The Team

To find out more about Balkan Vagabondz please have a look at our collective of guides and instructors. They are all people who are specialists in their field with a proven record of achievements and experience in the outdoor industry. All of them are fully dedicated to their passion and at the same time eager to share it with others.

 

Borislav Paunovski | Bochi | Boris

Carrying a Bulgarian heart and a soul of a traveler, Borislav feels truly happy when he has a paddle in his hand. Bochi has been rafting since the age of 12. His father is one of the first river guides in Bulgaria.

Since the age of 16, he’s been taking part in rafting and kayak competitions along with leading groups in Bulgaria and later in USA (Alaska, West Virginia) & Costa Rica. Borislav’s passion for whitewater adventures took him all over Europe too.

In the winter months, he enjoys caving & mountaineering. He is also a ski instructor, working with children aged 3-12.

Career:

River Guide, Ski Instructor

Education:

MD in Hydrobiology, BD in Business Management

Passion:

Rafting, Kayaking, Trekking, Skiing, Caving, Biking.

Courses & Certificates:
  • Trip Leader Class 3  | International Rafting Federation, Bulgaria
  • Rafting Guide Class 3 | International Rafting Federation, Bulgaria
  • Rescue 101 | The Rescue company, Alaska
  • Advanced River Rescue | The Rescue company, Alaska
  • Search and rescue | JERU project, Slovenia
  • Cave rescue | Bulgarian federation of speleology
  • Search and rescue in floods | Bulgarian Red Cross
  • Ski instructor Class A | Bulgarian Ski School, part of International Ski
    Federation
Location:

Sofia, Bulgaria

Others:

Languages: English, Serbian

Ivan Topalov (Vankata)

Born in the beautiful town of Kazanlak, Bulgaria, Ivan started rafting in 2007. In the first two years, he was competing and after that started leading courses for guides via the International Rafting Federation. He is currently a trip leader class 3. He has experience not only in the rivers of Bulgaria but also abroad (Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, Serbia etc.). Ivan plans to continue passing his knowledge and experience to others in order to preserve and develop the amazing river sport, lifestyle & passion we call rafting.

Career:

Rafting Guide

Education:

Firearm Technologists

Passion:

Rafting, Biking, Trekking, Skiing, Snowboarding

Courses & Certificates:

Trip Leader Class 3  | International Rafting Federation

Location:

Sofia, Bulgaria

Others:

Languages: English

Lorenc Konaj – Mountain & Cultural Guide | Bosnia & Herzegovina

Lorenc became passionate about the outdoors at the age of seven. He fell in love with the pristine wilderness of what was then known to be Yugoslavia.

He soon found out that sharing the beauty of his homeland brings him incredible joy.

Lorenc is a Certified Mountain Guide, Travel Guide and trained Park Ranger, member of a Mountain Rescue Team, and has been leading adventure trips since 2000.

When not leading tours, Lorenc is involved in training tour leaders and mountain guides.

He earned his degree at the Maharishi European Research University, Switzerland in the Science of Creative Intelligence.

Education:

Science of Creative Intelligence, Maharishi European Research University, Switzerland

Passion:

Hiking, Ski Touring

Location:

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Languages: English & Russian

B (Bérengère) Dambrine – Local Coordinator | Bosnia & Herzegovina

B (Bérengère) fell in love with the Balkans about 15 years ago when she moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is where she discovered climbing, cycling, rafting and canyoning and became a true outdoor enthusiast.

B is an experienced organiser and networker with over 13 years of working in the French Institute along with managing community projects like The Acrobatics Convention in Krupa na Vrbas and being involved in climbing events like the Drill & Chill Climbing Festival and Pecka Rock Festival.

As a member of the Centre for Environment and Ecology, she brings to the Balkan Vagabondz’ team her environmental awareness and activist spirit.

People often wonder why she chose to live in Bosnia & Herzegovina instead of staying in France. B is convinced that making the world a better place can be achieved from anywhere. She has created her own permaculture garden and shared it with the community.

The Balkans might be the perfect place to start a sustainable living movement and B is psyched on the idea! A true Balkan vagabond!

Education:

Master in English Sociolinguistics and Master in French as a Foreign Language (FLE) – University of Strasbourg, France

Passion:

Circus, Acrobalance, Rock Climbing, Biking, Slackline (road cycling, mountain biking, and unicycling). 

Location:

Banja Luka, Bosnia Herzegovina

Others:

“The Bosnian landscapes are just wonderful… crystal blue or emerald green rivers, sloppy hills and magnificent mountains, rocky landscape in the south and green forests in the north, Bosnia Herzegovina is my paradise!”

Languages: French, English, Bosnian

 

Andrea Forizs – Scuba Diving Instructor | Mallorca

Andrea started her love affair with the sea when she was a child. She had her first taste of scuba diving in Croatia and then explored and trained in Mexico and Egypt. Her experience on the island of Mallorca and particularly in the area of Santa Ponca (El Toro, Malgrats and Isla Dragonera ) and the fact she is fluent in English, German, Spanish and Hungarian means we have a precious perl in the Balkan Vagabondz collective.

Career:

Working as a scuba diving instructor in Egypt, Hungary, Mexico and Mallorca, Spain.

Education:
  • Economics and Business – Oxford Brookes University
Passion:

ocean, diving, sailing, yoga, healthy food, wine

Courses & Certificates:
  • PADI – MSDT
  • Certified Life Coach
  • Certified Vegan Chef
Location:

Mallorca, Spain

Others:

Languages: English, German, Spanish, Hungarian

Lyuben Grancharov – Ski Mountaineering Guide | Bulgaria

Luybo works as a mountain leader since 2006, both with individuals and larger organised groups. He has extensive knowledge of the mountains of Bulgaria – Rila, Pirin, Balkan mountains and the Rhodopes. Also has been to the mountains of Turkey, Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece and Romania. Mont Blanc and Dufourspitze in the Alps, ski touring in Tirol, trekking in Caucasus Mountains and in the mountains around Baikal Lake in Russia. Mount Kazbek in Georgia, Mount Kinabalu on Borneo Island, Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island, Indonesia and trekking in the Ladakh region of India. In his career he has taken long distance cycling trips to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Macedonia. Also visited Japan, SE Asia, India, Russia, Georgia and many adventure spots around Europe.

Career:

2015 – Ski Instructor Award, “B” Class – Bulgarian Ski School (ISIA Member);
2013 – Ski Instructor Award, “А” Class – Bulgarian Ski School (ISIA Member);
2011 – IML (International Mountain Leader), member of Mountains and People Association, UIMLA (Union of International Mountain Leader Associations) member;
2010-2011 – Summer and Winter Mountain Rescue Training Courses, currently member of Sofia Mountain Rescue Squad;
2009 – Course in climbing and mountaineering – Vihren Alpine Club, currently member of the club;
2009 – Mountain Bike Leader Award, Mountains and People Association;
2009 – Ski Guide Award, Mountains and People Association;
2005-2006 – Mountain Leader Award, Mountains and People Association, Certificate № 032717/2006;
2001 – Driving license, active driver.

Education:

2000-2004 – Bachelor degree in Bulgarian Philology, Sofia University, Bulgaria

Passion:

Hiking, Cycling, Mountaineering, Climbing, Skiing, Mountain rescue, Travelling, Photography.

Location:

Bansko, Bulgaria

Others:

Languages: English & Russian

Toni Dimitrov – Hiking Guide | Macedonia

Toni loves being outside. He is a passionate rock climber and mountaineer familiar with all peaks in Macedonia. An active organiser of hiking tours enjoyed by both foreigners and locals he is also a keen wind surfer and currently the secretary of the Macedonian Sailing Federation.

His hobbies include – DJ-ing, producing music, hosting radio programmes, organising events, writing for magazines and generally having a very dynamic social life.

Toni loves philosophy and is into activism. He is one of the main organisers of the Reel Rock Tour in Skopje, Macedonia.

Education:

BA in Philosophy, MA in Communication & New media

Passion:

Philosophy, Art, Music & Politics

Courses & Certificates:
  • Mountain Guide License (Macedonian Mountain Sport Federation)
  • State Tour Guide License
  • Sport Climbing Certificate (Macedonian Sport Climbing Federation)
Location:

Skopje, Macedonia

Darmon Richter – Cultural Tour Guide | Bulgaria

Darmon Richter is a British expatriate who now considers himself a citizen of the world… but who for the last four years has been mostly based in Bulgaria. He writes The Bohemian Blog, where he shares stories and images around the themes of urban exploration, dark tourism and alternative travel.

