On a cooler than normal day last spring with a bit of overcast and wind, my family along with a visiting friend decided to do something that we had not done in the two years of living in Montenegro, take a boat tour around Skadar Lake National Park. After asking our friends from Undiscovered Montenegro, Ben and Emma, they recommended Boat Milica. Within a few hours, we were off for our 3 hour tour around the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.
We arrived in Virpazar about 30 minutes outside of Podgorica to begin the tour around the lake which included seeing the local wildlife and monasteries. It is easy to tell from the pictures that the tour itself was amazing. The vibrant greens signaling the newness of the season created the perfect backdrops for the old, stone monasteries being restored. As we went around, our guide, Ksenija, was exceptional at pointing out the intricacies of the lake, its history, and wildlife. After a quick dip in the lake by our friend, we returned from our tour with a new appreciation for Montenegro’s wild beauty which happens to be only a short drive from us.
While the tour was memorable and the service provided is highly recommended, it is the story of the Boat Milica which really draws me in, and causes an even greater appreciation for their business. The family Dabanovic is from Virpazar knowing the lake intimately. During the economic downturn around 2011, the Jelena guided her family to do something different to survive. They started Boat Milica.
As a family, they divided responsibilities and took to creating their business building it slowly. The daughters learned new languages to specifically help with foreign tourists, they built their wooden boat in the shop of an old master in Podgorica, and Andrija began guiding tours. Andrija grew up on the lake and is familiar with al the ins and outs. The stories, legends, history, and diversity all get proper treatment during the tour. And Jelena became the only woman in Virpazar to own and operate a boat tour showing off Skadar Lake
The family worked together and have been successful together. Even in the face of some struggles, they have proven resilient and creative to help one another and their town by attracting tourists to this natural resource hidden in the interior of Montenegro.
The Dabanovic story is one of resilience in the face of difficulty. It is exemplary of what it takes to be resourceful and succeed. The family found support among themselves continually encouraging each other to do better and achieve their goals.