I’m not an extreme sports guy. I’m exactly the opposite, so when my friends sent me a long email, describing the entire adventure if we went on this trip in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which highlighted rafting on Tara river, I was a little bit skeptic, to say the least. I’m not sure if the promise of great food made me decide to go, or the reassuring friends, who had experiences with white water rafting and enjoyed it, or both.
What’s the most important is that I went on this trip, did not plan anything in advance and it turned out great, probably Top 3 of all the trips I’ve done so far. Georgi has detailed the entire trip in this article.
Some say that you need to carefully plan your trip if you don’t want to miss important landmarks and attractions, but if you’re lazy like me you’ll enjoy the thought of someone else planning things for you. That’s not to say I like all-inclusive trips, but putting the burden of planning on someone else has its benefits.
Anyway, back to beginning. I remember asking our romanian guide the first time I met him “why do we have to go to Bosnia for rafting”? I think it’s a legit question, considering I’m from Romania, a country that prides itself with the natural beauty, tasty food and very good prices for tourists coming from wealthier countries.
Now, after this trip I think I can answer this question myself: nature in Bosnia and Herzegovina is protected by its citizens, who feel it’s the true wealth of their country. Respect for nature is something deeply embedded into bosnians. They’re also not part of the European Union, so the food doesn’t have to abide by European regulations, which means it’s way tastier as it doesn’t contain unnecessary chemicals, growth substances or preservatives.
But nature and food is nothing compared to the people we’ve met there. Nice, calm, always willing to help others. A country is only as beautiful as its inhabitants, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely a place I want to visit again.
These words I think best describe the people at Kamp Divlja Rijeka, where we stayed for almost a week. I didn’t expect much, to tell the truth, since a camp means modest accommodation facilities, with showers and toilets separated from the wood cabins, but as it turns out, you don’t need modern things when you’re surrounded by nice hosts and friends.
These guys know how to make you feel welcome and know how to organize hiking trips in the beautiful nature. Plus their rafting experience is second to none, but it’s fair to say I don’t have much experience in this field. My judgement is based solely on the fact they’ve convinced Georgi to jump on the raft and even paddle along with us for two days, even on the last final rapid section of Tara river. And she’s not a big fan of water…
Rafting on Tara
As I mentioned several times, if I have to choose between a couch and a bicycle I will probably opt for the former, so it came as a surprise to me that I agreed to go rafting for a week in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro with my friends. Maybe the promise of a fire pit cooked meal had something to do with this decision.
After a first day of going uphill and downhill to visit the Skakavac waterfall, on what I now call the most exhausting hike of my life, the promise of sitting a couple of hours on a raft paddling from time to time didn’t seem that hard. To tell the truth I didn’t think much about the actual rafting experience itself until the rafting instructor started laying down the Do and Don’t rules of this sport. Deep down inside my heart I always knew it isn’t meant to be a terrifying experience, just a pleasant team experience meant to drag people like me out of the office, so I wasn’t expecting any dangers.
After the first day this idea got reinforced even more into my mind, since rafting on Tara river seemed like an excuse to see small waterfalls and gills, and navigate through the deepest canyon in Europe, with flanks that go up to over 1300 meters from water level in some areas. Not even the promise of “wait till you see the rapids on the last 16 kilometers” didn’t scared me. Georgiana paid close attention to this promise, but the rafting instructors managed somehow to convince her to participate on that final section of the trip and I’m happy they did.
Rafting – Day 1
Day 1 started with a 3-4 hours drive from Kamp Divlja Rijeka to Đurđevića Tara Bridge (map link). We packed everything inside an old Landrover Defender and a Volkswagen Transporter van and headed on some scenic narrow roads which compensated for the lack of comfort.
At destination, the Đurđevića Tara Bridge, we had lunch at an outside terrace with pretty bad service, then some of us took the zip-line over the river, on the other side, where the rafting base was located. I now regret not taking the zip-line, one of the tallest in the world, but maybe I’m not as fearless as I think.
We then changed into gear and the instructors inflated the two boats. We were also taken by surprize by locals celebrating a happy event by firing their Kalashnikov’s in the air. It sounds like firecrackers, but really loud.
Then we drove a few kilometers up-river from the bridge, where we got the final training and off we went down the river. The first thought about Tara, “amazing turquoise color”. was soon followed by the second thought, “this water is really cold”.
But don’t worry, the neoprene suits will heat up any water that gets inside your clothes, so I never felt cold during this first day, even if at some point it also rained, adding to the water from wave splashes. Some of you might feel the skin itching from the contact with the rubbery neoprene, but I don’t think this is real reason for concern.
We had a few stops to admire one of shortest river in the world, a large natural cave and a few waterfalls along the way.
At the end of day one we camped at Radovan Luka (map link), a cabin like hotel right on the river shore, inside Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While the hotel wasn’t impressive in any way, the simple bonfire made meal coupled with a few beers looked like the perfect way to end a beautiful day. Until it got dark outside and we were suddenly surrounded by fireflies, lots of them. From our group we were the few ones opting to sleep inside tents. Georgiana loved it, but I wasn’t very comfortable without an inflatable bed, which I’ll definitely purchase for our next rural endeavour. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t take much space inside the luggage.
Rafting – Day 2
The second day of rafting started with the same calm turquoise Tara river, but the final 16 kilometers section was definitely the best part of the entire rafting experience. According to our rafting instructor, this is the section when you get to navigate on Level 5 rapids, the maximum intensity for commercial rafting. It was also the part where most of the raft flips happen during rafting. Given the fact the hardest water rapid on previous day was only Level 3, it’s easy to understand why I was a tiny bit worried, for my girlfriend that is.
Before this intense last part we had a couple of hours of calm waters and waterfalls, just like the day before. Enough time to get wet and hungry, I’d say. A huge meat sandwich and rachia, a local alcoholic drink, solved hunger and anxiety before the last section our rafting expedition. Sounds cool, right? Well, not as cool as riding the waves which sometimes looked like vertical walls coming down on you. It’s exhausting, as you have to paddle hard on rapids, but it’s also a lot of fun.
The instructors, very experienced guys, ‘riding’ on Tara since they were kids, made quite an impression steering the boat into 360 degrees spins, for fun, or away from huge boulders, for safety. They could’ve flip the boat on purpose, but I do think that’s not something for everyone to enjoy. I’ve personally jumped in the water on day one, to see how it was, and man it was cold.
There’s no real danger, if you follow instructions and common sense, but accidents can happen (I almost hit a small cliff, but ducked down just in time). This shouldn’t prevent you from having the time of your life, trust me. I’m definitely going rafting again!
In case you’re wondering these are some of the fees you’ll definitely have to pay if you go rafting on Tara from Montenegro to Bosnia and Herzegovina:
- Đurđevića Tara Bridge zip-line: 20 euros/person
- Durmitor National Park: 37 euros/person
- Radovan Luka Hotel accommodation: 15 euros/person/night or 6 euros/tent/night to sleep outside, in a tent
- Radovan Luka camp bonfire: 5 euros per each bonfire (you are not allowed to start your own fire)
Note that the cost of renting rafting equipment and instructors for two days was included in our trip cost, so I can’t tell you for sure how much it would cost for you. I imagine it’s around 50 euros per person for day and varies from camp to camp.