Hayley Moser, manager at Sail Grand Waterfront in Afton, describes parasailing as “a unique combination of exhilaration and relaxation.” Allen Aboujeib, owner of Bluewater Divers in Norman, uses similar terms as he raves about scuba diving.
Whether it’s a bucket-list item, a weekend adventure or a way to jazz up a vacation, Oklahoma offers a range of experiences that vendors and guides say are almost always more fun and less scary than visitors envision. Plus, most are available to nearly any age or ability level.
“Most of the time, people are surprised at how quiet and peaceful the ride is,” Moser says of parasailing. “Once a first-time flyer gets past the initial nervousness, they truly relax and take it all in.”
Flyers are launched from the back of a boat and reach a height of about 300 feet with a parachute.
“It provides a view of Grand Lake that is indescribable,” says Moser, who also enjoys the inclusiveness of the activity. “Our oldest flyer came on his 90th birthday a couple of years ago. We have also had several people with disabilities fly throughout the years.”
Parasailers must be at least 5 years old and weigh at least 100 pounds to fly solo, Moser says. Lighter-weight adventurers can go tandem with an adult. The season is Memorial Day through Labor Day, Thursdays through Sundays. Rides are $75 each, or $125 for tandem passengers. For reservations, go to sailgrand.com or call 918-257-6000.
Scuba diving, itself an adventure, is “incredibly relaxed, not competitive in any way,” Aboujeib says. “Couples can hold hands while they are exploring” beautiful sights underwater.
Aboujeib says he “kind of had to be talked into it” before he learned to scuba dive in his late 20s.
“I couldn’t believe I had been missing this my whole life,” he says. “We hear that every single day – that people can’t believe what they had been missing. They come back from their first trip blown away.”
Aboujeib says scuba certification includes five hours of classroom training, a weekend of instruction in a swimming pool and a second weekend in open water; 10 is the minimum age.
“Scuba diving is very easy,” Aboujeib says. “There are very few people who can’t do it. For the most part, divers are underwater for an hour at a time. It requires constant light kicking. If you use proper kicking techniques and invest in better fins, you are going to use less energy.”
Bluewater Divers often leads newly certified divers on trips to the Caribbean or South Pacific. For those on a budget, several Oklahoma lakes are great for the sport.
“Lake Tenkiller is a popular scuba diving park,” Aboujeib says. “It is one of the few freshwater lakes in the world that has freshwater jellyfish. It also has freshwater sponges.”
Tanks, regulators and a buoyancy compensator “are necessary to explore the underwater world pretty much effortlessly,” Aboujeib says. “Everything is computerized now.”
Bluewater’s beginner certification is offered year-round and costs less than $400. A full set of quality equipment costs about $1,000 or can be rented. Call 405-631-4433 for information.
“We sell lifestyle upgrades here,” Aboujeib says. “People who are overweight or their joints hurt, they feel completely weightless underwater. All the weight of the world is lifted off of you.”
Spelunking might be a fun word to say, but wild caving is the term used by Nicole Denham, tour guide and naturalist at Alabaster Caverns State Park outside Freedom. The park has four wild caves, which Denham says are primitive and undeveloped, in addition to the main cave, which offers a guided walking tour.
The wild caves can be explored by permit only, April 1 through Sept. 30, and for safety’s sake, there’s a long list of rules. Each caver must wear a hard hat (or bicycle helmet), long sleeves, gloves, long pants and sturdy shoes, and carry three light sources, a first-aid kit and a water bottle. Elbow and knee pads are recommended.
“There are lots of tight spaces,” Denham says. “Each cave will have water. They are mostly crawling on their hands and knees. They might see bats, or a snake closer to the entrances.”
Caving, Denham says, “is not a sport for everyone. You can’t be afraid of water or dark, tight spaces.”
She says people like that they are going somewhere not many have been. The caves also offer respite from the summer heat with temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 degrees.
Alabaster is a compact form of gypsum, and the main cave, which Denham calls a show cave, is the only gypsum cave open for touring in the United States. It’s also the largest gypsum show cave in the world.
Permits are $8 and all four caves can be explored in one day. It’s not recommended for children younger than 6. Call 580-621-3381 for information.
Free Spirit Balloons: Year-round hot air balloon rides in Piedmont. Text 405-698-2350 or visit freespiritballoons.com.
iFLY Oklahoma City: Indoor sky diving. Call 405-300-4359 or
Great Salt Plains State Park: Swim, trek, fish or dig for crystals outside Jet. Call 580-626-4731 or visit travelok.com/state-parks/3204.