A friendly smile welcomes me at Bucharest Airport as I land in Romania for my second Wild Wonders of Europe mission.
It’s Helmut Ignat, a passionate Romanian nature photographer with a sincere love for the Danube Delta: he’ll join me for some days during my work here.
On our 5 hours’ drive from the congested capital city to the wild Delta wetlands the sky gets darker and darker, huge and monstrous cumulonimbus clouds speak to us a clear word: the next days will be very, very wet!
With quite some concern I look at my personal luggage, which I minimized for this spring trip: I expected rather mild temperatures and not a stormy November-chilly climate! I realize that my clothing strategy is wrong indeed as I note Helmut’s bags: even if he’ll spend only a few days here, his luggage is more than double than mine! (I’ll tell you more about his “magic” bags in the next blog posts…).
After the long drive, we arrive in the small village of Murghiol. A short ride on one of the many branches of the Danube brings us to the floating hotel. This will be my house for the next 2 weeks.
The next day, our first scouting tour in the lakes and channels of the Delta makes me immediately understand one thing: this is an unbelievably huge maze, where orienteering gets to a high degree of difficulty. However, this is not the real challenge here, as my guide Iliuta Goean (pronounced Iliutsa) is not only a perfect boat pilot and a good birder: he also knows more or less each single lake, pond, river, channel, reed bed, floating island, flooded forest and single tree here in the Delta.
The real challenge is another thing: I’m here to photograph the White Pelicans, and even if they are very numerous in this region, I’ll quickly learn that it won’t be easy at all to find them at a photographically useful distance.
Dark storm clouds still cover the sky allowing for a dramatic atmosphere, and a cold air front arrived from the north a couple of days before my arrival which makes the temperature feel more like November. I’m wearing two pairs of trousers, 3 T-shirts, 2 layers of fleece, my gore-tex shell and 2 woollen hats. And, heck! I’m freezing! The only sign revealing that I’m a nature photographer is the 500mm lens…
Suddenly, a loud “Loook, Peeelicaaaans!” brings me back to reality. It’s Iliuta, he just spotted the first group of those wonderful birds gliding in a thermal.
They are no more than 400-500 metres away from us, though Humphrey Bogart’s voice from the Casablanca movie comes immediately back to my mind “…this is the beginning of a very long friendship!”
Stay tuned, more to come.
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.