Monthly pic May 2014

The view from the boat during blue hour at 5:27 local time. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, 1/20, f/4, iso 3200, handheld.
Once upon a time – which sounds very far away but was in fact only last April – I travelled to the second biggest wetland in Europe: the Danube Delta. Sailing along the Romanian – Ukrainian border I knew that across this wet divide was a country in utter turmoil. Yet here among the tranquillity of the thousands of square kilometre of waterways, endless reed beds and lily pads all was peaceful. The millions of frogs continued their awesome chorus without taking offence at the notions of men. A strange perception.

I spend three wonderful days navigating this European wilderness by the only means possible: by boat. Coincidentally this was also my first ever visit to a village that has a number in its name: Mila 23. In a way it took me nearly eight years to reach the Delta proper. It takes time to find a reliable and affordable guide that not only brings you this deep into the Delta, but who also understands what a naturalist and photographer would like to experience. And what an experience it was: I think I have never seen so many kingfishers (Alcedo atthis), great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Squacco herons (Ardeola ralloides) and black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) in my life. Meanwhile my guide filled my head with good stories about wild horses, native (?!) raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and juicy tales about the mishandling of EU funds and unknown agitators showing up in the delta trying to promote a benevolent Russia.

The Danube Delta is a magical place, but also a place where wilderness and mankind are struggling in a quest for balance. ‘What’s new!’ I hear you say. Sure, you have the expected: dams upstream and man-made canals intersecting the delta taking their toll. But also the unexpected: weird hybrids of wild hogs and domestic pigs. Personally I think the Danube Delta can be a true ecological 'gold mine’: benefiting everything and everyone. Local and international NGO’s however seem to fight a long and difficult battle.

Anyway… having gazed upon the Danube in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, it was impressive to see EU longest river ending its journey. A proper adventure indeed.

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