With our newest adventure from Sulina still fresh in our mind and heart, we arrived in Mahmudia at a slower pace, making plans for a relaxing time while visiting the surroundings.
Mahmudia, a village located on the southern branch of Danube River, was our base for 2 days of exploring the vicinity. The main plan was to rent a boat and visit the wetland that has been recently restored from an old agricultural land, right across the river.
A 4 year long project took place to restore some of the land (part of the delta) to what it was about 40 years ago and give it back to the nature. New channels and waterways have been created for fishermen and tourists, and wetlands, marshes, swamps have been created for wildlife.
As a UNESCO world heritage site, more than 50% of Danube Delta is strictly protected. The place is huge (over 5,000 km2 in total), and the nature lovers can find so many great activities. As the third largest biodiversity in the world, Danube Delta is a sanctuary for more than 300 species of birds, and few thousands of animals, and plants.
Best time to visit Danube Delta is when the nature is getting busy late spring, or early summer, during the breeding season, but I guess any day is good enough, except winter.
Either as a day trip, or for several days, there are many options to find accommodation. Many hotels, resorts, guest houses in the main villages along the river are offering great accommodation, but also there are some boat houses. An entry permit is required for a small fee, to be obtained before departure to the delta.
Even if you simply want to sit back and do sightseeing, or if you are an arduous fisherman, Danube Delta is a magical land, which is mesmerizing you as soon as you get a sight on it. The lush green that is surrounding you, the beckoning birds inviting you for lunch or dinner, the weeping trees along the channels, with their intricate roots looking like from a famous painting, all these will capture your senses, making you wonder how come you have not discovered yet this separate, hidden little world.
A unique habitat to so many birds (300+), any person can be a bird watcher at every five minutes. Even the quiet or shady channels are offering hidden surprises. The large marshes with green vegetation where fish can swim and hide are great feeding areas for bigger predators, like egrets, or pelicans.
My first, big surprise was when we got close enough to a huge group of pelicans that were floating in the distance. Pelicans are gregarious birds, travelling in flocks, hunting cooperatively, and breeding colonially. We approached them very slowly, as we didn’t want to scare them, but they have dispersed slowly eventually.
Moving forward through new channels, we got to a new marsh, where we saw a new big group of pelicans that were feeding. When fishing in groups, all pelican species have been known to work together to catch their prey.
They were so funny with their bottoms up, and their little tails up in the air. Then, further away, another group was fiercely fighting for their food. More than half of the pelicans were with their heads under the water while doing huge splashes of water, fighting with the fish.
Later on, I saw one of the pelicans gulping the fish, with its pouch big and full. Pelicans are famous for their elastic pouch to catch the fish.
Contrary a myth, they do not store the fish in their pouch, but they only use it to catch the fish, then tip it back to drain out the water, after that swallowing the fish immediately. Sometimes, if other birds are quicker, they can steal the fish from the pelican pouch. A pelican may eat up to 1.8 kg fish daily.
It was about the time to leave the pelicans to finish catching their lunch, and move forward.
We had to say good bye to the pelicans, or rather the pelicans said good bye to us, as they graciously took off with their huge, shiny, perfect wings.