The Danube Delta is not only the second largest delta on the planet, but also the most preserved one on the European continent. According to recorded history, the delta was formed about 5,000 years ago on the place of what was initially a gulf to the Black Sea.
Nowadays, it is home to a great number of animals and plants and it contains 25 types of ecosystems, some of them strictly protected. If you happen to travel to Romania, the Danube Delta is one of the must-see attractions you cannot afford to miss. Following is a list of the top 10 facts that I have learned about this unique place.
1. Its biodiversity is close to the one of the Great Reef in Australia
According to ARBDD statistics, so far over 5,000 species and plants and animals have been identified in the Danube Delta. And, the same source states that that it is very likely that the numbers of animals and plants in the delta is even greater than that considering the various habitat types that exist in this area. This is why biologists concluded that the biodiversity present in the Danube Delta is almost as great and amazing as the one found in the Great Coral Reef.
2. The Danube Delta still continues to grow
Even though geologists agree that the Danube Delta started to form many thousand years ago, its landscape is ever-changing. To put it simply, it is estimated that approximately 67 million tons of alluvia make their way to the delta each year, a fact that determines this lost paradise to slightly increase on a yearly basis.
3. It is the birdwatcher’s paradise
The Danube Delta is the largest home for over 300 resident and migratory species of birds, mainly because of its crossroad location (parallel 45) between the Equator and the North Pole. The vast majority of species can be best observed during late spring (March or April) to mid fall (October) and the most noteworthy birds you are very likely to spot include the red-breasted goose, glossy ibis, small egret, Dalmatian pelican, the white pelican, ferruginous duck and the pygmy cormorant. It is necessary to mention that this delta is home to the largest population of pelicans in Europe.
4. The Danube Delta contains three interesting channels
Covering over 2,000 square miles, the Danube Delta comprises of an intricate network of channels spread between three main ones. The three channels – Chilia, Sulina and Sfantu’ Gheorghe – have their own “personalities” and individual attractions. For instance, if you were to visit the youngest channel – Chilia – you will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the largest pelican colony and check out the beautiful wild horses that live nearby to the Letea forest.
5. It has an incredibly rich cultural heritage
As previously mentioned, the Danube Delta is among the best preserved deltas of the world. First attested by Herodot around the fourth century B.C. this place is still not tainted by the hand of man and currently has a rather small population of 15,000 inhabitants. However, human presence in the delta can be traced back to 5,000 years B.C. Many of the artifacts dated from prehistoric times as well as many traces of the ancient Greek, Byzantine and Roman cultures are still present there.
6. This delta is Europe’s largest wetland reserve
Even though it is outranked by the size of the Volga Delta in Europe, the truth is that it is the largest and most remarkable river wetlands on this continent. The Danube Delta is also the largest reed bed expanse in the world, measuring over 600,000 acres. As a side note, these immense portions of reed beds represent the home of approximately 30% of the glossy ibis population living in Europe. You are very likely to observe these fascinating and majestic birds from April to September, when they start building their nest along the reed beds of the delta.
7. More than 50% of the biosphere reserve is intact
The Danube Delta has been included in the UNESCO world heritage in the 1990s and several areas are currently off-limits for the public. Currently, more than 50% of the delta is intact and the entire area is split into zones where tourism, fishing and hunting are strictly controlled. This is also one of the reasons why tourists should not expect luxurious accommodations, but rather cottages where they can enjoy a good night’s rest and delicious home-cooked meal in the style of the local cuisine.
8. It contains 12 habitat types
In addition to the rich fauna and flora of the delta, you also have the opportunity to admire unique, breath-taking landscapes in the Danube Delta. The various landscapes have been classified into 12 distinct habitat types, varying from deep aquatic to forests that grow on high land. Perhaps the strangest of habitats found in the delta are the sandbanks that that are formed by the alluvia deposited by the Danube River or by the mysterious waters of the Black Sea. Not only do they manage to create alien-like landscapes, but they also permit the growth of special kinds of vegetation.
9. The delta is home to a few endangered fish and animal species
While hunting and fishing are not completely forbidden in the Danube Delta, it is important to note that they are strictly controlled. The reason for this is that this delta is among the few places on Earth that is still home to endangered species of animals, birds and fish, such as otter, Mustella lutrola, Acipenseriadae fish, red-breasted goose, various species of pelicans and pygmy cormorants to name a few.
10. It is the end of the journey for the most inter-nation traversing river on the planet
The delta marks the end of the road for the Danube River, just before it flows into the Black Sea. It is necessary to mention that the Danube River is unique due to the fact that during its journey from Germany to Romania it passes through nine countries and four European capitals, namely Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade.