Secret Islands of the Danube - Kayak Photo Exploration

You thought that each and every wild island in Europe was over-photographed long ago, right? 

Well, not really! How about wild-camping and photographing on 7 pristine islands that you have never heard of?

Thanks to 45 years of communism and nearly non-existent tourist Infrastructure, there are several wilderness areas situated in the Danube River between Bulgaria and Romania, that so far have not been explored by western photographers. Or by any photographers at all, actually.

This summer we are embarking on a 10 days kayak photography exploration tour to the mighty islands: The tour is suitable for people with no previous experience in kayaking.

Dates: 04 - 13 July 2014

Group size: max 6 (+ 2 guides)

Places:  fully booked

Price:  €1200 ( £990  /  $1670 )

Deposit: €400 ( £335 /  $560 )

Images by our guides, Mladen Parvanov and Georgy Velichkov

Our seasoned kayak guide Damian 'Demo' has visited the islands many times throughout the last decade - he even claims one of the islands to be his own! Both Demo and our photography expedition leader Vlad Donkov have grown up on the Danube's shores. The islands are so rarely visited that even most locals have never set a foot there.

Even though the river is 1 to 2 km wide for most of its length, the islands have their own microclimate, ecosystems with tiny jungles, secret lagoons and vast sandy beaches. They are rich in birdlife: cormorants, pelicans, white storks, egrets and nearly 200 other species. Note: Don't worry; we camp far from their nests in order not to disturb them! It's just like a fragment of the Amazon cut and pasted into Europe.

We will kayak downstream for about 200 km in total (15 to 25 km of relaxed paddling a day is not a problem for most people with regular fitness level). Our aim is to camp only on the islands and explore them on foot and by paddling around – we may even paddle into the flooded forests.

The 10 days’ journey starts and ends at Sofia International Airport, which is situated about 150 km away from our starting point. We will be paddling for 8 full days in a small group of maximum 6 photographers, led by our photography tutor outdoor photographer Vlad Donkov & our kayak guide Demo.

The kayak exploration tour is suitable for both beginners and experienced photographers passionate about landscape or/and wildlife photography – it is a rare chance to be amongst the first to unleash the photographic potential of a pristine area in Europe. We are running this exploration tour on the Danube for the first time and therefore the price is promotional.

If you have any doubts before joining us, please just get in touch via the contact form!

Itinerary *

Day 1

Meeting at Sofia International Airport – we will drive in a brand new air-conditioned vehicle, towing the kayaks behind us. On the way we will stop at a local restaurant for dinner. In the evening we will set a camp on the shore of Danube river and have a good sleep before the big start.

Day 2

First day with the kayaks - exciting times! We pack the camp and start the initial instruction straight after breakfast – there will be one new kayak per person (unless you want to share a tandem kayak with a friend or a partner). That day we only cover about 12 km with short stops, so everyone has the chance to get used to operating a kayak. Arrival at Malak Bliznak Island in the afternoon. Photographic exploration of the island on foot. We'll pitch the tents on the sandy beach and have a dinner around the campfire.

Days 3 – 8

Every morning we wake up before the sunrise for photography exploration walks and after breakfast we kayak down for several hours before reaching the next island. On average we paddle between 15 and 25 kilometres a day. We make short stops for rest and resupplying provisions, according to the pace of the group. We have plenty of time for scouting new photographic locations, advice sharing and discussions with our outdoor photographer Vlad Donkov.   


    We will be exploring the main islands on foot and by paddling around the jungle-like forests, camping at the following islands:

    • Petrich Island
    • Linevo Island
    • Cibur Island (we may camp for 2 nights on this stunning island if the group agrees on that)
    • Kopanica Island
    • Esperanto Island
    • Maluk Boril Island

    Day 9

    Our last day of kayaking. In the late afternoon we will meet our driver at the pickup point. We drive for about 250 km back to Sofia, where we stay at a cosy guesthouse in the suburbs and enjoy a wonderful goodbye dinner!

    Day 10

    Breakfast and time to go home with a wealth of memories, new friends and photographs of rarely seen islands and wildlife! Transfer to the international airport. If you wish to stay longer and visit the magical mountains of Bulgaria, we will drive you to a hotel, bus station or a train station and would gladly help you out with your travel arrangements.

    * Vertical Shot Expeditions' guides reserve the right to make changes in the listed itinerary in case of storms, floods, etc. in the best interest of everyone's safety.


    • One to one and group photography guidance
    • Seasoned kayak guide
    • 1  new kayak per person (or a tandem kayak for two if you wish to paddle with a partner or a friend) 
    • a lifejacket and paddle
    • All food, water and soft drinks from dinner on day one to breakfast on day 10
    • All accommodation: 8 nights in a single tent + 1 night in a single room in Sofia
    • Overland transportation and airport transfers
    • 1 hour Skype preparation session with your photography tutor


    • Any flights to/from Sofia
    • Alcoholic drinks
    • Anything not mentioned as 'included'

    Equipment needed:

    • Digital or film camera
    • Spare batteries
    • Graduated ND filters (optional)
    • Tripod
    • Suncream, sunglasses and anti-mosquito repellent
    • 'Dry bags' for your equipment
    • Sleeping bag and a sleeping pad / mattress

    Fitness level:

    Average: Most islands are not longer than 2 - 4 km. Generally, if you are able to walk for several hours with a light backpack, then you should have no problem to paddle downstream for 15 to 25 km a day. You should be in good shape and able to endure the long and warm summer days, carrying your personal photographic gear on uneven terrain.

    Getting there:

    Sofia International Airport (SOF) is the main airport of Bulgaria and it is served by 25 European airlines with direct flights to all major EU capitals and cities. You need to arrive on the 4th of July during the day - or the night before if you wish to explore Sofia. You will be given instructions about our meeting place and time. Our meeting will be at the airport. Please don't book any flights before we confirm your booking.