Birdwatching on the Danube Delta: Responsible Tourism Opportunities in Romania

Romania has so much to offer the tourist who is willing to explore its ways and appreciate its slow-moving and peaceful countryside.

The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve

The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, located in eastern Romania, is Europe’s last unspoilt sanctuary for rare birds such as pelicans plus other mammals, fish and plant species. The Biosphere Reserve holds several remarkable records: it is the world’s largest wetland nature reserve, Ramsar zone and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This region is an oasis of peace and quiet occupying some 440,000 hectares of the territory of Romania.

The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA) is responsible for managing the Delta. Part of their remit is to raise awareness of this remarkable natural resource and to encourage responsible tourism and any trip to the region is best arranged through a specialist tour operator.

Sympathetic Tourism

Anglers and birdwatchers are encouraged but the DDBRA takes great care to ensure that the area is not over-exploited and that tourism is developed in sympathy with the local surroundings.

The King of European Rivers

The Danube, which Napoleon called the king of European rivers, splits into three branches – Sfântu Gheorghe, Chilia, and Sulina. These in turn divide into hundreds of streams, channels and lakes creating this amazing network of ecosystems and biospheres lined with reeds, sand banks and a wide variety of plants and forests that resemble tropical jungles.

How to Get to the Danube Delta

One way to access the Delta is via the city of Tulcea, in eastern Romania. At the present time the best way to get to Tulcea is by road from Bucharest. The 175-mile journey passes through small towns and villages.

Opportunities for Tourism

Facilities for visitors are slowly improving and there are many types of accommodation. There are several hotels in Tulcea and local guides can arrange hiking, boating and birdwatching trips to explore the Delta.

Another opportunity is to stay with local families who provide accommodation for visitors and also act as guides. Most have lived on the Delta all their lives so they know the wildlife well and understand the habitat.

Possibly the best way to experience the Delta is on a floating hotel. These are pulled along the river by tugs and transport visitors to convenient points along the main channels of the Danube. The journey then continues along smaller, less visited, channels by small motor boat, as shown in the photo. It’s not advisable to take a boat yourself because there are hundreds of small channels and it is easy to get lost.

Tourism in small groups, hosted and guided by local people, creates not only a small and friendly experience, but also provides much needed revenue for the local population.

The Romanian Tourist Office will provide details of tour operators. Before visiting the Delta permission must be obtained from the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority. If you use a good travel agent they will obtain the permit for you. The reserves are closed during the bird breeding season and fishing is not permitted for the 60-day period starting 1st April.