So excited - Canyoning on Rakitnica River - Bosnia and Herzegovina BiH - photo by

Canyoning in Rakitnica River BiH: Turning Bloggers into Boats

Wetsuit? Check.
Jacket? Check.
Lunch bag? Check.
Booties? Check Check.
Lifejacket? Check.
Helmet? Check.

Checklist complete and we were ready to go. After an hourlong hike down the mountainside, a journey in which we were repetitively told ‘five more minutes’ (BiH time) we’d reached the river below. Wading in the water, we found the wetsuits did a fine job of masking Rakitnica River’s frigid temperatures. One by one, we grabbed ahold of our hydrospeed boards and slid like salamanders into the rushing waters before us.


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Half crawling, half kicking while tucking our hands safely inside the boards, we eased our way forward and let our feet up. The water took us away, gently letting us swerve and slide along its surface with ease.

Smiles were impossible to hide from the moment we entered the river. We’d been warned of the chilling waters, but the sun’s height allowed it to peak between cracks of surrounding cliffs and heightened our temperatures to match the warmth of our spirits. We were like ducks gliding along and enjoying nature as it passed us by.

With low waters, we had no choice but to maneuver around rocks peaking out from the surface. By curving our bodies into a sideways ‘C’ shape, we could attempt to steer ourselves in one direction or the other. More often than not, despite these valiant efforts, the current had a different path in mind and sent us careening board-first into the rock’s surface.


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At that point we had several options of how to break free from the rock, but seldom did we have a true choice as heavy currents pushed us into solid figures. Each option came with its own repercussions.

Option A: Try to wiggle back and forth, slowly edging forward or backward until we were past the rock.
Repercussion: The moment we cleared the rock’s edge, we were sent once again downstream, often facing sideways or backward, downside up or upside down.

Option B: Grab on to the rock and try to lift yourself up.
Repercussion: Now that you’re up, the only way to go is down. Into the rapids.

Option C: Wait until another drifter came spiraling into you, knocking you free.
Repercussion: Your pal took your old spot and now has to deal with the consequences.

Every time we approached a set of rocks jumping out of the waters, I bit my lower lip in anxious preparation. Making sure to ease off on the biting when waters got really rough, I felt a huge wave of relief, success, and awe when I made it past.


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Once, when I was the “pal” of Option C listed above, I unintentionally freed another swimmer from the rock’s wrath but was then stuck there myself. At the top of a small rapid, I tried to gain my composure and get a good grip on the board. Instead, the thick red Styrofoam board/boat/protector left me and made its way alone down the rapids. Taken away right behind it, I followed the board over rocks and under waters spiraling around in an effort to avoid any forceful collisions.

My life literally flashed before my eyes. Was I, a swimming fanatic, going to drown in this beautiful Herzegovinian canyon? Where was the light? Which way is up? Down? 1000 thoughts flooded my mind as 1000 rocks battered my body. In the next instant, it was all finished and I was again caressed gently by the river’s soft waters.

And still, smiles remained during the trip’s entirety.


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We stopped for lunch on a sunny rock, climbing up a short distance to break open our waterproof sacks. The sandwiches survived fairly well, but the bananas were another story. And to drink? We had the entire river at our disposal. Whenever we felt thirsty, we simply ducked our heads into its cool waters and enjoyed its refreshing taste, cleaner than water from the tap.

After lunch, we scrambled up and down the boulders, avoiding waters too dangerous to traverse. Instead, we found ourselves at the top of a cliff. One by one we edged over, performing a balancing act at five meters high and slowly easing ourselves down to ground level.


We made it - Celebrating after Canyoning on Rakitnica River - Bosnia and Herzegovina BiH - photo by
We made it – Celebrating after Canyoning on Rakitnica River – Bosnia and Herzegovina BiH – photo by

It’s a strange feeling: A steady six hours of quick transitions between extreme relaxation and extreme adventure. Never knowing what’s around the next corner or in the waters below. An adrenaline rush of constant fear overshadowed by childlike amusement.

Six hours spent in such thrilling situations with a group you’ve only met days before bring out the best in everyone. Teamwork and compassion were sky-high during the entire journey.

We helped each other climb, push, swim and jump. And we helped each other laugh at the colorful bruises that appeared before we’d even arrived back at our hotel that night. We let out squeals of pure delight along the waterway, and if you asked if we’d do it again – I’ll speak for everyone when I say  Let’s go!

'Miss Bruise' - Post Canyon Results - photo by
‘Miss Bruise’ – Post Canyon Results – photo by


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