We’ve been fortunate to try our hand at a range of activities (both on this trip and in years gone by) but few compare to the canyoning adventure we were treated to yesterday with Iris Adventures.
Canyoning is not only a physical challenge but a mental one as well. Standing atop a 50 metre clifftop, edging closer to the drop, mustering up the courage to repel off of it – it’s all in a days work on the Cetina River, 45 minutes out of Split, Croatia.
After our guides collected us from Split and took us out to the Iris Adventures base, our expedition started by getting kitted up and being briefed on what we were about to undertake. After a quick spray with the hose (which was soon to be greatly appreciated), we set off down the path towards a sheer cliff-face. The only was was down and we spent the next 15 minutes scrambling over rocks, working our way down to the river below. The canyon walls towered above us, grey rocks in stark contrast to the beautifully clear green-tinted river water. Lunging into the chilly water we were thankful for the respite from the heat and equally grateful for the full body wet suits we’d donned earlier.
We spent the following few hours ducking in and out of the river; climbing over boulders, jumping over smaller rocks, floating down rapids, swimming and drifting down calmer patches in the river, clambering through caves – every way you can imagine getting down the river, we did it.
The extreme canyoning option that we selected included a few exciting bonuses – a large repeal (alongside the 55m waterfall) and the opportunity to swim up behind the waterfall (the largest on the river).
Nathan was nervous about the biggest repel initially as he’s not a big fan of heights but in the end though he did a fantastic job. The hardest part about repelling, in my opinion, is getting off the edge and manoeuvring around challenging rocks – the addition of height makes the initial few steps more difficult, but once you’re away, as long as you don’t look down, the extra height doesn’t have a massive effect on things.
After our repel, we swam up alongside the rock-wall, working our way to the base of the waterfall. The water from the falls creates a massive current which pushes canyons in towards the wall and in theory you’re meant to just kick yourself along whilst staying close to the edge – in reality, I don’t think I’ve ever done something so physically challenging! If you come too far off the wall, the current picks you up and pulls you away from the wall, washing you downstream, away from the falls. With a lot of persistence and a fair bit of help, I eventually made it up to the waterfall and was stoked that I did. I haven’t a clue how much water was rushing over my head but it was immense… so immense that when we were instructed to walk through the falls, I was quickly blinded by the mass of water and soon after swept away!
The biggest challenge of our day out canyoning for me though was always going to be the cliff jumping. I’m not sure why I’ve always been such a wimp when it comes to jumping into water from a height; I’ve been skydiving and bungy jumping countless times, white water rafted and am a confident swimmer, but there’s something about taking a leap into a river that makes me nervous. Throughout the trip, I worked up to jumping from a series of heights ranging from approximately 3 to 5 metres but it wasn’t until I came down the second repel where I came unstuck.
We had the option to repel the full 20 metres into the water or to be dropped off on a ledge 7 metres above the waterline to then jump into the river below. Both Nathan and I opted to be let off early, in a decision we instantly regretted! The height difference between our earlier jumps and this one felt massive – our courage melted away and both of us were left feeling certain that we wanted to take the leap but couldn’t.
After much encouragement from the others in our group (all of whom had either repelled right down or already jumped) and a good 5 minutes of debating whether we could muster the courage required to jump, we’d practically decided pulled the plug on doing so.
Knowing that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we’d imagined, one of our guides, Borris, climbed his way up to us (looking very much like Spiderman) to have one last shot at tempting us off the ledge.
How would we feel if we went home without taking this challenge on? As hard as it felt, it had to be done…
With one failed countdown, Nathan jumped out on the second – gracefully flying down to the river below. A quick thumbs up signally to me that it wasn’t wasn’t so bad and before I knew it, it was my turn. After a couple of nervous questions (‘People do this all the time, right?) I counted myself down and took the leap. Free falling for what felt like a few seconds (but was probably less!) I hit the water with a splash and thanks to my life jacket, bobbed up again quickly.
What a rush!
The jump was nothing like I’d imagined – I’d almost go as far as to say that I enjoyed it. Watching others jump off the 10m cliff and our other guide, Kruno jump from 15m, we decided that we’d had enough jumping off of things for one day though – I was more than happy to have overcome my fear of jumping from 7m.
Throughout the day, our guides were nothing but professional, supportive, kind and attentive – the team at Iris are something special and I don’t doubt, equipped to help anyone push their personal boundaries. This canyoning trip was by far one of the best things we’ve done over the past six weeks of travelling – it was the perfect mix of adventure, challenge and fun. To make it work, we added another night to our time in Split and we’re so pleased we did.
We couldn’t recommend a day out on the Cetina River canyoning with the Iris Adventures team enough – when you’re in Croatia, get yourself out there, even if you have to work your plans around doing so; it’s worth it!
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Thank you to our guides, Borris and Kruno for taking us down the river in such a safe and enjoyable manner and a massive thank you to Igor and Iris from Iris Adventures for hosting us on the ‘Extreme Canyoning’ trip (and for the following photos) – we had an absolute blast! As always, all thoughts are our own.