Outdoor Adventure Travel: White Water Rafting Croatia
I sat staring out of the bus window, legs quaking, my stomach was churning like butter from milk. I felt dizzy and scared, almost on the verge of throwing up from fear. I whimpered; I don’t think I can go ahead with this adventure.
It’s nothing. Mr Chasing the Donkey promised. I did not believe him and kept fighting back the urge to bring up the krafne I ate for breakfast.
Croatia is well known for its pebble-lined beaches its 1,000 islands, inlets and isles dotted across the turquoise waters of the Adriatic. What few people know is that Croatia also has options for those seeking outdoor adventure travel and activity holidays; like zip lining or white water rafting on the Cetina river in Central Dalmatia.
Rivers in Croatia are graded one through to six for their level of difficulty. With a grade one being classified a fast moving river with small rapids and few obstructions to the death-defying grade six rivers that are tsunami’s being forced through giant boulders. Let’s just say a grade 6 is for an expert with many years experiences. Fortunately for us, the Cetina river is a grade 2-3 depending on the state of the river making it perfect for our white water rafting adventures.
We’d enjoyed a day at the beach the day prior, but having left the baby donkey at home for this trip, we had booked onto a white water rafting adventure to take advantage of not having to lug about the toddler, his pram & accessories.
As the 25-minute bus ride comes to a halt, I realise that I’m still dizzy from fear. Our guide welcomes us to the river bank and invites us to enjoy some pre-rafting snacks. I breathe a sigh of relief; food always makes me feel better, and, in this case, it also gives me more time to formulate my escape plan.
White water rafting on the Cetina River is not for those seeking extreme river rafting trips. The Cetina River is not far from the medieval pirate town of Omiš & provides a grade two-to-three experience. I was told it was perfect for someone like me – a virgin rafter. The rapids are straightforward and the river is wide, while some maneuvering is required, your captain steers the ship and you provide the horsepower. All you have to do is listen to his calls indicating when to paddle or BOMBA (take cover).
Coffee drunk, snacks consumed, and team members greeted, it was time to suit up. What size are you? Do you have your own shoes? Try this on, asks our organiser. GULP. I had forgotten about my escape plan.
I look toward the flowing Cetina river and can see that the raft is bobbing in the water. Ante, our captain, greets us and tells us everyone calls him Bacho. We’re ushered into the raft one-by-one. Our safety and training talk is given as I hold my paddle with one hand and cling dearly to my life jacket with my other. I look at Bacho, wondering if he can save me when I fall…..
Paddle, shouts Captain Bacho.
With our Captain Bacho, at the stern, we were never in any danger. He shouted left and right. Faster, faster and my favourite, BOMBA in plenty of time for us to all swing (rather paddle) into action. Bomba is the Croatian call for a bomb, which when rafting means: sit on the bottom of the raft and hold your paddle to the side. The bomba command is used when things are unsteady and your chances of falling overboard are likely.
Gliding effortlessly along the first few kilometres of the 11 kilometres of the Cetina River was glorious that morning. The crystal-green river twinkled and I saw multiple iridescent blue dragonflies. I never have in my life seen so many in one place or any quite so blue. I wished I had a camera with me so I could share what I saw with you. Thankfully a local photographer had some I could share although none of those lovely blue dragonflies.
Rafting along the 11 kilometres takes around three hours and on the day we were there the water temperature was a chilly 19°C. We paddled our way through 50 rapids, many of them small. There were six, seven, maybe eight standouts. I can’t be sure; who can keep count while having so much fun?
At the halfway point, we reached the Devils Pass; the deepest part of the Cetina River. It’s at this stage that I gave myself a pat on the back. I’m was proud of myself for getting on that raft that morning since the nerves and butterflies almost got the better of me. Blood was pumping at warp speed through my veins by the time we reached the Devils Pass. Perhaps this is why, when it was suggested we stop, tie up, and climb a five-metre rock with the purpose to dive off, I agreed.
As we flowed along the last few metres of the river, my jaw hurt from smiling so much. The second-half of the River Cetina was the most entertaining, and our captain told us we were now so experienced that we could go through one of the rapids backward. Weeeee what fun! I think next time I’ll need to step it up a grade to ones like these in Costa Rica.
