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A Three-Country Tour

8 days, 1050 km

DAY 1. UA. Arrival in Odessa


Odessa City excursion with botanic gardens. Night in Odessa

Afternoon arrival to Odessa airport in Ukraine.
Transfer to hotel in Odessa city centre. There will be time for a late afternoon walk in the Botanical Gardens and see the beautiful city centre. The gardens are an area of mixed woodland which holds Syrian Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Collared Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale. On the Black Sea coast, we should see Caspian and Mediterranean Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns and perhaps parties of Yelkouan Shearwaters. Highlights of the city tour include the “Potemkin steps”, the Opera House, and the Deribasovska promenade. We will have dinner in a local restaurant specialising in Ukrainian cuisine.


DAY 2. UA. Odessa - Vylkove (200 km)


Danube Biosphere Reserve boat excursion for birdwatching, with picnic on island. Old Vylkove – picturesque town of canals. Night in Vylkove

Today we shall take a traditional pirogue to explore the Kilia part of
the Danube Delta by fishing boat - one of the most energetic regions where a
vast quantity of fast-flowing water deposits millions of tons of sediment each
year, forming the youngest land in Europe. The shallow waters and sand bars
around the “0” km mouth provide rich feeding grounds for a huge number and
variety of waterbirds. We will see flocks of White Pelicans (perhaps with some
Dalmatian Pelicans), along with Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills and Great White
Egrets, and possibly Great Black-headed Gulls. Lunch will comprise
traditionally cooked fresh fish, served on an island where it is possible to
see a variety of songbirds and many species of frogs, toads and newts. In the evening, we will walk around the historic old town of Vylkove, with its small canals and traditional
dwellings constructed from mud and reed.


DAY 3. UA. Vylkove - Novosilske – Reni (190 km)


Ramsar sites Kartal-Kugurlui: birds, flowers. Historic Danube crossing point, Moldovan folk dances with picnic on the Danube bank. Night in Reni.

Today we will drive westwards, pausing at the Aliaga steppe valleys to see an ancient
landscape dotted with kurgans (Scythian burial mounds) and crossed by Traian’s
Wall. There is also a large colony of Red-footed Falcons breeding here, and the
steppe is a riot of wild flowers, including many medicinal and culinary species
like salvia, thyme and chamomile. Reaching the Danube near Izmail, we will walk
along a low ridge that separates two of the limans that characterise this part
of the floodplain: Lakes Kartal and Kugurlui – both listed as sites of
international importance for waterbirds under the Ramsar Convention. This is a
great place to see Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern, White-tailed Eagle, Booted
Eagle and much more. The track leads to the very bank of the river, and has
been used as a historic crossing route by Persians, Romans, Huns, Ottomans and
Russians. Lunch will be served here, with entertainment provided by a folklore
troupe from Orlivka.


DAY 4. UA-MD. Reni - Etulia – Valeni (60 km)


Birds and butterflies of Lake Kagul and Etulia slopes: walking excursions.

This morning we will travel across the border into Moldova by train from Reni to Etulia. The railway runs alongside the western shore of lake Kagul and is one of the most picturesque journeys of the region. Etulia is a small village with a big name: it boasts an internationally important geological feature comprising a fossil-bearing exposure called Etulian clays,
and we will follow the visitor trail here. Other attractions include the local folklore
museum, Bostavan winery, and St. Afanasii Orthodox Church. Lunch will be served
here according to traditions of Gagauz national cuisine, connected with nomadic origin of the people. 


 Etulia Winemaking traditions and Gagauz folklore entertainment. Night in Valeni

Gagauz people are famous for their winemaking traditions - dry white and red wines
will be servedat the table. It is impossible here to think of drinking wine
without making bountiful toasts. After a hearty feast it is time for singing, accompanied
by violin, accordion, percussion and wind instruments.The terrace in front of
the school will serve for a dance floor. After the entertainment we will drive
to the village of Valeni for the night.


DAY 5. MD. Valeni – Slobozia Mare – Valeni (20 km)


Lower Prut Natural Reserve and Valeni Red Clay Natural Monument - boat and walking excursion

We will spent this morning in a paradise of natural lakes, woods and meadows with abundant birds, fish and plants. In contrast with the Danubian wetlands, the Prut floodplain has a
gentler flood regime, allowing a greater expanse of deciduous forests of alder,
ash and oak while lower parts comprise flower-rich meadows. Many rare plants listed
in the Red Book of the Republic of Moldova occur here, including white water
lily, floating fern, water caltrop, marsh fern and wild grape. Lake Beleu is a
major spawning area for Prut River fish that can access it during the spring
flood. The young fish attract many birds that feed on them such as herons,
pelicans and kingfishers.

Lunch in Valeni will feature an introduction to the best of Moldovan national cuisine.


Valeni folklore entertainment. Night in Valeni

After lunch, we will enjoy a variety of activities offered by the accommodation
including a bread museum with master class, handicrafts, and singing by Lidia
Bejanaru (Moldovan entrant for the Eurovision song contest in 2005).


DAY 6. RO. Valeni – Cahul – Oancea - Galati (100 km)


Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park excursion with traditional fish cuisine in Frumusita-Prut

This morning we will travel across the border into Romania using both train and bus
transport. We will explore the Romanian side of the lower Prut River and floodplain lakes (the Romania bank features many cliffs that afford excellent views of the riverine
landscape), as far as Lake Brates, near Galati. En route we will visit
bird-watching towers near natural lakes Pochina and Vladesti fishponds also
learn something about the characteristics of a clay bed river with extensive
meanders and many natural habitats and species.


Galati city excursion with Danube River Side, Natural Sciences Museum Complex: Botanical Garden and Astronomic Observatory and Planetarium. Night in Galati

In the afternoon we will continue our journey into Galati – a large port city
overlooking the broad reach of the Danube. We will have a tour of the Danube riverside
that is the largest landscape promenade along the Danube, continue with botanic gardens which features the local and world flora. The botanic garden also has a natural history museum and a planetarium with an astronomic observatory, which is the largest and most modern public observatory in Romania. Here we could enjoy nocturnal astronomic observations.


DAY 7. RO. Galati – Murighiol (120 km)


Travel along Danube floodplain to Murighiol and boat to Uzlina

Today we will explore the lower part of the Danube floodplain and delta in Romania. The journey begins with a ferry trip across the mighty river to the eastern (left) bank. From here we drive along the scenic road between the river and Macin Mountains National Park, which affords views back across to the Danube lakes in Ukraine. We will pause at Saon
convent, located on a bluff overlooking beautiful Lake Telnicea. We will reach
the small town of Murighiol around midday, and transfer by boat to Hotel
Cormoran (a member of the Bed and Birding network) for lunch.



Boat tour in central Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Night in Uzlina.

Hotel Cormoran is situated at Uzlina, right in the
centre of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. After lunch we will take a boat
trip along the willow-lined canals and around quiet lakes where there is an
abundance of birdlife. It will be one of the highlights of the tour
and a memorable finale of wild nature. Moreover, we will spend the night at
Hotel Cormoran where we will savour the nocturnal sounds of the delta: frogs
croaking, nightingales chanting and cicadas chirping.


DAY 8. RO. Murighiol – Bucharest (370 km)

Departure for Bucharest airport

Today we will drive to Bucharest international airport for afternoon departures. If time allows, we will drive through the city centre to see some of the sights such as the Parliament building (palace of former communist President Ceausescu), the old city and the national outdoor architectural museum.