Cliff diving around the world with Orlando Duque

Cliff diving around the world with Orlando Duque

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By Lottie Gross
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It’s taken him from the deserts of Oman to the stunning Amalfi coast and the edges of Australia - Orlando Duque is a Red Bull cliff diving champion and lover of all-things travel. At the beginning of this year’s championships, we grilled him on his favourite destinations for diving.

Having started out as an Olympic diver, Orlando told me it was only natural that he progressed onto throwing himself off of various cliffs and structures around the world. Not only is he possibly the coolest man I’ve ever been fortunate enough to chat with – and it’s not just his smooth Colombian accent, I swear – but Orlando Duque’s list of countries could probably put many a travel writer to shame.

“I’ve just come back from Cuba… We were diving in El Moro, the castle in La Havana, it was just beautiful,” he casually tells me. “[There] was like, 50,000 people watching”. Tomorrow he’s going to jump off of a navy ship in Colombia, and then he’s on to Texas in the US to plunge into some lakes – all in a day’s work I suppose. But I’m not at all jealous; beyond the excitement of travelling and exploring new places, cliff diving is a dangerous and terrifying sport and even he gets scared at times.

See Orlando in action in Cuba:

When I asked him about the heights he admitted that there’s a limit, even for him: “Whoever says he’s not scared of heights is not telling the truth. It’s a natural reaction, you know.

“Even two days ago, I was diving in Cuba and I was standing up there and I’m scared. I know it can be really dangerous, if I make a mistake I can get injured, so yeah, I think I’ve been afraid and I am still afraid of heights.”

Height and technique aren’t the only obstacles he’s had to overcome during his career though, one of his latest pursuits saw him jumping from a 38-metre-high tree into the deep, murky waters of the Amazon.

“You don’t know what’s down there” he says. “I had to react and get out of the water because it’s not comfortable being there knowing there are so many animals in there. There are anacondas and piranhas pretty much everywhere.”

See Orlando cliff diving in the Amazon:

It’s not all about the diving though – when he’s not plummeting into some watery abyss, Orlando tells me he likes to spend time in Paris with his wife, and how he fell in love with Ireland.

“I really like Ireland. I’ve been there four or five times… I just love it, it’s just fun. It’s beautiful, the places to see, even if the weather can be tough sometimes. I really enjoy it. And I love Italy. I’ve had the chance to be everywhere in Italy, you can find all those little towns where you can just stop and have a coffee and pizza and have a good afternoon.”

I wonder if there’s anywhere that’s left for him to explore or launch himself from and so he tells me his future plans.

“I’m going to do [a dive] in the Antarctic, I’m finding that probably not this summer but next, and you know, it has be about a month trip to make sure that you have enough time to make everything, but that’ll be the coolest thing I’ve ever done probably.” While I could make temperature-based puns all afternoon, I bid him farewell over the phone as he has to head off for rigorous training.

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