Getting stuck in the middle of Danube Delta, on one of the thousand little channels, seemed no fun once I realized there is no way of moving forward, neither backward, while dozens of mosquitoes were buzzing around, smelling fresh blood in their neighbourhood. Watching the snake rolling away on the floating moss, and the green frog smiling at me, I started to rewind in my mind how that happened. I was wondering if my desire to watch the birds was proportionally equal with the quantity of blood we are going to donate to the hungry mosquitoes from this shady channel, and the nearby swamp. Because you wouldn’t need a second glance to realize there is no passage, and the mosquitoes were not fed for ages.The Danube River, a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire about 2000 years ago, flows today through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world. It is the European second longest river, with a length of 2,850 km, starting from Black Forest in Germany, and flowing into Black Sea in Romania.
Getting to Tulcea (the base point for reaching Sulina) can be done by train, by bus, or by car. If you are getting by car, you should be there early in the morning, in order to get a parking spot close to the marina. The access permit can be obtained online if you know Romanian language, or on the DDBR premises for everyone else. Getting to Sulina can be done by a big and slow passenger boat, or by one of the many speed boats running several times a day between Tulcea and Sulina.
Kindred soul, our dear friend S., whom we met years ago while he was living in Canada, offered us accommodation in his little country cottage from Sulina when he heard we are planning to visit the delta. (But accommodation in Sulina can be found plenty from any trusted websites) He kindly directed us where to buy the delta entry pass and where to reserve the speedboat from Tulcea city. All excited about this new adventure, we found ourselves in Sulina after an hour and half of speeding in a boat, along with some other 10 people or so.
A free port in Tulcea County, Sulina is small town at the mouth of Sulina branch of the Danube River with Black Sea. With a rich history since the 14th century, Sulina is the most eastern point of Romania, sought as a strategic place to sailors, pirates, fishermen, either Genoese, Goths, Romans, Ottomans, Russians, or Germans, over time.
Not wanting to waste any time, S. took us for an evening ride with his little boat, showing us the surroundings. Inhaling the fresh, pure air, I was so eager to spot any kind of bird. Not so many out in that evening, other that few seagulls, and a couple of mute swans. But the view of Musura Bay that welcomed us after going through a channel from the main course of Danube River, let us speechless.
The soft breeze was caressing our hair, while we were relaxing our senses. After so much walking in Vienna and Budapest the week before, it was our time to relax and breathe some fresh air. There is absolutely no industry in this part of Romania, Danube Delta is actually part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1991, and a biosphere reserve since 1998. In different words, this is the nature’s home.
Danube Delta has 3 main distributaries into the delta, Sulina branch being the central arm, and the shortest one. This has not only generated its extensive use for traffic, but it is also a highlight of the whole area, therefore more visitors taking advantage of this central position.
The beautiful evening ended with a peaceful sunset, and later on we watched Sulina’s lights in the dark, with a shiny moon watching us. I could notice the red lights on the left side of the river as you go upstream, while the green is on the right.
But we didn’t know yet what to expect next morning, beside a shiny sun and our frenzy. Our friend’s wife S. has put us together a big cooler with lot of food and water, and sitting comfortable on our life jackets, we pursued our new adventure.
Bigger and smaller channels, water lilies and many other different flowers, reeds, cattails, birds, lakes and many more channels, a totally new experience awaited us along the way. I was amazed how the whole nature was encompassing us. I would have think we were lost at some point if it was not for S. who was so knowledgeable, he knew all the names for the lakes and channels we passed by.
We could see the fishing nets left in the water to catch the food of the day, and boats resting in the shade; the seasonable, remote shelters of the fishermen looked deserted if it was not for some barking dog tied in a leash; people picking up water chestnuts, or at least checking on them; shelters for bird watchers in different shapes and sizes; green vegetation, more water, tourists, and birds.
Bigger or smaller boats, they are all familiar for Danube River, from Germany, to Romania. I’ve seen many boats all this time we spent in Sulina, but this one captured my attention. Who wouldn’t want to be on its deck? 🙂
Trees, and more reeds, lakes and more channels, we stayed back, relaxed and shared sweet memories. Until one moment, when the boat motor was running heavily, and we noticed the boat got stuck between the water weeds. Our friend took one paddle and tried to push the boat, it was like pushing a mountain: nothing budged at all. Then he tried in a different direction: we barely moved few centimeters. We could see the weeds spreading all over, on the channel ahead, as well on the nearby swamp. The mosquitoes came up boldly, and the smiling frog looked so happy for making new friends. Only the little snake was running away, the startle was mutual.
After calming, we decided we need to move forward, and after taking turns with the paddles, we moved the boat little by little, until we passed the natural barrier. Standing up on the bench, S. noticed already that the weeds actually came from the swamp, blocking our route only for several metres.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1991, Danube Delta hosts over 300 birds and 45 fresh water fish species, and is the best preserved Delta in Europe. It is definitely one of the amazing places to do bird watching.
Feeding ourselves mostly with greenery and joy, we didn’t realize how fast the day passed away, until S. said he will take us to Sulina beach. He actually pulled the boat to the shore, and directed us to the beach. Many people were coming and going in that direction, we couldn’t miss it. While he was resting, we explored the little beach facing the Black Sea. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was surprised there were so many people on the beach. For only a very small fee per ride, there were several minivans carrying people from Sulina town. After all there was end of August, the perfect time for sunbathing!
After we returned from the beach, S. decided it is time for another sunset, so our route was to Musura Bay, again. He knew why!
*visited in August 2018
**if you would like to read more about birds, you can visit: