When people think about Montenegro, they often think of glaciers, mountains, stunning views, and warm, beautiful weather; but there’s more than meets the eye. Believe it or not, Montenegro is a hidden gem for whitewater stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
Specifically, the Tara River. With crystal clear blue waters, deep, stunning gorges, and world-class whitewater, there is something for everyone. The Tara sits on the border between Montenegro and Bosnia for anyone planning a trip, the Tara Camp Grab Ethno Village and Camp is the ideal place to stay.
The camp is run by some of the most amazingly friendly people anywhere in the world and is situated right by the river. They provide food, accommodation, and transportation. Moreover, you can also get instruction or find a guide for alternative activities like white water rafting or mountain biking.
Where to Start
If you want to give this a go but don’t know where to start or would prefer to go with a guide, there are a couple of resources. For example, Hala Ambassadors - Davide and Jim Miller offer trips on the Tara throughout the summer months. Guided trips take place on Class 1-4 whitewater depending on the ability levels of the group.
You can also run with local SUP guide (Josh) who works at the camp. Most recently, we saw Three Atcha 9’6’s on the water as well as Tambo and NRS boards. It was a nice opportunity for some of the top European Coaches to get together with different boards in a beautiful location with awesome white water.
The trip started as most trips do some hasty last-minute packing, a couple of hours of sleep, and a long drive to the airport. We flew out of Krakow and then separately to Podgorica, where we stayed in a nice motel. Dimitry, the Tara Camp owner, picked us up and drove us to the beautiful riverside camp. Even though we arrived late afternoon/early evening, we couldn’t resist getting a quick whitewater SUP lap in.
After all, we are in Montenegro let’s make the most of the river time! A quick lap on a great grade 2 section with boiling eddy lines, rocks for spins, and a nice surf wave had us all knackered before dinner, which consisted of traditional local cuisine - lots of meat, potatoes, homemade bread, and homemade sweet cake.
For our first full day on the Tara, we launched directly from camp with the safety of local boaters and guides. (Worth getting a guide as they know the river better and can help if there are any issues - not that there were) We had Augi with us in his inflatable canoe. He even took our full kit, which was epic!
Paddling 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. To say we were spoiled is an understatement!
After lunch, we headed for the upper section, which by Scottish standards had huge waves. However, we were nice and safe on the easy enough Class 3/3+ whitewater. This section saw everyone have some swims, laughs, and great videos! We convinced Augi to try the whitewater SUPs, and our Hala Boards got him through just fine!
Day 2 saw us completing a first SUP descent of the 14km grade 2+ Kormanica, which involved a 50-minute hike into a deep canyon of perfect clear water. We were again guided by Augi and Anton, who provided us with information about the rapids and safety cover and arranged for a boat at the end to take us 1.5 hours across the lake. Once across the lake, we met Dimitry, who took us for another traditional lunch overlooking the lake. Truly a Montenegro Whitewater SUP paradise.
Day 3 was a more relaxed day with a paddle again on the 8km upper Tara down to camp at grade 3/3+. However, it was less relaxed for Jim, who decided 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. He captured some amazing shots.
Anton again joined us and shared some more chunky lines down the rapids. Scott missed a lovely stopper by about a half meter and somehow stayed on his board. We all took a few swims, though. We ran in a relaxed manner, chatting, making eddies, surfing some waves, and then getting serious for the rapids before eddying out below.
We convinced Anton to try whitewater SUP and think he may be hooked! Camp Krab has a local SUP instructor, Josh, who is psyched for the sport and has a great amount of knowledge. We wish them the absolute best in getting the sport up and running in Montenegro.
Upon return to the camp, we enjoyed the provided lunch and a more relaxed afternoon, spent laying about in the sun, dozing 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 a three-day expedition from the top of the river and back to camp.
Day 4 started our expedition trip, and we started it with another hearty breakfast. Then we started the 3-hour drive to the Sljivansko. The drive had an unexpected road closure for forty minutes, so we decided to take the time and recharge over a coffee, soda, or a sandwich, depending on the person. We also used the delay to do some last-minute clothes drying on the boiling hot pavement.
The road finally opened up, and the rest of the drive took us through Durmitor National Park, home to bears, wolves, deer, stunning mountains, wildflowers, and still a fair amount of snow for this time in the season. We stopped en route for a quick snowball throw and a few photos, and we were quickly back on our way to the put-in.
The river miles were a quick and breathtaking 26 km of Class 2/3 rapids, some longer and surprisingly big. The high water was made all the more challenging by a thick mist hanging over the river. We could not see far ahead and instead had to use our ears to determine what was coming up with the odd last-minute direction change to avoid rocks and stoppers as appropriate.
Thankfully we managed to navigate the river with minimal visibility and made it to the hotel - our camp spot for the night. It was strange to see a five-star hotel on the side of the river, but there it was, complete with dressing gowns, slippers, and laundry bags. Although not your usual paddling accommodation, this hotel is specifically set up for paddlers. In fact, the main clientele is river travelers.
Dinner was a scrumptious all-you-can-eat buffet of traditional food. And the beds and showers were much appreciated after the long day in the car and on the water.
On day 5, we paddled the 20km grade 2+ section from Radovan Luka to Kamp Encijan - the sun came out, and it truly was glorious on the water. We stopped partway down to hike up a small stream into an underground lake. Somewhere near the lake, we could hear an ominous rumble of whitewater, a rapid in the darkness that was impossible to see.
We took the opportunity to play around a little more on the river and take a lunchtime 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.
Our Final Day
The final day saw us paddling the now familiar upper section for 8km of grade 3/3+ whitewater back down to camp. We reluctantly packed up our kits before having another huge lunch and getting the shuttle back down to Podgorica - heading into town for a final dinner together.
The town was alive with people and families playing in the squares, live music, and tourists. It was a bustling hive of what seemed to be true European social life.
A really nice way to end the trip with such a beautiful, friendly reminder of how many places in Europe are centered around communities and friendships. SUP is similar that way, everyone wants to be helpful and friendly as we navigate the waterways.
James Miller hails from the Highlands of Scotland where he has been an outdoor instructor and mentor for more than a decade. The only thing that makes him happier than dropping falls on his SUP is helping others excel in the great outdoors. When he's not scouting and running new rivers, James helps instruct instructors in a variety of outdoor disciplines including mountaineering, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting.