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September 2018, Danube Delta – Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania
After years hopping on and off other countries on different continents, we’ve decided it’s finally time to explore homeland for a few months. And what better place to start, than the newest land of Romania, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.
We hope you’ll enjoy our recommended top activities in the Danube Delta, as much as we did.
Backpacks ready, car cleaned of spiderweb, we’re on our way to the most remote place we could find, Sfântu Gheorghe.
After a few hours drive, we get off at Murighiol and embark on the speed boat. Hearts in our throats, fingers grabbing everything we can hold on to, off we go!
As we cross the water next to other boats from the opposite direction, the waves push us up and down like a rollercoaster. Our “Uuuuh’s” and “Ooooh’s” are synchronized with the boat movement. But a little water splash didn’t hurt anybody. The driver seems pretty happy today. He’s in control and quite amused of our fears, so we start to relax a bit and enjoy the ride.
One hour later, we step on the dusty soil of Sfântu Gheorghe village. Far in the distance, the serene Danube river meets the wavy, salty Black Sea, just when the golden sun is coming down over the water.
The modern Danube Delta began to form after 4000 BC in a bay of the Black Sea, when the sea rose to its present level. A sandy barrier blocked the bay where the Danube river initially built its delta. Upon filling the bay with sediment, the delta advanced outside this barrier-blocked estuary after 3500 BC, building several successive lobes: St. George I (3500–1600 BC), Sulina (1600–0 BC), St. George II (0 BC–present) and Chilia (1600–present).
Situated on major migratory routes, and providing good conditions for nesting and hatching, the Danube Delta is a magnet for birds from six major ecoregions of the world, including the Mongolian, Arctic and Siberian. There are over 320 species of birds found in the delta during summer, both hatching species and migratory. Over one million individual birds winter here.
In 1998, under UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere, the Danube Delta land, shared by Romania and Ukraine, was established as a Biosphere Reserve.
A proper Delta experience would be to stay in different areas near all three branches. Since our time was limited, here are our recommendations of what to do around Sfântu Gheorghe.
Boat trips on the lakes, canals, looking for the rarest birds
After properly resting our feet and minds by laying in the jacuzzi, the next morning we are good to go on a boat ride to Sacalin Island (formed only 150 years ago). This time we’re navigating on a secondary branch, on a slow pace. We don’t want to scare the birds off.
As we go further, white egrets come into sight. Then wild ducks, swans with gray little chicks, and other species I have never seen before.
As we approach the island on the minimum allowed distance, I cannot believe my eyes: a huge colony of Dalmatian pelicans. Hundreds of them. If you want to see something funny, picture a pelican trying to fly, as he steps on the water for a few seconds before taking off.
Here are all the tours you can do from Sfântu Gheorghe:
- boat tour of the 3 channels: Chilia-Sulina-Sfântu Gheorghe
- boat tour on Gârla Turcească to Sacalin Island
- boat tour to Gura Portiței
- boat tour to Epava Tuzla
- boat tour on the north lakes
Run to the beach
One afternoon we take the walking path and exit the village. For about 15 minutes it’s just us and some cows and horses walking along.
Soon, the road gets wider and what do you know…we’re stepping on incredibly fine sand! There is just an unlimited beach and the Black sea ahead.
Trip to the inflow
If you want more, walk to the point where the Danube river meets the Black Sea.
Walk into the village
Sfântu Gheorghe is an old fishing settlement, outspread on the left side of the oldest channel of the Danube river, close to where the river flows into the Black Sea. The village is inhabited by around 600 people that preserve their tradition and Ukrainian language.
Strolling the village roads is a return to a lost era. People are polite and friendly, kids play outside.
The thatched reed roofed white houses, decorated with traditional motifs, look like an outdoor museum.
Sports and fun
No matter where you stay, you can rent a bike or kayak.
If you also want a real treat, look for a place with a swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Table tennis, pool, darts, are also welcomed for the chilly nights.
If an outdoor cinema is also at the spot, I can ask for nothing more.
Dive into fish-based traditional food
There is no better place to try the delicious fisherman’s soup and the mixed grilled fish, served with polenta and garlic.
Bonus: there is live music in the evening!
We’re so happy we finally stepped on the newest land of Romania, and one of the newest of Europe. Spending time at the countryside reminded me of my childhood at the grandparents: people who say hello to each other, no cars, the sound of cows, chickens and frogs in the morning, and an absolutely stunning sky full of stars during the night.
Each day spent in the Delta gives you time to enjoy the sounds of nature as if nothing has changed here for centuries. That’s also a good chance to look into yourself.
The question is, are you brave enough ? 🙂
How to get to Sfântu Gheorghe
Drive to Murighiol (4 h from Bucharest) + Boat ride on the St.George branch (1 h by speed boat)
It’s better to reserve your spot on the boat, upon arrival. We asked the hotel to arrange the boat transportation for us.
There is a spacious private parking right on the deck, named STAR 2000 (cost: ~3 EUR/day).
Where to stay
We can’t recommend enough the Green Village Resort for your stay in the Danube Delta. You’ll be right where the Delta meets the Black Sea, in a perfect relaxation oasis built in traditional style.
Happy travels and stay safe!