Danube Delta - Europe's greatest wetland
One of the very few holidays to include a week on a floating hotel, exploring the spectacular wildlife of the Romanian Danube Delta.
At the end of a 1,700 mile long journey across Europe, the great Danube River empties its water into the Black Sea. Here, the Danube splits into numerous channels and canals, creating the second largest delta on the continent. Vast expanses of swamps and forests, as well as a scattering of pretty lakes surrounded by thick reedbeds, provide a perfect sanctuary for over 300 species of bird, many year-round residents, plus summer breeders, and spring and autumn migrants.
In the Delta, we stay on a very comfortable ‘travelling’ houseboat, which as well as being equipped with all the ’mod cons’ we might need, also has a lovely open deck for bird-watching and relaxing in the open air. Roller, Black Woodpecker, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole and White-tailed Eagle can all be seen from the houseboat, as well as fly-pasts of pelicans and ibis. Elsewhere, it should be possible to see Paddyfield Warbler and Great Black-headed Gull, as well as huge numbers of herons and terns.
As well as enjoying the wildlife, we will learn much about the local conservation projects and how the lives of many of the people of the Delta, many living in remote fishing villages, are an integral part of the wetland ecosystem. We are delighted to be returning to the Delta, a favourite Wildlife Travel destination for over a decade. The holiday is aimed at providing a unique visit to one of the last remaining wilderness areas of Europe. Our local guides are experienced ecologists – their natural history expertise, together with that of our leader, will enable anyone with a general wildlife interest to enjoy this tour as well as those with a more specific interest in birds.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 After arrival in Bucharest we transfer to our hotel in Amara, approximately two hours away.
Day 2 An early morning exploration of the nearby lakes will give us our first introduction to the wetland birdlife of Romania, with Little Bittern and Ferruginous Duck likely to be seen. After breakfast, we travel eastwards, stopping along the way to visit the Babadag forest, home to wild flowers including Peony, Lady Orchid and Monkey Orchid amongst others. Our next port of call will be the salt lakes around Murighiol, where we may catch up with our first Ruddy Shelduck or Pygmy Cormorant. Finally we join our houseboat Kingfisher.
Day 3 Today we will have a leisurely cruise to Sfantu Gheorghe, one of the most beautiful fishing villages in the Danube Delta. From the deck of the boat we will see many of the typical birds of the delta such as egrets, pelicans, herons, Bee-eater, Roller and the ever present Marsh Harriers, the peace only disturbed by the occasional White-tailed Eagle hunting overhead. We will keep our eyes peeled for the beautiful Great Black-headed Gulls, a speciality of the area. After arriving in Sfantu Gheorghe in the early afternoon we will visit the village to see the local houses in the Ukrainian style.
Day 4 We explore the local area around Sfantu Gheorghe by small boat, including the sandy Sahalin Island, an important bird reserve, at the mouth of the Black Sea, home to Moustached Warbler, Fire-bellied Toad and Golden Jackal. After lunch, we will walk around the Sfantu Gheorghe area, to look for a variety of migrating waders, Lesser Grey Shrike, Bearded Tit and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. The beach is home to the Steppe Runner, a large lizard that only reaches Europe in this corner of Romania.
Day 5 After an early morning bird walk around Sfantu Gheorghe, we will have a leisurely day on the boat, travelling towards the Dunavat channel, in the company of Whiskered Terns and egrets along the way, giving us the choice of birding from the upper deck or simply indulging in a siesta!
Day 6 The day will be spent exploring some of the more remote areas of the Delta: fingers crossed today will give us excellent opportunities for catching up with some of theshyer animals of the Delta – Wild Boar or even Golden Jackal will be looked for, as well as birds such as Paddyfield Warbler and other north-bound migrants.
Day 7 After breakfast, we transfer to the small boats for a trip to the lakes around the main channel. The reeds will be alive with the song of birds, including Great Reed, Sedge and Savi’s warblers. After lunch back onboard, we travel on to Uzlina.
Day 8 Today our explorations may take us to the shallow lagoons hidden amongst the reeds where hundreds of pairs of Whiskered Tern nest amongst the lily pads and Red-necked Grebes and Red-crested Pochard make their homes. After another bird-packed day, we will relax with a glass (or two) of wine and a farewell dinner on board.
Day 9 After a leisurely breakfast, we bid farewell to the boat and head back towards Bucharest, stopping along the way for one last spot of birdwatching before we finally return to Bucharest for our onward journeys home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our first night will be spent in the Hotel Diamant in Amara, half way between Bucharest and the Delta. On the delta, our home is a very comfortable boat, each cabin having an en-suite ‘bathroom’ (shower/w.c). The nine cabins are all on the same deck, ‘outside’ (i.e. with a window) and have twin or double beds (not bunks). It is very pleasant to sit on the viewing/sun deck of the boat as we travel down the waterways looking at the wildlife from the comfort of our own ‘home’.
Our meals will be a mixture of Romanian and International dishes, with an emphasis on local cuisine. Most of the fresh food is organic and produced locally, including meat and fish.
The group flights are with British Airways from London Heathrow to Bucharest.
Romania is two hours ahead of UK time.
If you hold a British passport, from 1 January 2021 you will be able to travel to Romania for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.
The weather should be pleasant, mostly warm, even hot, although rain is possible, as is cooler weather. We will not be walking long in the sun.
You will need to be able to climb in and out of small boats, sometimes directly onto the bank. We will spend quite a bit of time sitting in the small boats (not all have back supports). As this tour involves considerable moving around in boats, it may not be suitable for people with limited mobility.