I love the Danube Delta!
I may be biased as it is my home, the place where I was born and where I now run a business, but I believe these are also the things that make me love it more and more each day.
Living here in Mahmudia, on the banks of the Danube River and at the gateway to the Delta, as a child it was nothing special. It was just home, I couldn’t appreciate it in it’s entirety.
When I was 8 my family decided to leave Mahmudia for Constanta, a city on the shores of the Black Sea about 2 hours’ drive away. It was the second largest city in Romania at the time, if I remember correctly, so naturally it had more to offer than a small commune. My parents wanted a better life for us and the chance to have access to everything a big city has to offer. So, growing up I discovered “civilisation”, living life on the fast track, and then as an adult, I got a taste of corporate life and slowly started being swallowed whole by it.
After 26 years I decided that, for my 2 boys, my wife and myself, it’s better to leave all that behind and go back to my roots. Having come back to my childhood village, I now see things from a different perspective. There’s more to it than just remembering what I thought I had left behind. I realised that I have yet to learn and discover an entire world that I was unaware of before. I have to learn from scratch.
To be honest, in the beginning, while starting to learn how to develop a tourism business and trying to make a living, I made a few mistakes and I fell into the trap of “mass tourism”.
Running a tourism business with people who come to the Danube Delta because it is a „trend”, is difficult and unpleasant. During regular tours I didn’t have time to discover. It was like a monologue to pass the time. “Pelicans, pelicans, pelicans” – they are the symbol of the Danube Delta and I don’t want to make them seem less than they are, but there are many other wonderful, interesting birds here.
I am grateful that I had the chance to meet people who inspired me. I learnt the major difference between the dullness of a tour with people that don’t understand and don’t care about the true beauty of nature and the beauty of a tour with nature lovers. When I finally had the chance to present the Danube Delta to people who love and study nature, I discovered the wonderful experience of birdwatching or birding for myself.
I finally truly “saw” one tiny beautiful bird: the Kingfisher. Now that I’ve learnt about it, it seems to be everywhere. Such a spectacular take off! Until recently I hadn’t had the chance to see with my own eyes how it hunts, but I now look forward to meeting it every time I take a tour.
I was genuinely impressed by the magnificent White-tailed Eagle, surveying the sky like a guardian.
Or take Cormorants for example: I knew them as “those ugly black birds” which swallow our fish. But if you take a closer look at them, they are more than interesting. I now admire them in that strange posture in which they dry out their feathers.
All this new information or, better yet, the realisation that there were mountains of knowledge I was missing, made me seek help, not least from two outstanding local experts Musat Constantin and Adrian Nasturica. I slowly started to realise the multitude of things I had ignored or hadn’t observed. Being a guide seemed harder and harder. It is indeed hard, as much as it is rewarding. I initially thought that I would only organise birdwatching tours once I am “well prepared”. Well, let me tell you: after 3 years of being in nature, with the many guidebooks I have studied and with all the information I’ve learnt from others, I now understand that I will never cease to learn and to discover. I will continue to do this for the rest of my life and I now realise that my best teachers will most likely be my guests.
For all of you who have had the patience to so far, I would like to leave you with just a few details that may raise your curiosity and thirst for knowledge about the wonderful Danube Delta. It is the most well-preserved delta in Europe, and it is regarded as one of the largest wetlands (7,410 sq km) and the most extensive areas of compact reed beds in the world. More than 330 species of birds have been recorded here, of which some170 are breeding species. Some of the birds you can admire here are: White-tailed eagle, Pallas’s Gull, Ferruginous Duck, Night Heron, Purple Heron, White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Spoonbill, and Glossy Ibis….
I hope that I have been able to entice you to look up more information about the Danube Delta.
Perhaps it will become one of your favorite birdwatching places!
Andrei Prodan, General Manager of Bunica Maria lodge, Bed & Birding partner