The zany chaps from Britain’s Dangerous Sports Club made the first modern bungee jump from Bristol’s 245-foot (75 m) Clifton Suspension in 1979. Yet since bungee jumping became commercial at the hands of elastic-thinking New Zealand entrepreneur A J Hackett, the heights from which the man on the street can now leap with nothing but a giant rubber band attached to his ankles have just got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Here are the highest jumps from fixed objects to date. Steel yourself for some vertiginous views.
5. Europabrücke Bridge, Austria – 630 feet (192 m)
Standing 630 feet (192 m) high, and supporting the Brenner Autobahn that links Austria and Italy across the Alps, the Europabrücke Bridge was Europe’s highest from 1963 until it was topped out by France’s Millau Viaduct in 2004. Make no mistake, though: just standing on the edge of this structure, let alone thinking about jumping from it, would be enough to make many feel sick with giddiness.
Once you’ve had those ties wrapped securely round your ankles, it’s a quick look at the alpine panorama around you and then a leap off the launch platform, your face turning to stretched rubber as the floor of the Wipp valley rushes towards you, before the bungee finally kicks in, leaving you bouncing like a rag doll on a piece of string – albeit a very grateful one.
4. Bloukrans Bridge, South Africa – 708 feet (216 m)
The world’s highest single span arch bridge, the Bloukrans Bridge towers 708 feet (216 m) above the river of the same name. Primarily a road bridge, the Bloukrans also hosts a beast of a bungee jump – the highest commercially operated on earth for years after it was opened in 1997. With its pendulum system, apparently you get “the smoothest, most comfortable bungy jump possible”. Nice to know.
Once you’ve been led across a custom designed catwalk that hangs beneath the N2 national route road surface, taking you to the top of the arch, it’s time to get your final instructions – and maybe mutter some final prayers. Then it’s a quick countdown amidst stunning surrounds, and away you go, plummeting through the air, with the water of Bloukrans River looming large in a matter of seconds.
3. Verzasca Dam, Switzerland – 720 feet (220 m)
Just looking at this picture is enough to give you vertigo. That dam face just keeps going down, down, down – hopefully not to damnation if you’re freefalling down its face. The Verzasca hydroelectric dam, completed in 1965, soars 720 feet (220 m) above Lago di Vogorno, the reservoir it forms. Oh, and its apex is also the site of a heart-stopping commercial bungee jump.
Featured in the opening sequence of the Bond movie Goldeneye, the Verzasca dam offers a pure freefall swinging bungee from a single cord, similar to the one that swings you down from the Bloukrans Bridge. Apparently this jump is made without guide ropes, but jump masters are there to ensure you’re safe as you hurtle towards the base of this colossal concrete structure.
2. Macau Tower, China – 760 feet (233 m)
Measuring 1,109 feet (338 m) from tip to toe, the Macau Tower dwarfs the former Portuguese colony of Macau, where it was completed in 2001. In 2006, bungee jumping guru A J Hackett launched what the Guinness Book of Records recognised as the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, performing the leap himself from the same spot as his ’skyjump’, which was opened the year before.
Although at 760 feet (233 m) just a fraction taller than its Swiss rival to the crown, and perhaps not as scenic as some of the other jumps here, the drop from the Macau Tower definitely isn’t to be sneered at. What’s more, when you’ve thrown yourself into the abyss, plunging straight for the city floor, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about such trifling concerns. More important things to think about.
1. Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado, USA – 1,053 feet (321 m)
Fortunate to be numero uno this one, with the bungee jump only available in the Go Fast Games of 2005 and 2007 – but the best things come to those who wait. An attraction since 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge hangs 1,053 feet (321 m) aloft and is billed as the highest suspension bridge in the world. Add rickety wooden planks with cracks you can see straight down between and dizzying wouldn’t be the word.
With the Arkansaw River running along the base of the gorge, this rare bungee jump is a beauty, and edging along its platform it takes some beating for fear factor too. Says jumper Larry Gottlieb: “Those last few inches feel like a mile. Then… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… jump! …At first, there was a feeling of falling, but very quickly I reached terminal velocity of about 110 mph. After that, it felt like floating – just wonderful.” Nuff said.
For more stomach-churning bungee jumping pics – taken from atop Shanghai’s Jin Mao Tower – go here.