Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve

The Danube Delta is an important wildlife habitat, the second largest delta in Europe. It has the largest number of birds of any South European wetland, being a key area for passage of migrants and wintering birds; the number of winter wildfowl may exceed 2 million. Over 320 species of birds are of European importance, of which 12 are globally threatened.

Location: Romania, Black Sea coast, between the river branches Chilia, Sulina and Sfintu Gheorghe. The largest part of the protected area lies in Tulcea county, the southern part in Constanta county.

Size: 580 000 ha, including 50 600 ha of strictly protected areas and 223 300 ha of buffer zones.

Manager & owner: The State owns 90% of the area. The other 10% is in private hands. The area is managed by the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority, a public organisation co-ordinated by the Ministry of Water and Environmental Protection, established in 1990.

Actuality: The Biosphere Reserve is divided in three types of zones with respect to management for nature conservation and ecologically sustainable management: Strictly Protected areas, Buffer Zones and Economic Zones.


The origin of the Danube Delta goes back to the last Ice Age. Its geomorphology is the result of the interaction between the Danube river and the Black Sea during the Holocene period, beginning some 16 000 years ago. The northern part of the Delta is sinking and this resulted in a land area that is only 9% of the area a few thousand years ago.
Danube in Romanian is Dunare and the old names of it are Danubius (Latin), Istros (Greek), Donaris (Geto-Dacic). The Romanian name is Rezervatia Biosferei Delta Dunarii. The word delta stems from the fourth Greek letter, delta, a triangle.
The traditional land use in the Delta included fishing, hunting, extensive cattle and pig breeding, cultivation of some agricultural and horticultural crops, honey production, hay cutting, and collection of materials, such as reed, for house building. Agriculture has always been practised in the Delta, albeit on a very small scale, and probably on a sustainable basis. The first agricultural pilot polders were constructed at the end of the 19th century.
The last communist government's plans to reclaim the delta in a series of polders have luckily been largely dropped. The area is now intended it is managed as the exceptional wild-life sanctuary it is. The same government neglected eco-tourism. This resulted in the destroying of great parts of the area. Nowadays cattle-breeding, viticulture and apiculture are popular income generating activities for the local people.

Remnants of human occupation
The earliest signs of occupation are found on terraces and promontories, especially around lakes Razim and Sinoie. During the Iron Age, about 3 200 to 2 500 years ago, a series of fortified settlements were established on hills at Sinoie, Enisala, Babadag, Bestepe, Balteni, Malcoci, Tulcea and Somova. Next to these settlements one can find Greek and Roman settlements (also a lighthouse).

Nature & Landscape

Sea & Beach
Along the Romanian coast, the main sea currents run from north to south, chiefly because of the prevailing winds. The result is a southward shifting of the Danube Delta river mouths. The current situation is partly due to dam construction on the Danube which has reduced the transport of sediments.

Sand Dunes
Sand dunes and depressions with saline wet soil do exist in the area. Also depression with wet and highly saline sand do exist.

On the marine levees Letea and Caraorman with a sand dune relief, forests of oaks has developed in a mixture with another species and lianas, which give them a subtropical aspect, forest that has been.

Wetlands & Water
The Danube Delta is one of Europe's last and most extensive landscapes in a natural state, with its extensive reedbeds, maze of tributaries, canals and lakes with their great abundance of aquatic plants.

Park zones
There are three large nature reserves in the area: Rosca-Buhaiova-Hrecisca, Perisor-Zatoane and Periteasca-Leahova. These were the first strictly protected areas in the Delta.

Flora & Fauna
From the total number of 927 animal species and subspecies previously recorded, 900 still occur; of these, 378 are included in the "Red List". The fauna includes different kinds of molluscs, insects, fish (45 fish species, a remarkable number), amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Birds species that can be seen include Little and Great white egret, Little bittern, Black and Purple Glossy ibis, White stork, Kingfisher, Spoonbill, Pink or Brown hoopoe and Dalmatian pelican.

The flora includes reed, water lilies, Feather grass and several sorts of climbing plants.

Visitor Centres
Information and Ecological Education Centre, 34A, Portului Street, Tulcea. Open daily, May - Oct. Free access.
Documentation Centre Crisan (Crisan, Sulina branch) and Information Centre Sulina. Open daily, May - Oct. Free access..

Nature management
With international support, a first draft Management Plan was prepared during 1994-1995. The management objectives have been grouped in four main categories: 1) objectives with a general character; 2) objectives for the sustainable economic use areas; 3) objectives for buffer zones; and (4) objectives for the strictly protected areas.
After the change of the regime, also the attitude towards tourism changed and eco-tourism is now considered very important. This resulted in new plans and opportunities for the future.

Visitor info

Accessibility: Access fees have to be paid at Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA), on the ground floor of its headquarters, daily from Monday to Friday, 8-16h, Saturday 8-12h. During the bird breeding season the reserve is closed.

Hiking, Biking & Horses: Hiking, biking or horseback riding is only possible on the dry areas around the villages. Activities can be organised upon request by the Tourist Family Association in CA Rosetti-Letea, and by ANTREC in Crisan. In Tulcea or inside the protected area it is not possible to rent bicycles.

Excursions: Excursions are organised only by the tourism companies with activities inside the protected areas. In the area 7 touristic routes do exist and 4 new touristic routes were developed in 2001.

Water: Do not swim in the water in the Delta. Some water snakes live in the Delta itself. Here are no nautical sports developed. But there are organised trips with OB motor boats, canoes, and rowing boats. All tourism companies have facilities for such kind of trips inside the protected area.

Dogs: no restrictions.

Catering establishments: available in the villages.
The delta has three camp sites:
Camping Crisan, tel: 095832293
Camping Chilia (Mr. Tudor Cartacuzencu), tel: 0040 40/ 519090
Camping Murighiol (200 places, bungalows and tent places).

Annual events: The Ecological Education Dept. of DDBR Authority has developed an ecological education programme in all visitor centres, in schools inside the protected area and around it; it collaborates with local NGO's, celebrates all international days for environment protection, and organises regional and international workshops.

Tulcea is connected with Bucharest and other main cities by train, by ship (Danube), by air and obviously through the road network. Parking areas in Tulcea exist in town centre, in front of Delta Hotel, str. Isaccei, no. 2, and near the House of Culture, near DDBR Authority headquarters, Str. Portului, 34A.


Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority, Governor, Mr. Virgil Munteanu, Str. Portului, no. 34A. OP 3, CP 32. Tel. 0040 40 518 945, fax: 0040 40 518 975; e-mail: [email protected], internet: www.ddbra.ro.

Information and Ecological Education Centre Tulcea, 34A, Portului Street, Tulcea