Have you ever dreamt of escaping the hustle and bustle of daily life and immersing yourself in what feels like a completely different world? I recently had the privilege of experiencing just that during a week-long retreat in the picturesque landscapes of Montenegro, with the all-women's community known as Samudra Collective. I had the pleasure of being the photographer in residence, and this idyllic retreat offered the perfect opportunity for a much-needed reset (and my first big OS shoot since becoming a mum), combining daily practices of breath-work, meditation, and yin yoga, an all-vegan meal protocol, and an exploration of Montenegro's incredible culture, all against the backdrop of the Balkan Alps.

Photographer Emma Maggs in a yoga shala looking out over the adriatic sea from the Balkan Alps

The Samudra Collective is an inspiring group of women who share a passion for holistic well-being, personal growth, and the profound connection between our inner selves and the natural world. And on this occasion our connection to the water... you can see how I found my way into this unique community's orbit. Our retreat in Montenegro was an opportunity to escape the demands of our everyday lives and find solace in the nurturing embrace of nature.

Two women in baths overlooking the adriatic sea in Montenegro and relaxing and laughing

The week began with a collective sigh of relief as together we embraced the beauty of our surroundings. Nestled between the azure Adriatic Sea and the rugged Dinaric Alps, the retreat center was a sanctuary of serenity. The picturesque vistas, soothing sounds of nature, and mountain air immediately had a calming effect on our spirits. It was the perfect setting for our much-needed reset.

Women in water looking back to the Balkan Alps in Montenegro

Each day started with a gentle awakening to the sounds of nature and the faint noise of the busy town below. We gathered at 8am every day for a daily practice of breathwork, and meditation. These practices formed the foundation of our daily routine, helping us create space for self-reflection and personal growth.

Women doing a daily practice of breathwork, meditation and yoga in a yoga shala in Montenegro

One of the highlights of the retreat was our daily yin yoga practices led by skilled and compassionate instructors Olivia Frassinelli (founder of Samudra) and Maggie Miller (co facilitator). It is here we explored the deep, introspective side of this practice which is a slow, meditative form of yoga that targets the connective tissues in the body, promoting relaxation and rejuvenation. It was the perfect complement to our morning meditation and breath-work, allowing us to explore our inner selves in a gentle and nurturing way. Also it was during these practices that I would fall into a deep restorative sleep each time and embarrassingly have to be woken up by one of the women in the collective. They assure me this is a good thing! I definitely wasn't complaining. 

Co-facilitators of the retreat Olivia and Maggie during a daily practice

The all-vegan meal protocol we followed was a delicious revelation. Each meal was thoughtfully crafted to inspire detoxification and promote a sense of lightness and vitality. We dined on an array of plant-based dishes, bursting with flavors and nutrients. The talented chefs introduced us to local Montenegrin ingredients and created dishes that were as much a feast for the eyes as they were for our taste buds. The meals were a testament to the idea that eating healthily can be an absolute delight.

Vegan meal on a plate at the Samudra Collective Retreat

Beyond our daily practices and nourishing meals, we also had the opportunity to explore Montenegro's incredible culture. We ventured down the mountain to the beach side villages of Buljarica and Petrovac, where we walked the pebbled beaches and were thrown from serenity into the chaos of European Summer and a sea of umbrellas. There is a beautiful grittiness about this European village that really started to grow on me, and a glorious reminder that life is an exquisite dance between tranquility and chaos.

Chaos of a Montenegro Summer with a sea of umbrellas

As a collective we ventured out to the Adriatic Sea and spent a day on the ocean, immersed in the clearest water I have ever seen. As we navigated the undulating coast line of Montenegro, it provided the unique perspective and juxtaposition of rugged beauty and the essence of a post soviet culture. Our guides took us to an island, with a small church perched upon the very top of a tiny mountain, and it is here where the women of Samudra became Wildfemmes mermaids. A sea of sirens. Unburdened, free and united with the sea. It was simply magical.

A group of women on a small boat with the balkan alps behind them out on the adriatic sea

women underwater linking arms - underwater photography portraits

As our week with the Samudra Collective in Montenegro came to a close, we left with our hearts full, our spirits lifted, and our minds at peace. This retreat offered a much-needed reset, allowing us to reconnect with ourselves and with eachother. The daily practices of meditation, breath-work, and yin yoga provided the tools for self-discovery and inner peace. The all-vegan meals inspired detoxification and a renewed sense of vitality. And the exploration of Montenegro's culture and the vibrancy of its Summer gave us a fresh perspective on the beauty of life's contrasts.

women laying down having a gong bath at a temple with the adriatic sea behind them

If you're seeking a transformative experience that combines holistic well-being, cultural exploration, and the joy of summer, a retreat with the Samudra Collective might be just what your soul craves. It's a journey that promises to refresh your spirit, inspire your growth, and leave you with cherished memories of idyllic moments spent in the embrace of nature, and in the company of incredible women from all over the world. Their next retreat is in Italy next year and to say that I am excited is a total understatement. 

A group of women, linking arms watching the sun set over the adriatic sea

And lastly I'll leave you with a gentle reminder from one of the attendees from the retreat which felt very poignant for this holistic sojourn. 

tattoo on a womens leg that reads 'love loudly' 

Stay wild,

Emma x