Dropzone review of Skydive Dubai from a noobish skydiver (185 jumps at point of writing).
There are 2 dropzones in Dubai and fun jumpers will usually go to Skydive Dubai Desert Campus (SD2) rather than The Palm which is more focused on tandem operations. I visited SD2 in Mar 2017 where I did 20 jumps over 5 days. [And again in Mar 2018 when I did 16 jumps over 4 days.]
Important 1: SD2 does not operate in summer from 1 June to 31 August (wef from 2017 The Palm remains open over the summer with limited hours 0600h-1000h).
Important 2: Argus AADs (discontinued) not allowed.
Location / Getting to SD2:
The SD2 dropzone (DZ) is a 53km (30-40min) drive from Dubai international airport (mainly highways). You can rent a car at the airport from the usual international agencies (eg. Avis, Hertz, Sixt, etc). It is better to have your own wheels if you intend to stay a few days as there are no food and amenities within walking distance of the DZ in the evenings (nearest town is 35km drive from DZ). If you do not drive, you could take taxis but this will be more expensive than car rental (i.e. c.AED100/one way from airport to the DZ vs. car rental from c.AED80 per day). SD2 does not provide any transfers from the city/airport.
Process/pricing (sports jumpers)
SD2 is a USPA dropzone. Do allow at least 30min for registration and checking of gear / logbook etc. if it is your first time here. It costs AED100 per jump (AED90 if you buy a ten-pack) and rig rental is AED75 per jump, EXCLUDING pack job which is AED35. There is no credit card surcharge for jump tickets but packing and gear rental must be paid for in cash. Overall I think gear rental is quite expensive at SD2 as there is no daily cap, and rental of altimeter, helmet and jumpsuit are chargeable (free at most other DZs). [Update 2018: Prices have increased to AED120 per jump inclusive of VAT (AED115 or you buy a 10-pack and AED110 if you buy a 25-pack).]
2017 price list (see updated price list on SD2 website)
Packing, gear rental and rigging in cash only
Manifesting is very straightforward, just buy tickets from the registration counter then give your paper ticket to manifest who will tell you which load you are on. There are usually no gear up calls so you have to watch the electronic manifest closely. [off-topic: A bit of the nerd in me but surely they could differentiate the planes by colour in the Excel sheet to make it easier to read?]
There is an on-site cafeteria (buffet lunch AED40, or see menu below), coffee counter, rigging loft, 2 massive air-conditioned packing rooms, free wifi, clean toilets (with shower) and retail shop. Overall everything feels very clean as they hire cleaners to sweep up the sand that gets tracked in (and even wipe down the plants). There used to be on-site accommodation but it seems like this is no longer in operation.
Dirt dive area
Packing room 1 (for packers)
Packing room 2 (for sports jumpers packing their own rigs)
Student training area
The landing zone is impossible to miss, what with it being the only patch of green in the massive brown desert. It’s fairly large with separate zones for swoopers (high performance landings), students/beginners, and the rest of us. With a full sports load of 20 pax it does get a bit busy (especially cos everyone wants to land closer to the packing room) but I found it manageable. If you can’t get back to the landing zone for whatever reason, there is plenty of room in the desert to make a safe landing and the buggy will go pick you (and your sand-infused canopy) up.
Spacious landing area (land in direction of arrow)
They have SEVEN planes! Mainly Otters, which take 20 pax per load. Red/amber/green light system for exit, which is on the left side of the plane. Full altitude is 12500 feet. [Update 2018: Not sure what has happened to the sherpa and porter. Only the five otters left now.]
So many planes
As mentioned it seems like there is no longer any on-site accommodation. The closest accommodation to the SD2 is at the Silicon Oasis area, about 35km in the direction of the city. The DZ website recommends staying at Premier Inn Silicon Oasis which is a 3-star hotel with a licensed bar. Expect to pay about AED350-400 per room per night (twin share) including taxes. Unfortunately Dubai does not seem to have hostel/backpacker accommodation so expect to shell out a bit more on accommodation (not sure if sleeping in your car at the DZ is allowed). If you have a bigger group you should opt for an apartment / apartment hotel / airbnb which should save you some cash. There is not much to do around the Silicon Oasis area at night so those needing some nightlife would probably be better off staying in the city with a slightly longer commute.
After hearing so much about SD2 I found it just…. normal. Apparently there was a change in management in mid-2016 and they have since cut down a lot on staff and budget. Load organizing only happens on weekends now (I only saw one belly group on Saturday). No beer fines at this DZ though, because well, they are not licensed to sell alcohol on premise.
Conclusion / BeyondBanality pro tips:
It was alright, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again. Also Dubai is an expensive place to drink as alcohol licenses are limited to hotels, so bring your own supplies (you are allowed to bring in 4L/person so make the most of it!) Winds are a bit sketchy in the PM when the desert sand heats up, so go as early as you can to get some jumps in (manifest opens 730am, wheels up at 8am).
Date of activity: 28 Mar – 1 Apr 2017
Location: Desert Campus, Dubai, UAE (53km southeast of Dubai international airport)
Operator: Skydive Dubai Desert Campus (closed: Mondays, and summer from 1 June – 31 Aug)
Rate: AED110 per jump ticket if you buy a pack of 25 (otherwise AED120 for single jump tickets). Rig rental is AED75 per jump, excluding pack job which is AED35 (cash only).
Booking (for fun jumpers): Just turn up
Booking (for courses): Required, use web form on website (AFF ground school starts every Friday, only with prior booking)
Accommodation I used: Premier Inn Silicon Oasis (about 35km from SD2)
See also my experience at other dropzones in the region:
- Dropzone review: Sydney Skydivers, Picton NSW, Australia
- Dropzone review: skydive Jurien Bay, Perth WA, Australia
- Dropzone review: Thai Sky Adventures, Pattaya Thailand