Wildlife Tour in Danube Delta & The Hungarian Plains
This 14-days Hungarian Plains & Danube Delta Wildlife Tour is a moderately-paced trip available as a set departure (or on request) where you can expect to see around 150 species. This unique tour will take you to strikingly different birding areas in Central and Eastern Europe.
The combination of such interesting areas as Kiskunság and Hortobágy National Parks in Hungary and Transylvania wildlife in Romania will be most rewarding. Add to this a few days in the Danube Delta and on the Black Sea Coast and you have a truly great adventure with hundreds of species in good numbers! Good chance for several mammal species as well from the tiny Souslik to the huge European Brown Bear!
If you are looking for something really exciting and original, you are warmly invited to participate in this tour! During this Hungarian Plains & Danube Delta Wildlife Tour you will encounter several different habitats thus your bird list will contain amazingly varied species, hopefully including Saker Falcon, Red-footed Falcon, White-tailed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Common Crane, Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant, Eurasian Roller, European Bee-eater, Dipper, Nutcracker, Wallcreeper, Rock Bunting, most species of European woodpeckers plus White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Glossy Ibis and many more.
You will be surprised by encountering so many different ethnic cultures, medieval monasteries, churches, castles, everyday village life, craftsmen, and nomadic shepherds as well.
Hungarian Plains & Danube Delta Wildlife Tour highlights include:
- The most colorful birds of Europe in good numbers including European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoes, European Rollers, Golden Orioles
- Visiting a huge oxbow lake of River Tisza, Hungary with a large number of attractive bird species
- Visiting channels, alkaline lakes, ponds, and rivers for various special birds like Penduline Tit, Bearded Tit, Ferruginous Duck, Squacco Heron, Purple heron, and many more
- Sitting in specially designed Bird & Wildlife watching and photography hides
- Watching East European raptor specialities such as Saker Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, and many more
- Sipping your coffee, tee, or a famous Hungarian wine during an evening Moth trapping session where you can see a wide variety of species
- Visit Europe's most famous labyrinth of channel and lakes, the Danube Delta with a large number of birds, including Dalmatian and White Pelicans
- Look for all woodpecker species of Europe including Three-toed, White-backed, Black, Grey-headed, Middle-spotted, and Syrian Woodpeckers
- Good chance for a great variety of mammals from Souslik till European Brown Bear
Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.
Keen to focus on photographing the birds you see on your trip? Why not try this specialist photography tour? Hungarian Bird Photography Tour, Kondor Ecolodge
Alternative Tour Name: Grand Tour of Great Hungarian Plains, Hills of Transylvania & Danube Delta, Romania
We will wait for you at Budapest Airport in the morning. Our Kondor EcoLodge is less than 60 miles from the airport in the heart of the Kiskunsag National Park if we go on the quick way. But instead we would cross some of the attractive parts of the protected area on small rural roads, so within less than an hour we could start to see great species.
One of the typical habitats of Kiskunsag is the flat, perfect plain of the “puszta” which has several different types ranging from dry grassland to marshy meadows. Kiskunsag grassland is the typical habitat for population of Great Bustard. This is also a home to Stone Curlew, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Grey Shrike, Wheatear, and a set table for foraging Imperial Eagle, Red-footed and Saker Falcon. If we want to see Collared Pratincoles we should go where puszta meets arable land.
If we should choose the flag species of this area we would go for Eurasian Roller and Great Bustard. The best Hungarian populations for both are at Kiskunsag. To see the Great Bustard we have to drive to vast plains of north Kiskunsag while core breeding area of the Eurasian Roller can be found just around our lodge.
The lodge grounds itself can yield some of the birds that could become easily the highlight of our day in the field. Bee-eaters abound in the National park and lot of them breed nearby as well as Rollers and Red-footed Falcons. Other birds that can postpone our morning departures from the lodge are Golden Oriole and Hoopoe. Common and Black Redstart both breeding in the garden, Spotted Flycatcher as well. Mammals are also noteworthy – Eastern Hedgehog, Red Squirrel, European Souslik are common and there are some other species which are usually more difficult to be located.
