Danube Delta

The Danube River is the most international river on the planet – its course runs across — or forms a part of the borders of several countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and four capitals: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. The Danube Delta /Romanian: Delta Dunării; Ukrainian: Del’ta Dunaju/ is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is the best preserved on the continent. Formed over a period of more than 10,000 years, the Danube Delta continues to grow due to the 67 million tons of alluvial deposited every year by the Danube River. The Danube Delta is formed around the three main channels of the Danube River, named after their respective ports: Chilia /in the north/, Sulina /in the middle/, and Sfantu Gheorghe /in the south/, with larger part /80%/ in Romania and the rest /20%/ in Ukraine. The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve features the third largest biodiversity in the world /over 5,500 flora and fauna species/, exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador. There are hundreds of migratory bird species moving through the region, and the waterways, coastal landscape and extensive marsh lands make the Danube Delta a birding paradise. Danube Delta is a huge biological laboratory, with twenty strictly protected areas where the lack of human intervention has allowed nature to develop in a way that you’ll never find anywhere else in the world. The Danube Delta is home to over 60% of the world’s population of pygmy cormorants /phalacrocorax pygmeus/, 50% of red-breasted geese /branta ruficollis/ and the largest number of white pelicans /pelecanus onocrotalus/ and Dalmatian pelicans /pelecanus crispus/ in Europe. Danube Delta also is home to the world’s largest reed bed expanse – 625, 000 acres / 240,000 ha. Some 15,000 people inhabit the Delta area, living in 28 villages and one city /Sulina/.

The area of Danube Delta was first attested by Herodot of Halicarnas (484 – 425 B.C.). However, the story of the Tulcea County and the Danube Delta cannot be complete without town of Babadag because historically, it’s been one of the most important cities in the North of Dobruja for many centuries under Ottoman rule.According to the legend, it was founded by dervish Sari-Saltuk-Baba-Dede in the year 1262. He was allowed by the Byzantine Emperor at the time to settle here an outpost army of 12.000 Turkish mercenaries that were going to defend the borders of the Byzantine Empire. An Arab geographer, Ibn Battuta, made the first official account of the city in the year 1330 when it had its founder name, Baba-Saltuk. The current name of Babadag means “The Father’s Mountain” in the old Turkish. Immediately after the Ottoman Empire lead by Sultan Bayezid I conquered the whole region at the end of the 14th century, it became the capital of Dobruja and a major headquarter for the armies that were fighting in the North. The construction of a fortress was begun here during the reign of Sultan Murad IV, but by 1650 only the fortress’ foundation walls and towers were standing. In the 17th century, it occasionally served as the winter headquarters for the Grand Vizier of the Turks during their wars with Russia. By the 18th century, it was already the biggest city at the mouths of the Danube, with a population of over 100.000. At the time, Babadag had four mosques, many more houses of prayer and numerous public baths, among other public service buildings. The town’s location near to the Black Sea made it a target for the Russian navy, the town was bombed by the Russians in 1854 during the Crimean War. The decline of the Ottoman Empire, however, led to the downfall of the city. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were only about 3300 people left. There were three Christian churches, two mosques and a synagogue. Following the war between the Ottoman and Russian empires (1877–1878) Babadag became part of an independent Romania.

More then half of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is virtually intact. The Danube Delta is comprised of an intricate network of waterways and lakes divided between the three main estuary channels of the Danube River. This area of floating reed islands, forests, pastures and sand dunes covers 3,000 square miles and is home to a fascinating mix of cultures and people as well as a vast array of wildlife. Located at the tip of the three channels, Tulcea makes a great starting point for exploring the Danube Delta. The Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania join forces in Danube Delta to help develop this area as one of the finest, best-protected and most famous nature destinations of the whole continent. A unique territory in Europe due to its great biodiversity, the Danube Delta was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1990 and was included in the World Natural Heritage List, the RAMSAR Convention List and the UNESCO Programme Man and Biosphere.