Beautiful Danube

/ February 24, 2018

“I had the luck of being born at what seemed to be the edge of the earth, in a family of nature lovers. This is a pretty rare thing.

My parents never insisted that I become a great intellectual. They gave me the freedom to pursue whatever I enjoyed.

I took advantage of my freedom to explore all of my surroundings. During the winter, on skates and sleds through the canals and frozen lakes. In the summer, on the fishing boat or on my dad’s Tummler motor boat.”

“I am from Letea, a small village lost in the middle of the Danube Delta. To grow up in this place is an incredible opportunity.

Few places in Romania can offer a more beautiful childhood than in the Delta.”

“During the winter, when the Siberian cold settled over the waters and the village was completely isolated, I’d walk through the reeds on the outskirts of the village. In absolute silence, the crunch of the ice would give me chills. We made houses out of the reeds. The unexpected sound of cracking ice would remind us that the Danube flowed under our feet.”

“The strongest memories I have of the Danube Delta are the chorus of frogs and the smell of blossoms in the spring. I wish I could photograph it, but you have to be there to experience it.”

“Summer was the season of swimming with friends.Some days I would stay in the water for eight hours. I got so tanned that my relatives in Arad didn’t recognize me when I came to visit my grandparents.”

Immediately after the Revolution, Daniel’s father and an associate created a company to bring tourists to the Delta.

The company didn’t work out, so in 1995 Daniel Petrescu and his friend Ștefan Vădineanu went into the business. They focused on tours catered towards foreigners.

“I had started my career as a tour guide in 1991 and I already had some connections in the birdwatcher’s network. More importantly, my father was well known in England, and this was the starting point for my business.

At the beginning, I survived by guiding just a few groups. Things picked when we built our first floating hotel in 1996. We opened up a new way for people to peacefully co-exist with the wildlife.”

Our tours are based on slow tourism. We listen, we observe and we enjoy the moments of silence in which the birds and animals allow themselves to be discovered. We try to reconcile the tourist to nature.”

With the help of some of his friends in Switzerland, he acquired a digital camera.

“I dreamed about being a photographer, but I didn’t think I’d become successful. Things changed when the digital era took the old technology off its throne. I was among the first who adopted the digital camera. This was good luck for me.”

Daniel offers tourists two kinds of photography in the Danube Delta: static and boat safari.

“If tourists wish to photograph a specific species, which may be sensitive, we have remote hiding places built for this purpose. The photographer will wait for a few hours in the hideout, hoping to capture the species. However, most of the time, the photos are taken from the boat. Most of the bird species allow photographers to approach them at a safe distance.”

Since the tourists come for the beauty and the diversity of nature, Daniel Petrescu chooses the most isolated locations for them. Other than borrowing a boat or bowl of soup at someone’s home, interaction with locals remains minimal.

“Most of our tourists are usually simple nature lovers, ready to explore whatever the Delta has to offer. But in some cases they are super passionate birdwatchers called “twitchers”. They make lists and insist on seeing specific birds on every excursion.

For those who are interested in the scientific study of birds, ornithology, Romania is one of the hotspots of Europe.”

For this reason, Daniel Petrescu’s boats are filled with tourists from every European nationality, as well as Australian, American, Japanese, Brazilian and Canadian tourists.

I asked Daniel if he had a favorite photograph.

“One summer, I decided to photograph pelicans on the lake’s edge. I went in the evening and put up my tent under a weeping willow.

My photo hide-out was just a few feet away from the tent. Not a single pelican appeared before sunset so I fell asleep. Around midnight, strange noises woke me. I got up to discover that I was surrounded by hundreds of pelicans fishing around my tent. Around 4:00 AM, I crawled to my hiding place.”

“Once I got to my hiding place, I set up my camera and waited for dawn. Since it was pitch dark, I couldn’t tell if the pelicans were still there. I took a long-exposure image to see in the dark and was awed at what I saw. Hundreds of pelicans asleep just a couple of meters in front of me. I sat motionless until sunrise, which offered me the chance to photograph these fantastic birds. Even though I have thousands of pelican photographs, two of the photographs taken that morning are my favorites.”

Daniel’s business, Ibus-Tours, is located in Tulcea. In addition to bird-watching tours in the Danube Delta, Ibus-Tours also offers trips to the Carpathian Mountains to observe brown bears.

Daniel says that people are slowly coming to value the treasure of the Danube Delta.

Some of my city friends have looked down on me because I lack the formal education of my peers and still live in the wild.

But at the end of the day, all the things that seemed to disadvantage me have turned into advantages. I get to raise my family in this place of breathtaking beauty and do my part to protect this natural treasure.”