Red-footed Falcons are also numerous and they add to the color range of local birds. Indeed, the most colorful species seem to abound here.
During our stay we will check the most important natural alkaline lakes which generally have very high salt concentration. They are rather flat and rich in nutrients and thus very suitable for birds to stop by. Different species can be found at gravel pits and alongside the canals connecting Tisza and Danube rivers with drier areas. Marsh and Montagu´s Harriers hover over the fields and sometimes a Short-toed Eagle turns up.
A panic in the flocks of Ferruginous Duck, Shoveler, Garganey and Red-crested Pochard announces a presence of White-tailed Eagle or Saker Falcon. Whiskered Terns should be common while Black and White-winged Black Terns have a presence just during favorable wet years only. Alongside Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls there are a few colonies of Mediterranean Gulls as well.
We shall visit one of the seasonal farms on puszta and observe livestock and birds like Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark, Little Owl or Lesser Grey Shrike.
After our last morning at the Kiskunság we start to travel to East. Within an hour we stop at a great floodplain forest which offers excellent birding. First we check out the old trees and look for different Woodpeckers which can include Lesser, Middle and Great-spotted, but also Black or even Gray-headed. Hawfinch is quite common and we have a good chance for several other forest species, including tits, treecreepers and flycatchers as well.
Later we visit a large open oxbow lake of River Tisza which offers a good observation of many herons, egrets and waterfowl. Floodplains and these type of lakes are really perfect birding spots. Depending on the water level birds include Ferruginous Duck, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Pygmy Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, Squacco and Purple Heron or Spoonbill. Reedbeds are teeming with Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, Great Reed, Savi's and very rarely you can find Moustached Warbler as well. It is usually more common to hear than to see Bittern, Corncrake, Spotted Crake and Little Crake, but we might be able to catch a glimpse of some of these.
During the afternoon we travel further East towards the famous Hortobágy National Park. At Hortobágy we try to catch up with any of those species which we perhaps missed at Kiskunság.
On the way we cross other large open areas, so it worth to scan the sky, because we might spot some good raptor species such as Saker Falcon, Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard or very rarely a migrating Pallid Harrier, depending on the timing of your visit.
This morning we spend again at other areas of Hortobagy, checking some steppe like grasslands locally called Puszta, traditional extensive farms and perhaps some fishponds and then we travel towards the Romanian border. This will be a long travel through some hills, later start to descend into the Transylvanian Basin after crossing the Bucin Pass. Our final destination will be close to a secluded village which is actually a World Heritage site, partly because of several beautiful mediaeval traditional houses & the local folklore, partly because of the attractive limestone hills around.
We should have time to look for some locally common species such as Wood Lark, Yellowhammer, Red-backed Shrike and perhaps Rock Bunting.
Today we visit the spectacular Turda Gorge which is not just a famous gorge in Transylvania, but actually one of the largest ones in whole Romania. Here we will look for Golden Eagle which earlier during the year usually breeds successfully on one of the cliffs. This place is also a breeding area for Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush but it starts to migrate South early, so it is questionable that we can still find it. On the other hand Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon is quite common. We should have some Alpine Swifts and Eurasian Crag Martins in the air, plus Red-rumped Swallows. Checking the cliffs will give another chance for Rock Bunting as well.
After a morning birding close to our hotel we will leave this limestone area and continue to travel East towards the towering Eastern Carpathian mountains. Basically we will cross most of the Transylvanian Basin. During the several hours long journey we can stop both for birding alongside the road and for taking some photos of landscape or cultural highlights such as amazingly decorated wooden carved gates made by the local Hungarian speaking Szekely or Secler people or mediaeval fortresses or churches. Some of the city parks are surprisingly good for birding as well so it can be easy to find European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, European Blackbird or European Robin. Eurasian Collared Dove and some of the Woodpecker species inhabit these areas as well.
Finally we reach the Hargita region and our small guesthouse/pansion which will be our base for the next 3 nights.
After the previous day’s long journey today we will spend most of the time relatively close to our accommodation, mainly trying to reach good forests of the Hargitha Mountain.
