How I Kayaked My Way to a Delta Safari
I love the great outdoors. It’s where I feel relaxed, aware, and happy. It’s where I feel I belong. I believe that some of the issues I often face, such as boredom, could be greatly improved and eased by spending more time surrounded by nature. So, with this in mind, I dared to go on vacation somewhere I hadn’t before: The Danube Delta.
The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe. Similar to the Nile River, which flows through 11 countries in Africa, the Danube originates in Germany’s Black Forest mountains, flows through 10 countries, including Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania, and 4 capitals (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade).
The Danube Delta is mostly in Romania, a whopping 3,446 km2 out of the total of 4,152 km2. The Romanian part of the delta became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 and 2,733 km2 of it is protected by law. The Danube branches into three distributaries to form the delta: Crișan, Sulina, and Sfântu Gheorghe. The delta, pretty much like any delta on Earth, has a rich biodiversity, with diverse flora and fauna. There are around 320 species of birds to be found during the summer and many species of fish. There are also mammals, such as mink, the wildcat, otter, East Asian racoon dog, and my least favourite, the wild boar. I fear them like crazy because they’re known to be very violent while protecting their territory and their young. In the past, the wolf and the fox used to be quite prevalent in the delta, but hunting really pushed these two wonderful creatures towards the brink of extinction.
When I started making plans for the trip, I read quite a few reviews and recommendations and it became clear that the small village I was planning to set my camp in, Sfântu Gheorghe (Saint George), was very uneventful and, again, quite tiny. This would mean that my only entertainment would be the water. And what better way to enjoy the water, than in a kayak. Of course, there were plenty of boat trips available and other various transportation for rent, but aside from the fact that they were very expensive, I felt they were also a bit too from the delta. I wanted to take my time, when on the water. I didn’t want to whizz past fish and birds, without paying attention to the details. Birdwatching isn’t as boring as you may think! So, the kayak was perfect. I had gone kayaking before and even did a two-day trip on the Danube. Aside from the fact that my arms hurt from all the paddling, everything else was fine.
When I got to the village, and I cannot highlight enough how small and surprisingly unprepared for tourists it was. Like any other fishing village in the world, there were quite a bit of fishing boats and fishing men. It was quaint, delightful, and sandy.
What sets Sfântu Gheorghe apart from all the other fishing villages in the Delta is that is located right where the Danube meets the Black Sea. It’s a sight to see, especially from a kayak.
My daily schedule was pretty classic: beach in the morning, food, nap, kayak, food, beer, sleep. It was the run-of-the-mill vacation schedule, but it was very relaxing and it did manage to completely pluck me out of my daily rut. The thing that helped the most was the kayaking.
For the first outing on the water, I thought it was a great idea to bring my hyperactive small dog with me. Reading that, you may probably gather that it wasn’t a good idea. Still, I braved the water with Lola. She was a champ, intrigued by the water and fish, surprisingly calm, and happy. Unfortunately, this didn’t last for too long, so I soon needed to head over to dry land and leave her in the room so I could return and explore the surroundings.
You get this feeling of freedom when you’re out on the water in a kayak. Freedom mixed with a bit of fear, for me at least. It’s unstable, one wrong move and you fall in the water, with everything you own. But you get the hang of it quite quickly, and you learn that if you want to turn around, you should use your neck and not your whole upper body. The bigger boats that sail on the water know to not only avoid you but to also slow down so that the waves they create don’t flip you over. It’s a fine balance, but it’s worth it. It’s a beautiful experience, and I highly recommend it.
The next day, I saw an ad for a Delta safari, which sounded great, so I decided to join in on the fun. We were a few people with kayaks and we started our water journey on the Danube, with plans to paddle out into the sea, set camp on wild shore and explore. It took a good 45 minutes to get to the campsite, and my doughy arms weren’t too happy with all that intense physical activity. I kept asking when are we going to reach the sea, all this time being actually on the sea. The moment the Danube flows into the sea was seamless. It was a very smooth transition. The only clues, I guess, were the differences in the water’s color. The Danube was a bit greener and the sea was darker. There were strips of the Danube mixed in with the Sea, it was truly a lovely view.
When we got to our campsite, the first thing I noticed was boar prints. It was then and there that I turned on my survivor mode, which stayed that way for the two hours we spent there.
We were told about the birds, animals, and plants that called the area their home. The most impressive bird, one that seemed to be as interested in us, as we were in it, was the Greater Spotted Eagle. It is a large bird of prey whose wings span an impressive 1.5 meters. It circled us for a while, almost swooping in on us, as if to hunt us, only to return to being a shy creature of the sky. We also saw wild ducks, pelicans, seagulls, various types of herons (which I’ve learned can eat small mammals, such as rabbits, which can be terrifying to see, honestly).
There were so many wild boar prints, that I was sure we would see a live one. Fortunately, we didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from carrying a stick with me for the whole time we were there. As if a stick could be a match to it!
The white water lilies were lovely, as were the ponds and the whole landscape. It was a wonderful experience, albeit short. But, in short, a Delta safari was actually a great idea, one that I would gladly repeat. I would love to actually spend the night in the wilderness, maybe even sleep under the sky.
The trip back seemed longer, and it actually was because we were paddling against the current. I was tired but happy. It is wonderful to go out into areas that are untouched by man. To see animals and birds in their element, and to live in the present moment. I wish we would give Mother Nature a break, give her some time to recover from all we’ve been doing to her. But I get the feeling that that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. So, all those who love the environment, I urge you, protect it, cherish it, and do your very best to keep it safe. It is our job as human beings. We don’t get another Earth.
Cristina Costea is a contributing writer for BookAllSafaris.com. She loves travelling, writing, sunny days, her dog and perfect cats, and delicious vegan food.