With a fiery orange sun rising above the sea to our stern, we maneuvered into one of the main channels at the mouth of the 1,750-mile long Danube River. The delta of this river covers an amazing 5,000 square kilometers and, as we looked out over the ship’s railing, we came to realize that we were completely surrounded by extensive reed beds stretching out to the horizon. Huge flocks of white pelicans fished in the marsh, while the appropriately named pygmy cormorant perched conspicuously on snags along the river’s edge.
We traversed nearly 40 miles of the delta on our way to the town of Tulcea, waving along the way to locals fishing along the shoreline, and admiring the spectacular Romanian countryside as we steamed past. Upon arrival, we boarded small local boats to investigate the lakes and channels more closely. Swans and their nearly full-grown cygnets stretched their long necks under the water to forage on aquatic plants, while countless frogs basked in the sun on floating aquatic vegetation. Just as we were about to arrive back at the small dock, four species of heron were spotted up in a single tree, the perfect finale to our exploration of Europe’s best-preserved river delta.