Johannesburg, South Africa
Hot Mess Tips for Visiting the Orlando Towers
- The Orlando Towers activities include lots of adventurous things, beyond bungee jumping. For example, there’s a free fall (inside the tower) and outside there is paintball and some other fun activities.
- There is a bar in one of the towers! We didn’t know this until our friend told us the next day and totally missed it while we were there (all of the adrenaline fogging up our brains). Don’t miss it like we did - it even sells its own house beer.
- You don't need reservations or cash (they accept credit cards).
- Get there via Uber or rental car.
- Don’t miss this landmark if you’re in Joburg! Even if you just go for the view.
I used to say “hell no” if someone asked if I would ever bungee jump. “You skydived, why won’t you bungee jump?” was always their counter.
It was something about imagining my soft, un-sculpted body splatting against the rocks in three seconds (whereas with skydiving it’s more like three minutes). Also, with skydiving, I had the security of a skilled instructor, who presumably wanted to live, tethered to me.
But during my research of Cape Town, I figured why not see if it was offered. After all, Cape Town had great white cage diving, lion’s head paragliding, and table mountain hiking. Bungee jumping seemed like a natural activity for the adventure capital of the world. But, the only thing I could find was an overnight bus tour to a bungee jump spot that left from Cape Town and who has that kind of time.
I gave up on bungee jumping in South Africa until months later, I was researching things to do in Johannesburg, admittedly, like it was an afterthought. I had never imagined that a landlocked city would offer this particular flavor of adventure, but while looking up attractions downtown, I became curious about what those two graffitied towers were all about. I started to do some research and only then did I realize that you can actually bungee off of the beasts!
I knew what I had to do.
The Day Of
Without a booking - but with plenty of reservations (see what I did there) - we Ubered to the towers. The jump was about $40 USD and the photos and videos were an extra $30 or so.
Luckily, the scale they weighed us with was in a unit of measurement that meant nothing to me. Unsure of the dress code, I wore sneakers, shorts, and a t-shirt. (This worked though I think if you wear flip flops you just bungee barefoot.)
Up, Up, Up
Within a matter of minutes the staff had us in harnesses and we climbed aboard an old, windowy elevator to make our way up the side of the tower on the outside. This was all progressing too fast. I tried my hardest not to look down but I could tell we were high.
At the top there was a set of grated stairs. The outdoor staircase dangles people over 300 meters of dense, secure NOTHINGS so it took my brain forever to convince my legs to walk up the steps. Imagine a dog walking over a storm drain.
Thankfully, we arrived at a spacious, non-grated platform. It had a solid wood railing so I couldn’t see over the edge. Things were temporarily better as I immediately entered a state of denial about how high we were (about 300 meters above the ground).
From this platform you can access a long, high bridge, which connects the towers at the top. At the center of that bridge is the bungee platform.
The crew instructed us to following basically two rules once we were situated and ready to jump on the edge of the platform. The first was DON’T LOOK DOWN. Instead, they told us, look straight ahead into the horizon. The second rule was not to jump feet first but to swan dive into oblivion.
There was a group of about eight. Because I was so apprehensive to board the elevator, I was the last on and therefore the first off and now in the front of the line.
But I was not willing to go first. I needed to see someone else not die before I would go.
Thank GOODNESS my friend - nonchalant AF - shrugged and was like “I’ll go.”
I watched her walk along the bridge toward the other tower, pausing at the middle. She was getting some cables hooked up and then - like a true professional - she walked to the ledge and swan dove into empty air.
She did her job of surviving, making me feel more secure.
I was next.
Of course the entire time I’m wondering if it was too late to turn back but I’d already bragged that I was going bungee jumping so I made the quick decision that I’d rather die than tell everyone I bitched out.
After the crew called me forward, I started walking out onto the bridge. My feet were moving but I wasn’t controlling them. Is this what cognitive dissonance means? Had I ever walked this slowly in my entire life?
I made it out to the center and they had me sit on a crate while they hooked some stuff and tightened my leg things.
The photographer was dancing around to Biggie, which was playing at FULL BLAST.
I must have looked nervous because he was trying to capture my attention to distract me from my fears.
“You’re from the USA,” he said, “so you must know Biggie!” He had such a big smile so his method of distraction actually kind of worked.
“I don’t know him personally,” I responded, because that’s how much oxygen my brain wasn’t getting.
It was time. They guided me to my feet and closer to the platform. I tried not to look down, per instructions, but even though I was looking straight ahead, it was impossible not to realize that below is ground. Even with my eyes closed I know it’s ground.
Down is ground. Ground is down.
Two crew members on either side of me put my arms around their shoulders and walked me to the edge. They were trying to walk me about 12-inch steps but I moved no faster than four inches at a time. Still, it was only like three feet from the crate so it took basically no time.
They walked me all of the way to the ledge with my arms firmly around their shoulders.
Unfortunately, we'd arrived.
Staring out at the horizon, I continued gripping them for stability so I didn’t fall over. Brain reminded me that I was supposed to fall over. They were here to help me jump, not keep me there.
I didn’t move my arms though. Brain was absent again and I was trying to work out what was going to happen all on my own. I honestly thought the two crew members were coming with me over the edge for a moment. Then, Brain lit back up just long enough to hesitantly peel my arms away from their shoulders and stand alone on a ledge high enough that I could see the curve of the earth in front of me.
It was so beautiful.
My hands were shaking and I had stopped breathing.
They handed me a GoPro on a selfie stick and I felt naked-in-public-dream levels vulnerability.
I told Brain, “Don’t drop the stick, you bitch” but she wasn't there.
I said my goodbyes to the universe, fully accepting that this was the end. To dust I shall return now, bitches.
Gently, the two crew members counted to three and guided me softly over the ledge.
I didn’t swan dive.
I put my arms out and hunched over as if to dive but instead just jumped completely vertically. The bungee catching at my ankles while my head was upright was the likely reason my neck hurt for the rest of the day. In the pictures it looks like my eyes were open but I don't remember it so maybe I blacked out? Wouldn't have been the first time that week. Anyway, I can’t describe it for you.
The next thing I knew, the bungee caught at my ankles and I bounced back up for another swoosh.
Once I realized that I hadn't died bungee jumping became great fun. In other words, once it was over, I liked it.
Eventually, I stopped bouncing and the rope lowered me slowly to the ground where a crew was there to catch me for a soft landing on my back.
I was beaming. That shit was fun.
But for real, I’m never bungee jumping again.