“Just keep your arms in and legs together.” These were the instructions from the lovely Luka as I sat at the top of a boulder and tentatively peered down at the pool beneath. “That’s a long way down”, I thought nervously… And that was the start of our family canyoning adventure near Lake Bohinj in Slovenia.
After watching the kids whizz down without batting an eyelid, I somehow summoned up the courage to tip myself over the edge. I survived (I had been a little concerned that I might not), and I actually quite enjoyed it. “If it continues like this”, I thought, “I should be fine!” Of course, that was just the beginning, the easy bit. More challenges were to come!
What is Canyoning?
Canyoning involves getting from the top of a river canyon to the bottom, wearing a wetsuit, rubber shoes, harness and helmet to keep you safe. An expert guide is on hand at all times – thankfully! You abseil down waterfalls, jump off boulders into pools, and whizz down slides formed naturally in the rock that have been carved out by water rushing downhill over millennia. Often, it is the only way to visit such inaccessible places and appreciate the unspoiled nature. There are quite a few canyons in the Bohinj/Bled region, some easy and some harder for those who really want to push themselves to the limit.
Anyone who knows me well will know that I am not an adrenaline junky. I like my feet on the ground, able to change my mind if I don’t like something. So why did we sign up for canyoning? With three children aged 16, 14 and 11, I thought it would be a great family activity. And, after all, how hard could it be? The blurb said no experience was needed and that children over the age of 8 can have a go.
Family time can often feel squeezed, and sometimes it is hard to compete against the allure of a screen. Holidays can provide the ideal time to try something new and spend some quality time together. And it is good to get out of your comfort zone every now and again too. Or so I am always told!
The canyon that we descended is considered suitable for beginners, and we were in a group of 12 people, mostly adults and teens. Our guides, Luke & Miha, who spoke excellent English, were reassuring, friendly and funny, helping us all enjoy the activity to the full, even those of us who were a bit scared. This was especially important for the higher jumps. In fact, for the biggest jump, if anyone had any doubts or concerns they were advised not to do it. Safety was certainly the number one priority.
The biggest jump involved jumping over a rock into a pool 8m below you – certainly not for the faint-hearted! Our two teens gave this a go and came bubbling to the surface of the water with huge grins on their faces. There is something incredibly empowering doing something that you thought you might not be able to do, and our family canyoning experience offered that to each of us at our own level. We could see our children grow in confidence before our eyes.
I opted for a lower jump of ‘just’ 5m – I could have skipped that too if I’d wanted to. With the kids cheering me on with “you can do it Mum!”, I looked at the pool beneath me and made the leap. It is such a weird sensation falling through the air, having the time to think “I haven’t hit the water yet”. Yet I did it! There were huge cheers for everyone as they did their jump. Roles are reversed as the kids offer the adults support and encouragement, and you cannot help but feel more connected as a family as you help each other through each of the challenges. There was lots of laughter too as you emerge from descents into pools looking slightly shell-shocked but with smiles and sparkly eyes.
Canyoning is certainly an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. With each challenge you grow in confidence, so that by the end of the session you have a real sense of accomplishment; the kids are buzzing with confidence and there is a great feeling amongst the group not just of having survived, but of actually having thrived. As soon as we had finished, the kids said “can we go again – now?” and they meant it. They have a lot more energy and stamina than us adults, that’s for sure! Next summer we may have to try the next level up of canyoning. I think, for me, though, Jerečica offered enough of a challenge and excitement…
We went to the Jerečica canyon with Sport4fun. Maruša, the owner, was really helpful via email before our trip, explaining what we could do and what the canyoning involved. You need to make a reservation at peak times, so we booked at Sport4fun’s hut at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica once we had a better idea of our holiday plans and the weather forecast.
The canyoning cost us €69 per person, with discounts available for families. The price includes all of your equipment, transport to and from the canyon, plus English speaking guides and a drink and a snack afterwards. Unusually for us, we paid the optional €15 extra for the photos at the end of the trip; you’ve just been looking at some of them, and I hope you agree that the guides clearly know when to click the button to brilliantly capture the experience.
You need to be over 8 years old and be able to swim. Wear your own swimsuit (you are provided with wetsuits to change in to at the office before you depart in the minibus), and bring a towel for drying off afterwards.
Canyoning runs daily at 9am and 3pm between May and September, and there is a wealth of providers in the Bohinj/Bled region.
* All costs and details accurate summer 2018