointers in mind and then sit back and enjoy the ride.
Wild animal encounters
1 It is a wild animal. Respect it. Don’t treat it like your dog or cat and pet it.
2 Animals are moody. If the one you are riding isrestless or edgy, try another.
3 Listen to the trainer. They can read animals and have been doing it for years.
4 I’ve been bitten and scratched by an ostrich. But don’t worry, there have never been deaths due to ostrich bites or cheetah scratches!
5 Enjoy the moment... it’s shortlived.
Bungee jumping/sky diving
1 Choose a well-known operator. If you know you are in safe hands, you’ll feel better.
2 Ask questions. Read up. Don’t lose it if they make you sign a waiver seeking indemnity in the event of death. It’s just a formality.
3 Avoid negativity. If your harried parents or friends insist on calling, switch your phone off. Listen to music or read.
4 Take your time to jump. I jumped last. Watching others jump before me boosted my confidence.
5 Pull out if you feel you can’t do it. But remember, once you jump, your job is done.
White water rafting/ parasailing/ speed boating
1 Swimming prowess isn’t a criterion to attempt these.
2 These activities mostly take place in rough waters, so don’t rock the boat.
3 If you have motion sickness or seasickness, make sure you pop that pill beforehand.
4 All water sports have levels of difficulty; choose one you are comfortable with.
5 Wear that life jacket. Adhere to safety procedures.
Crocodile / shark cage diving
1 Don’t watch films like Jaws (1975) or Lake Placid (1999) before the dive. Why push it?
2 Choose comfortable diving gear. Get rid of all accessories, including cameras or handy-cams. Avoid unnecessary distractions.
3 Take your time to get acclimatised. In my case, I reassured myself that the company would lose its licence if I got hurt. Would they want to risk that for a tourist they don’t know?
4 Remember there is a cage around you. Sharks and crocs are curious creatures, but if they see that you are no threat, they will stay away. Just keep your fingers and feet away from the bars.
5 Keep in mind that you can always pull out. Use it if you feel that you’re pushing limits. There is no shame in admitting fear.