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‘This is the Amazon of Europe’: a wildlife trip on Romania’s Danube delta | Romania holidays

‘This is the Amazon of Europe’: a wildlife trip on Romania’s Danube delta | Romania holidays

The synthetic-sounding call of a lone bird rises notably above a riot of birdsong. On the horizon, a purplish sunset is reflected in the vast waters of Europe’s largest wetland. “It’s like another world,” says Charlie Ottley, a British documentary maker who has presented two Netflix documentary series on Romania. “It’s one of the most biodiverse places in the world, not just in Europe.”

This moment on the top deck of the floating hotel my eight-year-old son Tommy and I are staying on marks the end of a long day in Romania’s Danube delta. This is where the Danube – which originates in Germany’s Black Forest and snakes through 10 countries – empties into the Black Sea. “This is the Amazon of Europe,” Ottley says, gesturing to the sprawling maze of reed beds, canals, floating islands, marshes, lakes and forests.

I have lived in Romania for nearly 10 years yet never explored the Danube delta. What I discover feels like a country within a country, a wilderness so unspoilt and expansive as to match or surpass the better-known Carpathian mountains for its rich wildlife and culture.

The floating hotel, tugboat, and viewing boat. Photograph: Andrei Smeu

We’re part of a dozen-strong group on a tour of the wetland wilderness led by guide Daniel Petrescu, who has a deep knowledge of this Unesco-stamped nature reservation and a knack for imitating bird calls.

Our open-deck viewing boat departs from Tulcea, the gateway city to the delta close to the Ukrainian border, and slowly moves through the Trofilca Canal, where 20 breeding pairs of kingfisher have burrowed nests into the earth banks. Ottley calls this “kingfisher alley”. We watch as dozens of brilliant blue flashes dart about us, turning the narrow canal into a fairytale scene.

Home to more than 300 migratory and resident bird species, including white and Dalmatian pelicans, purple herons, white-tailed eagles, pygmy cormorants, glossy ibises and red-breasted geese, the Danube delta is for nature lovers and bird watchers what the Olympics is to sports fans. It’s also an important breeding place for migratory birds .

“If you’re into wildlife and birding, the Danube delta is an absolute must,” Ottley says. “People also come here when…

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