Darmon has a particular interest in architecture and ideological monuments, a subject which he is currently studying in depth for a doctorate in ‘Dark Tourism.’ He has recently started to lead tours as well, visiting political monuments scattered around the mountains and cities of Bulgaria.

While the socialist subject matter of these monuments can often provoke controversy, Darmon firmly believes that as the past retreats further into history, a renewed interest in these often elaborate works of art and architecture serves to offer the post-socialist Balkan countries an exciting and unique new genre of tourism… de-politicising these sites and celebrating their design, rather than their ideologies.

Career:

Travel writer, photographer and tour guide.

Education:

BSc Psychology, PhD Dark Tourism (ongoing).

Passion:

Taking pictures, sharing adventures, drinking coffee and getting lost in new places.

Dimitar Popov – Ski Guide & Sport Climbing Instructor | Macedonia

A rock climber, ski mountaineer, extreme photographer and adventure seeker, Dime spends his time pushing his own limits. His mission is to help more people realise the potential of action sports like mountaineering, ski and climbing in order to promote and develop a progressive outdoor spirit desperately needed in our urbanised society.

His love affair with skiing started in 1998 as part of the national youth ski team. As a ski alpinist, Dime is either chasing the best snow beneath the western Macedonian summits or planning the next bold snow adventure into Macedonian backcountry with a mind and body focused on snow & altitude.

When winter ends, Dimitar starts spending his days embraced by the crags in Mavrovo focused on climbing and bolting, enjoying the chilly summer in the mountains.

As a climbing instructor he runs a climbing school for beginners and a climber’s web portal.

He is also a passionate adventure and climbing photographer who enjoys capturing and sharing the beauty of action sport movement.

Dime is the creator of Mavrovo Climbing Epic Challenge – an ultimate route competition and recreational three day long Macedonian climbing fiesta.

Career:
  • UIAA Mountain Guide
  • Sport climbing instructor
  • Founder of SKK Vardar, ClimbingSchool.mk & Mavrovo Climbing Epic Challenge
Education:

BA: Marketing Management

Passion:

Climbing, alpine climbing, ski alpinism, mountianeering, hiking, fungi & tea harvesting and snow.. a lot of snow

 

Courses & Certificates:
  • Sport Climbing Instructor

(Macedonian Sport Climbing Federation –by UIAA standards)

  • MSCF Official outdoor route setter

(Macedonian Sport Climbing Federation)

  • Certified Mountain Guide

(trained and acknowledged by UIAA standards, Macedonian Mountain Sport Federation)

Location:

Skopje/Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia

Gery Petrova – Founder & Adventure Facilitator | Mallorca

Back in 2009 Gery fell in love with rock climbing. Gradually she discovered adventure travelling which led her into a new realm of self-realisation and bonding with nature & people.

An inspired dancer she tries hard not to contribute to the trashing of the planet. Gery believes nature elevates the human condition and is ready to dedicate her life to help others come to a similar realisation.

Her responsibilities are to take care of the web, administrative and organisational tasks related to the Balkan Vagabondz collective. Gery will be often helping with translation, trip facilitation, blogging logistics and communication.

Career:

Project Management in Software Development & Pre – School Teacher

Education:

BA Politics, Philosophy and History – University of London, Early Childhood Diploma in Montessori Methodology – Montessori Centre International, London

Passion:

Rock Climbing, Dance, Travelling, Activism, Yoga

Courses & Certificates:

Indoor Climbing Wall Award, First Aid for Outdoor Activities, IRATA (Rope Access Technician), Wind Turbine Repair and Inspection Technician

Location:

Mallorca, Spain

Rus Vakrilov – Climbing Guide & Photographer | Bulgaria

Rus has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to climbing, skiing and photography. He has a Master’s Degree in Law but the outdoor life drove him out of the office, into the mountain, following his heart. Now he is a freelance outdoor and climbing photographer and video maker, chasing good light, stunning views and action. Rus has specialized in sport climbing and bouldering but when the mountain peaks cover in white he puts his climbing gear to rest, dusts off the fat skis and goes hunting for deep snow and steep lines, far from the resort.

Career:

Photographer & Video Maker

Education:

Law

Passion:

Climbing, Skiing, Yoga, Photography

Courses & Certificates:
Location:

Sofia, Bulgaria

Others:

Hanging out in nature, listening to the silence, gazing at the sun.