At lower elevation with some search we should find some typical species which include here Coal and Crested Tit, Firecrest, Siskin, sometimes Red Crossbill, Wood Warbler and on the adjacent meadows also Woodlark and Black Redstart. We will also look for Gray-headed and White-backed Woodpecker in a deciduous forest.
At higher elevation at spruce and pine forests we will call for Eurasian Pygmy Owl which can alert the nearby songbirds as well such as Coal and Willow Tits or Common Treecreeper. Typical, but not easy woodpecker of the old conifer forests is Three-toed Woodpecker. It is very hard even during early Spring when there is much higher chance to find Hazel Grouse or Capercaillie, but with extreme luck we might get a view of at least one of them.
At more open areas closer to the peak we hope to enjoy the sight of species which generally inhabit subalpine slopes. Walking around a bit should produce Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, plus Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare common as well. We should listen for Nutcracker as well.
Either this or for the next evening we will offer an optional extra evening outing to spend some time in a professional bear watching hide. There is a very good chance to see Brown Bear up close from a safe and comfortable place. Sometimes Wildboar comes out to the meadow as well at dusk.
This day we make an excursion first through the Northern Hargita driving to higher elevation, crossing a mountain town of Gheorgheni and passing a strange mountain lake with a former forest’s broken stumps sticking out of it. According to the story the lake was created by a landslide, but killed a sepherd with all his herd as well so people gave the name Killer Lake. Rarely we can spot Chamois on the walls.
Later on we start to descend into an incredible valley which is called Békás/Bicaz Gorge. It is even bigger and deeper than Torda Gorge what we visited before. The huge limestone cliffs really towering above the surrounding area. There are a couple of incredible twist and turns and hairpins as we go, so not much possibilities to stop but we will find a place where we can admire not just the scenery, but try to find a giant butterfly-like Wallcreeper. It is usually easy to add Gray Wagtail and White-throated Dipper to the list here as well alongside the small river.
On our travel back depending on timing we might stop at other forested areas as well to look for woodpeckers and other woodland species.
Today we will travel alongside the Eastern Carpathian Mountains form North to South, crossing partly the second largest city, Brasov which is referred as the entrance or exit gate of Transylvania. We will brake the journey a few times to look for Lesser-Spotted Eagle and other raptors. Shortly after we will arrive to the Easternmost edge of the Southern Carpathian mountains where there will be a possibility to visit the famous Bran Dracula Castle. We will stay nearby at the foot of the mountain.
Today we have a long journey first down from the hills and then to East through a huge lowland area towards Tulcea, capital of the Danube Delta.
The Danube Delta is a huge area, several thousand square kilometers, protected as a Biosphere Reserve which we will be able to discover just partly however we will have 3 nights and more than 2 full days in this area.
During the days we expect to see Dalmatian & White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, large number of herons and egrets. White-tailed Eagles are in good number, but with some luck we might find a Steppe Eagle as well.
Ducks include Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested and Common Pochards, Gadwall and Garganey. The most common grebe is Great Crested, but there are other species as well such as Little-, Eared or Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes. Numerous Greylag Geese should be around as well.
The reedbeds are home of thousands of songbirds, including Great Reed and Reed Warblers, Savi’s Warbler, Penuline Tit and Bearded Reedling.
We should regularly check the sky for various raptors from the enormous White-tailed Eagle through the colorful Red-footed Falcon till Saker and Peregrine Falcons there are several species in good numbers.
Depending on the season we will look for Golden Orioles, Cuckoos and a number of other songbirds in the reeeds as well.
There are many more species to look for, it would be too long to list all!
We will spend the last full day with discovering various habitats both alongside the Black Sea coast and further inland which can be surprisingly dry area.
The small Macin Hills is a place to look for Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and Isabelline Wheatear. We also visit Cheia Gorge to search for Pied Wheatear and some more raptors.
On the coast we visit Histria and Vadu for another chance to see White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant and perhaps even Ruddy Shelduck and Paddyfield Warbler in the reeds.
