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The Danube Delta – the “Amazon of Europe”

December 3, 2013

I look down and meet a pair of hard-boiled white eyes staring back at me from Virginia’s freshly cooked zander fish soup. It is lunchtime with Cristian and Florin under a pergola dressed in grapevines. Finally I am here, in the village Crisan after flights, road trips, hotel nights and an extensive riverboat journey.

The village, the house and the garden all have a very distinct organic feel and the to me exotic flavours and smells feed my eager curiosity to explore Europe’s most significant and well-preserved delta landscape.

At first Virginia was maybe a it sceptical, but in a friendly manner. She owns this house and I figured it must be the ridiculous amount of gear (cameras, underwater housings, strobes, regulators, lead belts, dive tanks and even a compressor) that we have just dragged into her place that is making her a bit suspicious.

Cristian picked me up in Tulcea on the western side of the delta, a city which acts as the transit gate to the delta from the outside world. The other settlements inside the delta are basically pretty small villages with a few hundred inhabitants. Our boat ride to Crisan demonstrated the fact that this is one of the least inhabited regions of temperate Europe, with only two inhabitants per square kilometre.

In the delta roads are few and changed for canals of running water and Florin’s skinny boat was our best vehicle to enter this water world. The Danube Delta is called the “Amazon of Europe” for good reason and it was time for me to go underwater diving along the riverbeds, venture into the thriving reeds and find out what natural treasures that are hidden under the surface of the clear, shallow lakes.

After Florin steered the boat away from the Old Danube’s chocolate brown water up into a tributary I back rolled into the warm water. The crystal clear water up here is filter-cleaned by the delta’s extensive reed systems. A surreal aquatic world draped in shades from lush green, to saturated red, brown and yellow ochre opened up. This particular stream is dressed with a canopy-like carpet of floating weeds, mainly water chestnut, on each side. The open section of the channel is 15 meters wide, but when diving I realise that the channel is ten times as wide under the carpet of weed. I swim into a shadowed place of aquatic plants, lurking pikes, swimming leeches, roots from white waterlilies, crawling snails and swarming silvery fishes. An amazing place.

 

Coming soon – A week full of surprises – Danube Delta

 

 Blog entries express the views and opinions of their authors, which might not always fully overlap with those of Rewilding Europe.

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