Interview #11 – Zana Marijanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Interview” is caving club “Pod RB” initiative dedicated to discussions with cavers from all around the world. What they share about their life above and under the ground, their caving experience, stories, dreams and future plans you can find in the following lines…

Tell us something about yourself in terms of speleological experience.

My name is Zana Marijanovic. I was born in 1985, in Mostar, a town situated at the banks of Neretva river and one of the most beautiful towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am a member of the speleo club ‘Herceg’ Mostar from its very founding and am one of the founders. At the moment I am chairman of the club. 

How you started dealing with speleology and why are you still doing it?

It all started with my acceptance in the Hercegovian mountain rescue service in Mostar. The same organised speleology course, to which I enrolled. Little did I know back then but I was going to dedicate all of my free time to speleology. Honestly, I didn’t even know what speleology is, apart from the fact that I will be hanging on ropes and that I will need some specific equipment. Through the mountain rescue activities I have realised that I am most keen on working with ropes and alpine equipment. On the one hand speleology is a fascinating activity, through which I get to know myself best, also strengthening my physical and mental states. On the other hand it gives me an opportunity to enjoy something unusual and interesting such as the exploration of underground mazes. 

Bracina jama

To which club/organization you feel you belong? 

Speleo club ‘’Herceg’’ Mostar was founded in 2012 as a non profit and non governmental organization with main objectives of cave exploration and preservation. We are a small club with very few active members. Speleo courses in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not well developed and many speleologists participate in such courses in nearby Croatia. We participate in numerous speleo events abroad – meetings, expeditions, seminars, etc., there we gain experience, which we share with the younger generations. 

What we really want is to create a speleo culture in Mostar and to attract more interest to the speleology as a science discipline. Also to motivate the younger generation to get engaged with the different aspects, which the speleology offers. 

Club logo

Herceg speleo team

Can you tell us more about your favourite cave or region and how you chose to dedicate your energy there? 

For few years already we are exploring the plateau just above Mostar and more specifically, the area of Raška Gora, Goranaca, Vrda and Čabulje mountain. We are systematically exploring the terrain there in search for new caves. We managed to find big number of caves with the help of the locals, we have explored more then 60 caves there. Unfortunately, many of these are contaminated with all sorts of rubbish. Through our activities we try to educate the locals about the effects of contamination of caves and how it affects the environment and the potable water. 

The caves here are not very deep and are easy to explore. This is how it was until June, this year, when we have started with the exploration of Mala Dželalija in Raška Gora. At the first day we have reached to – 230m. We had no more rope to continue and were left hanging amid the shaft without any sight of a bottom. We were overwhelmed by euphoria and funny feelings, little we knew what was expecting us. The next day we managed to reach the bottom. The entrance pit of Mala Dželalija is 400m. After the pit, follows a big chamber and at its bottom we found continuation, which led us to – 520m.

There is still a lot for explorations – technical climbing and two others pits, which we saw at the lower level. Sad to say, but as already mentioned, we are quite new club and we don’t have enough equipment for such an exploration. We do hope that the local institutions will help us with the needed equipment. 

Our plan is to continue with the explorations next spring or summer. The most important is to survey the cave. 

Mala Dželalija – entrance pit

Before entering Malu Dželalaja


What have you learned through dealing with speleology?

Patience. I learned that nothing happens overnight, but with persistence, hard work and good team you can make things happen.  

Learning. In speleology, apart of the activities we go through during the cave explorations, we get a feeling for different science disciplines as well. From research of different life forms, nested in the hollows of the earth, to the different processes, which form the caves, as well as archeology… All in all, there is no end to learning new things. 

Bracina jama

After explorations in Bracina jama


If you have experience with incidents in caves, would you share this with us, so other speleologists can learn from your experience? What would be your advice in case of such incidents?

Apart from the morphological challenges in the caves, we are often being threatened by different man made waste, stuck somewhere in the pits or at its bottoms. Aside from rubbish we often come across explosives and mines. One has to be extremely careful with such caves, especially in our area. If in doubt for such materials, do not step on the rubbish and get in touch with the responsible for this institution. 




What is your approach toward attracting new speleologists in terms of preparation and training (examples, duration and accents of training, etc.)? 

We organise a cave course once per year, most often at early spring, with duration of 4 weekends. Main objective is to educate the participants in how to safely explore caves and pits, using speleo-alpin equipment . The course consists of theoretical lectures (Friday evenings) and practical workshops. The lectures are in the fields of geology, biology, hydrogeology, paleotology, archaeology and anything else that is related to the speleology. The practical workshops are mostly about single rope techniques, moving and overcoming of vertical parts, cave surveying, also orientation and movement on the surface. Most ot the course participants enroll due to the challenge and the curiosity from the unknown. The ones that are really intrigued by speleology, love nature and good company, remain in the club and continue with cave exploration. 

Exploring the Biokovo tunnel caverns

Would you like to share something more with us?

Be our guests in our expeditions, so we can together see what the Hercegovian underground has to offer  : )

Motre information about our club and activities you can find here:

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