We reach the end at Radmanove Mlinice, which translates to the Radman family Mills. Once a mill, powered by the river it is now a restaurant that serves up specialties like eels, frogs, and trout overlooking the arresting sites of the Cetina River.
I was dripping wet from head-to-toe, I wanted to stand at the bow and shout I’m the king of the world, just as Leonardo DiCaprio did. Lucky for my crew I refrained, and instead just bounded out of the raft and found a towel.
Want to have some fun?
Do you want to how you can enjoy this too, Right? We stayed in Brela, a beachside town on the Makarska Riviera, just 50 kilometres from Split in Central Dalmatia. Brela much like Starigrad Paklenica is blessed with both the Adriatic Sea and mountains nearby.The town of Brela is dwarfed by the Biokovo mountain, which happens to be the highest mountain in all of Croatia.
Accommodation in Brela
We enjoyed several nights at Bluesun Hotel Berulia, where we met some of the friendliest hotel staff ever. Our room overlooked the beach and had a generous sized balcony. The hotel is a 10-minute walk along a footpath that runs parallel to the sea into the town of Brela. Brela’s beaches are lined with pine trees and pebble beaches and make for an ideal spot for both a romantic kid-free stay or a family vacation.
Book a rafting adventure on the Cetina River
If you are just staying one or two nights – we suggest you stay at Bluesun Hotel Berulia they’ll make all of the booking arrangements for you, which includes transportation.
Along with your captain, raft and paddle, you’ll be provided with
- Drinks and Snacks. Pre and post rafting home-made cakes, fritte, Croatian brandy and other yummy treats.
- Wetsuit. I’d recommend you wear this, as it provides a thermal insulation to the cold water; sometimes 17°C and it helps to hold in your wiggly jiggly belly (or is that just me?).
- Water shoes. You can wear your own if you have them.
- Life Jacket & Helmet
Tips when rafting on the Cetina River
- Even though it lasts just three hours, be sure to eat breakfast and get sleep as you’ll need your energy.
- Pack a change of clothes and a towel
- Wear your swimmers to save time changing.
- Don’t bother wearing sunglasses, they’ll likely be lost. If you need to wear glasses, you’ll need to bring a strap with you.
- No need to bring any cameras or mobile phones with you, they will be soggy at the end. Some companies have a professional photographer who kayaks ahead of you to capture your magical moments. You can purchase the CD at the end of the ride for 120 kunas.
- You’ll need to leave all your belongings in the bus, which will pick you up at the finish point, so don’t pack any valuables.
Where is the Cetina River?
Known as the Rijeka Cetina in Croatia, the river is just 50 kilometres east of Split, 25 kilometres west of Makarska and the river flows into the sea in Omiš.
Accommodation in Omiš?
We recommend you stay at the Hotel Villa Dvor, where we spent several nights as their guest while we toured the sites of Omiš. Nestled between two canyons along the Cetina River, Hotel Villa Dvor, is set high above a sheer marble stone cliff. Your stay is surrounded by the warm hospitality of the entire Curlin family & they also have a rooftop jacuzzi..seriously.
If you are planning a family holiday – we suggest combining family fun and adventure with Active Holidays Croatia. Families who travel, often find one big thing difficult – finding a balance between what Mum and Dad want and what will keep the kids happy and entertained. So, if that is you, stop right here. We’ve found Croatia’s oldest active holiday provider Active Holidays Croatia who are the leaders in family activity holidays. They’ve been in business since 1987 and in the last almost 30 years they have been catering mostly (but not exclusively!) to families with teenage children.
What other white water rafting trips are available in Croatia?
Looking for some more white water rafting adventures in Croatia? Fortunately, Croatia has many rivers suitable for adventure rafting, so if you’re in Croatia the best white water rafting can be had at the Dobra river, Zrmanja river, Una river, Mreznica river, Kupa river, Korana river and of course, the Cetina river.
So tell us, do you feel the urge to come to Croatia to raft? Where are the best rafting spots you’ve been too?
We were provided the rafting experience & accommodation without charge. All thoughts and opinions are given honestly and without bias.