Rafting the Tara river.

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You could see black fish in the depths of the lake. Not on picture.

When I first started doing some research on Montenegro, one of the first things that popped up, was rafting the Tara river. Awesome. Even though in the past I haven’t always been crazy about fast currents, tiny boats and especially jumping off things – not that you’re able to jump off things with a boat, but you know, the boat splashes down pretty hardly from time to time –, I changed my mind after a rafting trip in Costa Rica. White water rafting is awesome. Paddling in the middle of nowhere, only surrounded by thick bushes and listening to monkey sounds in the distance. The gushes of adrenaline flashing through your stomach the moment you ‘survived’ another rapid. Getting soaking wet wave after wave after wave and still smile. Yes, you can say that after the first time white water rafting, I was hooked. Not that I have so many chances to raft in the peacefully gurgling Schelde river near my hometown, but the moment I read ‘rafting the Tara river’ in the top-10-things-to-do-in-Montenegro, I knew who would be sitting in a raft sooner or later.

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Bridge over Piva Canyon.
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Eager to start.

However I wished it would’ve been sooner, I kept the rafting trip until the end of my stay in Montenegro. The more the merrier is the saying, so when my friend M. decided to visit me in Budva, I knew I found the perfect victim to go on a rafting trip with. Also, she’s always in for an adventure and we laugh 95% of the time when we’re together, so absolutely ideal to share the experience with. If she doesn’t sleep through 3 alarm clocks and 2 worried calls, causing her to miss the bus. – Exactly what happened. After waiting the whole summer for the perfect rafting-partner, I had to go alone anyway – So off I went, by myself, all the way to the north of the country. Even though Montenegro is roughly the size of Flanders, it takes hours to reach something. The roads go mainly through mountains which give you the nicest views, but makes the time spent on the road much longer. – Luckily, I’m good at sleeping in a bus – So after a couple of hours driving and sleeping, my eyes were wide-open enough to enjoy the views on the Piva canyon. – just, ahem, another canyon in Montenegro –

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Little picture break.
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Ready to go again.
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Plenty of possible jumps. Not for me though.

While the Morača canyon is the most impressive one – massive walls of stone next to the road –, the Piva canyon is definitely the one with the bluest blue water I’ve ever seen. I think they need to add a couple more shades of turquoise to the color wheel, since no words can describe the color of that lake. The goal was rafting on the Tara river, not the most impressive nor brightest canyon of Montenegro, but second deepest one in the world (!). – yes, you can guess, only the most known canyon of canyons is deeper, the Grand Canyon – Up to 1300 meters of depth and armed with unique ecosystems, it definitely deserves its place among the other UNESCO world heritage sites. And what a canyon. While my rafting trip across the Pacuare river in Costa Rica was one adrenaline kick, the Tara river definitely was not so fast, but what a natural beauty. I know I can’t compare the exoticness of lush rainforest with well known European pine trees, even though the Tara canyon still left me speechless. Water so clear you can see the bottom, up to 8 meters deep, while fish slowly seem to flow beneath your own reflection in the water. – something else than the muddy brown water of the Pacuare – Just to change to the clearest white when reaching the wilder parts of the river. Not so fast on the day I was there – on sunny day after two months of almost no rain –, but the Tara is known for being unpredictable. Going from a quiet, gurgling stream to a howling monster after a downpour. The best time of the year to get the fastest and wildest face of the Tara would be in April or May, months of spring with a lot of melt water flowing into the gorge. Or October, last month of the rafting season, when autumn rains aren’t rare.

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Part of a well-photographed waterfall.
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Endpoint of one day rafting.

Of course, rafting wouldn’t be rafting if there wasn’t a rock to jump off or a waterfall swim in – or pose with, like a gazillion people where doing during their rafting break –. Plenty of stops along the way to stay amazed with what Mother Nature has to offer, even though a one day rafting trip wasn’t enough for me. – Only having one day of a week, I sadly didn’t have much choice – I advise everybody who really wants to experience rafting the Tara river, to at least do a 2- or 3-day trip, preferably in April or May. To truly enjoy and embrace the beauty of the Tara canyon and to avoid a crowded river during high season. So even though I got a bigger adrenaline kick out of my rafting day in Costa Rica – and to be honest, what could ever beat being surrounded by rainforest, monkeys and indigenous tribes –, I would definitely recommend to go rafting on the Tara river. Gorgeous views. Crystal clear water. Just pick a better time of the year to have the wildest water and to avoid the crowds, I bet you will have a wonderful experience!

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