Kenya Beach Boogie 2020

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A taste of Africa…

Skydiving over paradise, photo by Rénald Louchart

I have wanted to jump over Diani Beach for over 15 years, since I published a magazine article on the Kenya Boogie in 2005.

Diani Beach Boogie used to be an annual event, the first one in 1990. The stunning photos of skydiving over this paradise and landing on the beach blew my mind. 

Sadly, jumping onto Diani Beach came to a halt in 2016, for various reasons. So, when I had an email from Patrick Passe with an invitation to Kenya for a small boogie over Diani Beach I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I joined. It was to be a test with just 60  participants (40 jumpers and 20 accompanying people) . They came from France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine. 


Patrick Passe over Diani Beach
Photo by Rénald Louchart

Skydive and Holiday

The package included 15 jumps, local transport and 8 days at the gorgeous Southern Palms Beach Hotel, on an ‘All Inclusive’ deal that meant all food & drinks were included. At 1940 euro it was very affordable. 15 jumps would take just 3 or 4 days and I liked the idea of a part-jumping, part-relaxing holiday, with time to explore the local area and chill out.

Boat trips, snorkelling, diving and deep sea fishing were all available from the hotel beach
Photo by Rénald Louchart

NOTAM

It turned out there was a lot more time to explore/chill out than expected as it took almost a week to obtain the required NOTAM air clearance for skydiving. This was due to measures taken by the National Emergency Response Committee to prevent, respond to and contain the Corona virus. All sporting events were ordered to be cancelled, air traffic was placed under military control, and the system for granting permissions became more complicated as multiple signatures were required. Bob Weyne, the President of the Kenya Skydiving Club and and Vice President Nick Wood spent days lobbying ministers and were eventually successful on Friday 6 March, six days after we arrived.

Scuba diving was only one of the many activities enjoyed by the jumpers
Photo by Rénald Louchart

Activities

Meanwhile, everyone had taken full advantage of the location, going on safari, deep sea fishing, snorkelling the reef, scuba diving, day trips to Wasini Island, and visiting the local life in small towns around. You could also walk the miles of white sandy beaches next to the hotel, swim in the sea or fish the coral reef. Many of the jumpers had brought their partners, who appreciated the extra holiday together-time and the holiday destination. 

Southern Palms 

The superb facilities at the Southern Palms Beach Resort eased the frustration of waiting, with 5 restaurants, 2 enormous swimming pools and 5 bars, including 2 that served us drinks in the pool. Southern Palms is a mini village, elegantly designed and beautifully built in a mixture of traditional Kenyan craftsmanship and modern technology. I’ve stayed at many hotels all over the world and this one is my absolute favourite.  I’ve never seen so many staff members, there was always someone on hand to bring a pina colada, sunbed or delicious food. It’s fair to say the Ukrainian group took the ‘all-inclusive’ drinks to the absolute max, starting early and finishing late. If there had to be a skydiving holiday you didn’t skydive at, this was an excellent choice. It was hot, sunny, and the perfect antidote to the winter blues. 

If you have to be on a “forced” holiday not jumping, that’s the gang you want around you
Photo by Andy Vernum

Skydive Diani Beach

On the Saturday when we finally got to jump, it was well worth the wait. We took a 10-minute bus ride from the resort to Ukunda Airfield, surprising the passengers in the Departure lounge waiting for normal flights. The jumpship was a Cessna Caravan with a  Black Hawk engine. It’s been a long time since I jumped an aircraft without a door but this added to the experience, providing cooling air and a fantastic view of Kenya. Exiting over the deep blue Indian Ocean you could see miles of white sandy beaches, lush green jungle, and a vast expanse of glittering water. I made my first jump just in shorts, a crop top and a pair of goggles – partly to feel the rush of cool air on my overheated body, and partly to open high and fly my Stiletto around slowly, taking in the spectacular view. I don’t know anyone who isn’t a sucker for beach jumps. It’s always a rush, it concentrates the mind, and landing on the sand is special. 

Finally jumping :), photo by Rénald Louchart

Patrick Passe and Herman Landsman each organised FS groups, with a very high standard. We did a shorts 15-way jump with Herman, which was a lot of fun. There were also tandems, AFF jumps, freefly and small groups – a bit of everything. That night featured a beach dinner for the whole party, with speeches and dancing till late. On Sunday morning we did a couple more loads before heading home. The tide was low, making for a wider landing zone and stunning views of the different colours of the reef and surrounding waters. 


Shorts dive, organised by Herman Landsman

Safety

Safety boats were in the water whenever we jumped. The spots were consistent and excellent, the landing zone was kept clear of spectators by an efficient ground crew. We had zero incidents. 

The Cessna Caravan saluting after the last load
Photo by Herman Landsman

The Future

Two more Diani Beach Boogies are planned, one at the beginning of November 2020 and one the end of February 2021. Hopefully we should be out of isolation mode by then. Kenya is an amazing place to visit, with its own unique atmosphere. The local people are happy, friendly, chatty and with a charm of their own. As Patrick said, “Once you have had a taste of Africa you will always want to return”.

Once you have had a taste of Africa you will always want to return”

Beach landing zone, Southern Palms Resort and surroundings
Photo by Rénald Louchart

I am confident next time everything will be in place. The delay was due to the exceptional circumstances. There is a world health crisis, and if delaying our skydives is the worst we are affected, we can count ourselves lucky.

The hotel served drinks after our beach landings!
Photo by Andy Vernum

Ronnie Limborg, the main organiser of this year’s event, had previously run the Diani Beach Boogie from 1995 to 2004, with great success. Ronnie is Belgian by birth but was brought up in Africa and worked there for a long time. In collaboration with Patrick Passe, Ronnie went on to run 5 boogies in Mozambique and in the Gambia. In fact, they are looking at a possible joint Diani Beach/Zanzibar boogie, with a week in each special location, they are only 45 minutes flying time apart. I’m IN!

Sunset in a magic place, photo by Corinne Amelin

The reopening of skydiving over Diani Beach is significant for the Kenya Skydiving Club, which used to use the beach as their regular LZ. It has the gift of the perfect prevailing wind; it is almost invariably down the beach. Bob and Nick are now applying for a NOTAM for a whole year. They are expats who lived in Africa their whole lives. They want to rebuild skydiving in Kenya, with African Kenyans taking up the sport too. Oh, and Nick also offered for us to jump into his place in the Maasai Mara next year, and in front of Mount Kilimanjaro. A taste of Africa! 

For further information regarding the next Kenya Beach Boogies (November 2020 and February 2021), contact Patrick Passe

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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