White Water Rafting on the Soca River, Slovenia
Slovenia’s Soċa River is a pure turquoise gem. One of two primary waterways running through the country, it’s as integral to the geological back story of the area as it is a part of daily life. Running from its source high in the Julian Alps to the Adriatic Sea, it’s also a mecca for white water sports and tourism. But don’t be fooled by its beauty; this river is the Ice Queen personified and a great venue for family white water rafting…
Family White Water Rafting on the Soca
“Last one back in the boat is Leo De Caprio,” says Matic Vosic, our guide from Soca Rafting. But he needn’t bother. After 30 seconds of shocking cold we’ve all piled back into the raft already. Not because we have anything against being a Hollywood star, but because we are about to turn a deeper shade of blue than the water we’re escaping from. The waters of the Soca may be pale and inviting, but the chill cuts deep into your bones.
Not the Beast of the East
Our only previous white water rafting experience was last year in Iceland, rafting on the Western Glacial River in North Iceland. Like its sister river, the Beast of the East, that river roared. And we flew through its jaws. With special dispensation for Hannah to come as she was technically too young to be on the boat. Dressed in a man-size dry suit, she gripped onto the sides for dear life, just about stayed on board and loved every minute of it.
The family friendly river
In contrast, Slovenia’s Soċa river offers rafting for all the family. Indeed it’s a busy highway; on the day we ride it there seem to be almost as many boats in the water from Hungary as there are from Slovenia. But despite the numbers there are still moments of solitude; just you, the raft and the river. The river is low as it’s peak summer and according to locals there have been 40 days of continuous sunshine without rain. But that doesn’t necessarily make it an easy ride.
While low flow means slow, which is great for family rafting, it also means it’s more technical. There are rocks to navigate every few yards and there’s plenty of white water. Our guide, in charge of steering, makes his presence felt.
“Right back. Right back! Have you forgotten which is your right side?”
I have. Because I’m focussing on the massive rock we appear to be about to crash into. Check out this video and see what I mean.
Everybody paddle hard now!
I have no idea how one side of the boat paddling right, while another paddling left gets us around those huge boulders that scatter our path like pine cones in an English forest. But it does. With a few bashes and bumps. And a lot of squealing and laughing.
A shout out for the Soca
The Soċa is the life blood of this area. Starting high in the Julian Alps and running all the way across Slovenia to the Adriatic sea, it’s an affirming life force, forging its way through gorges and valleys it has spent tens of thousands of years carving out of the high mountains.
In summer it’s a curious mix of seaside air temperatures and icy alpine flow. For our morning paddle, the course is in sunshine, and the water sparkles like a precious stone; its bright turquoise green colour coming from the limestone. The colour is a Slovenian treasure; Goran Cavs, manager of Soca Rafting, tells me that just across the border the rock switches to granite and the colour to grey making the whole business look less inviting.
The splashes of white on the aqua marine river are so pure and inviting, it almost makes me want to swim. “Many other valleys do not have this blue colour of water,” explains Goran, “it is because of the limestone. And we are also lucky that we have no big factories here; just pure, unspoilt nature.”
We rush down a gorge with the sun on our backs before being gently pushed out of the boat for a second time. Our screams spoil the peace for a moment. Even though we’ve already been submerged and know what to expect, the glacial temperature still comes as a shock. We float down a side current. But not for long. Thirty seconds or a minute is enough.
The friendly river with bite
There are many operators running white water rafting trips on the Soca river. Soca rafting offer trips suited for family rafting three times a day from April to October. The river is lovely on the eye and is so clean you can stop and drink it at any point, although it’s not compulsory to jump in to do so. But you won’t want to hang around in it. This river may be an aqua jewel but it has an icy steel touch. And I really wouldn’t bother bringing your lilo.
Soca Rafting runs all kinds of water sports including kayaking, hydrospeed and canyoning from their base in Bovec in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, but particularly recommend rafting for a family activity as the others are more physically demanding and require some skill. The only restrictions for rafting are as follows; you have to be over 1.10m in height to join a family rafting trip or over 1.30m in height and able to swim to join the full rafting trip. In either case all equipment is provided and no prior experience is necessary.
Disclosure Note: Thanks to Tine at Spirit of Slovenia, Tina and David at the Bovec Local Tourist Office and Soca Rafting for hosting us to enable us to bring you this story from beautiful Bovec in Slovenia. As ever, the experience, views and opinions expressed remain entirely our own.