“Teagan, you’re going to Botswana this weekend. How do you feel about skydiving?” asked my editor, Sonya Schoeman. I blanched, my excitement at a change in weekend plans fizzling into a mild panic. I’m terrified of heights: a not-so-ideal quality in a Getaway photojournalist. Breathing deeply, I ignored my initial gut reaction of ‘not a chance!’ and instead forged ahead with a faltering, “Um. Okay.”
Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), SkyDive Botswana, Skydiversity Skydiving and Nata Conservation had pulled together an event that was the first of its kind: a skydiving ‘Boogie’ set above the abstract patterns of dried out salt pans. The event drew skydivers from across South Africa – and even internationally – as well as enthused crowds from the surrounding areas. Event activities included quad bike trails, boat rides across the massive water-filled pans, nature walks and bird watching, but the main draw cards were the skydives and tandem jumps, the latter of which were available to the public.
Fast forward two nights, where I found myself face down on the ground with camera gear strewn around me after having tripped over an errant tent guy line. I was out in the Makgadikgadi pans, an area roughly the size of Portugal and open to the vast skies. And it was dark. I had missed out on supper at the organisers’ tent and was sadly sniffing the remains of chops and pap in the air, all whilst adamantly not thinking about having to jump out of the sky from a height of 4200m in a few hours.
‘Are you alright?’ asked a distant voice, concerned as I brushed off my knees. I checked my lenses first before answering, heart in my throat, until I had assured myself that all was well on the glass front.
“Yes, I am. Thanks.”
I resolved to call it a night, sure that the new dawn would lift my spirits.
And it did. Sitting behind BTO Marketing Manager Jillian Blackbeard as we raced towards sunrise on her quad bike, I got my first glimpse of the much-discussed Botswana Defence Force’s massive CASA 235. Standing next to it, looking like plucky sidekicks, stood two smaller aircraft. From these three aircraft, around 70 skydivers and multiple tandem jumpers would be chucked out of the sky towards a dizzying beautiful landscape. The energy was palpable, and the land surreal. I suddenly got very, very excited for what was to come.
See the full portfolio of this incredible event in the February 2015 issue of Getaway Magazine.