Montenegro White Water SUP
When people think about Montenegro you probably think glaciers, mountains, stunning views and warm beautiful weather; but that might change as Montenegro is a hidden gem in the world for white water SUP – stand up paddleboarding. There is one place above all else that pokes its head above the parapet of other rivers and this is the Tara. With crystal clear blue waters, deep stunning gorges and white-water from grade 1-5 there is something for everyone here. The Tara sits on the border between Montenegro and Bosnia and if you are coming here there is only one place to stay – this is the Tara Camp Grab Ethno Village and Camp. This camp is run by some of the most amazingly friendly people anywhere in the world and is situated on the side of the river itself. They provide food, accommodation, transportation and for those who want it instruction or alternative activities like white water rafting or mountain biking.
If you want to give this a go but don’t know where to start or would prefer to be guided down the river then Davide who run’s the River SUP Guy offers trips out here in summer taking place on grade 1-4 depending on the ability levels of the group. Davide has proved himself as a well known and well respected SUP paddler within the industry and is an ambassador for Hala who make the world’s best Whitewater Paddle boards. Our director Jim had the pleasure of paddling on holiday with Davide this June out on the Tara taking place over five days of paddling.
The trip started as most trips shouldn’t with some hasty last minute packing a couple of hours of sleep and a nice long drive down to the airport before flying out to Krakow and then separately Podgorica where we stayed in a nice motel and then got picked up by Dimitry who owns the camp. He drove us all up the camp which is situated on the border in a beautiful location down by the river side. Upon arriving late in the afternoon/early evening, we all put on for a quick whitewater SUP paddle – hell if we are in Montenegro let’s make the most of the river time! A quick play at camp where there is a great grade 2 section which has some boiling Eddie lines, rocks for spins, perfect ferry glide potential and a nice surf wave for playing about saw us all suitably knackered before a dinner which is provided of traditional local cuisine – lots of meat, potatoes, home made bread and home made sweet cake things.
Day 1 of the Montenegro White Water SUP paddling saw us travelling down from camp on the Tara with our local safety boater and guide (worth getting a guide as they know the river better and on top of that can help if there are any issues – not that there were) Augi, he joined us in an inflatable canoe to safety boat taking all our kit which was epic of him! Paddling down the 8km grade 3 whitewater section to the Montenegro and Bosnian border was an awesome warm up. The whitewater is big, bouncy and perfectly safe as it is all deep water which makes for a great change from the traditional rocky ditch paddling of Scotland. We returned to camp for lunch of soup, salad, meat, potatoes and cake. Wow spoilt is an understatement! Then we went onto the upper section after lunch was was by Scottish standards huge waves but again nice and safe with easy enough lines so it is graded at 3/3+. This section saw everyone having some swims, laughs and great videos! We convinced Augi to try the whitewater SUP’s at the end obviously being on a Hala and he took to them well.
Day 2 of the Montenegro White Water SUP saw us doing a first SUP descent of the 14km grade 2+ Kormanica which involved a 50 minute downhill hike into a deep canyon of perfect clear water guided today by Augi and Anton who provided us with information about the rapids, safety cover and arranged for a boat to be at the end which then took us 1.5 hours across the loch to where Dimitry met us and took us for another traditional lunch looking down from the top of a nearby mountain onto the Loch! Truly a Montenegro Whitewater SUP paradise.
The SUP Trip Continues
Day 3 of the Montenegro White Water SUP saw a more relaxed day with a paddle again on the 8km upper Tara down to camp at grade 3/3+ Jim decided today like yesterday to take his DSLR camera on the water – few people are willing to take a 3000 pound camera on the water in a dry bag but it is so worth it for the great shots that you can get! Anton again joined us today and showed us some different more chunky lines down the rapids today. Scott missed a lovely stopper by about a half meter and somehow stayed on his board and everyone again took a few swims. The river was run in a nice relaxed manner chatting, making eddies, surfing some waves and then manning up for the rapids before eddying out again below. We managed to convince Anton to try whitewater SUP and think he may be hooked! Camp Krab have a local SUP instructor Josh who is really fun, psyched for the sport and has a great amount of knowledge behind him and we wish them the absolute best in getting the sport up and running in Montenegro. Upon return to the camp again lunch and a more relaxed afternoon saw us laying about in the sun, doxing off, chatting with the owners and guides and helping out poor Augi who lost his raft flip line on a trip (not easy to get kit in Montenegro so Jim kindly donated his to the cause as they are easy to source in the UK). We took the time to pack our kit for the next three days which is an expedition up to the top of the river and three days paddling back to camp.
Day 4 of the Montenegro White Water SUP saw us having another hearty breakfast and a 3 hour drive to the Sljivansko followed by 26km of stunning grade 2/3 whitewater paddling down to the four/five star hotel of Radovan Luka. The drive had an unexpected road closure for forty minutes where we decided to take the time and recharge over a coffee, coke or sandwich depending on the person. Sitting out in the sun we all chatted and tried to do some fanfic drying of clothes on the boiling hot tarmac of the parking bays. The road finally opened up as it was being repaired and our drive then took us through the stunning Durmitor national park home to bears, wolves, deer, stunning mountains, wildflowers and still a fair amount of snow for this time in the season as well. We stopped on route for a quick snowball throw, a few photos and we were quickly back on our way to the start. The river today was quick with grade 2/3 rapids some of which were long and surprisingly big water made all the more challenging by a thick mist hanging over the river so we were not able to see very far ahead and instead had to use our ears to determine what was coming up with the odd last minute change of direction to avoid rocks and stoppers as appropriate. Thankfully we managed to navigate the river with minimal visibility and made it to the hotel – strange to see a 4/5 five star hotel on the side of the river but it’s there… dressing gowns, slippers, laundry bags… not your usual paddling accommodation but this hotel is specifically setup for paddlers and that is what they earn their living off. Dinner was again an all you can eat huge buffet of food the same as every other meal we have had and the beds and showers were very much appreciated after the long day on the drive and water.
Day 5 of the Montenegro White Water SUP we paddled the 20km grade 2+ section from Radovan Luka to Kamp Encijan – the sun came out today and it truly was glorious on route. We stopped part way down to hike up a small stream to get to an underground lake with an ominously huge sounding rapid of some description out in the darkness impossible to see but my word you could hear it! We took the opportunity today to play around a little more on the river and also to take a lunch time siesta snooze on an island beach before continuing to camp where we were met with complimentary shots before lunch, dinner and a bungalow style accommodation to sleep in.
The final day saw us paddling again the upper section for 8km of grade 3/3+ whitewater back down to camp before packing our kit, having another huge lunch and getting the shuttle back down to Podgorica – heading into town for a final dinner together. The town was very different from the start of the trip and was heaving with people, families playing in the squares, live music, tourists it was a bustling hive of what seemed to be true European social life (something we long since lost in the UK). After food we had a coffee, returned to our motel and said our farewells to Davide and Scott who were leaving at 5 in the morning. Jess and Jim left around Midday and Barry and Louise left in the evening all vowing to meet up again for a future trip.
If you are interested in learning the skills required to manage white water like this, we can covers the required skills on a private sup course.