We will be birding and raptor spotting whilst travelling to Babadag Forest, home to Booted Eagle & Levant Sparrowhawk, Sombre Tit, however neither is easy at all.
We leave early, depending on your flight schedule and head for Otopeni Airport North of Bucharest.
Wildlife species expect to see:
Birds: Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black Stork, White Stork, White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Shoveler, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Montague’s Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Saker Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Levant Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Corncrake, Spotted Crake, Baillon’s Crake, Little Crake, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Snipe, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Scops Owl, Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Long-eared Owl, Ural Owl, Common Nightjar, European Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Roller, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Grey-headed, Black, Syrian, Middle- and Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Short-toed Lark, Tree Pipit, Tawny Pipit, Pied Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Gray Wagtail, Common Nightingale, Savi’s Warbler, River Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Common Redstart, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit ssp. caudatus, Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling/Bearded Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Sombre Tit, White-throated Dipper, Wallcreeper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Treecreeper, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting, Hawfinch, Tree Sparrow
Mammals: Eastern Hedgehog, Red Squirrel, European Souslik, Brown Bear, Wildboar, Red Fox, Chamois, Otter, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Brown Hare, and some more
Various Dragonflies, Butterflies, Wildflowers will be around during the tour, including many rarities as well and during your stay at Kondor Ecolodge, we can run a professional moth trap or detect bats as well.
What is included?
- All lodging based on double/twin occupancy
- All meals from dinner on arrival day and breakfast on leaving day. Generally full breakfasts, packed/picnic lunches, 2 or 3 courses dinners
- Water when we are out in the fields
- Entrances to parks and reserves
- Local professional licenced guide(s)
- Airport pickup
- All internal transfers
- Airport drop-off
- Visits of garden photography hides and wildlife watching hides at Kondor EcoLodge
- One night walk for Nightjars and Owls
- One Moth trapping session if there is interest
- Bat detecting possibility
What is not included?
- Any Airfare
- Alcoholic beverages and drinks during evenings
- Any personal expenses
- If we know in advance then we can cater vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free and any other dietary needs. Some of the above might force us to ask an extra fee since it is difficult and/or very expensive to provide.
- Anything else not mentioned in “What is included”
We are the only fully licenced professional photographer and tour guide couple in Hungary who are also owners and hosts at their own home, Kondor EcoLodge where the tour starts. Our life is sharing the knowledge and ethusiasm we accumulated about wildlife, history & culture of our homeland since our childhood. Because of our style several of our returning guests became our friends during the years. We spend our free time and profit on protecting habitats and species locally and also discovering new areas where we also lead tours. We have been visiting Transylvania since the 80ies and Danube Delta since the 90ies. We have more than 25+ years experience of organizing & leading tours not just locally but internationally as well, especially Latin America and some in Africa & Asia as well.
On any of our tours we choose accommodation on the basis that it should be surrounded by birds and wildlife with plenty of on site possibilities. We prefer family run small lodges or mini hotels with personal attention, always en-suite clean rooms and local food what you will surely remember. Details of our Kondor EcoLodge can be seen at www.kondorecolodge.hu
Depending on the size of the group we use different size and types of vehicle. For private tours for a couple we use large size cars or 4x4 if that is needed. For small groups we use elongated and elevated 9 seater minivans - Ford, Mercedes, etc. For larger groups we use 19 seater bus with a driver - Ford, Mercedes, etc.
We start with airport pickup, all internal travel is by land with vehicles specified above and we finish with a drop off at the airport. At the Danube Delta we use small boats to discover channels and lakes. Price includes a collective pick up and drop off. If you need a separate timing we can arrange that but please note that is for extra cost.
We stick to both until it is possible so we change anything which is written just if there is a situation not possible to control by us like sudden illness, extreme weather situation, et. On the other hand we can change the order of the days within a tour if bird news or weather forecast suggest that. In any case if we are aware of a possible change we communicate that asap.
Private or customized tours can be arranged with any number of travellers starting with 1. General set programme and set departure tour group size starts at 6 person. Maximum group size is 12, except if it is a group of friends or a birdclub where people all know each other and there are 2 leaders of the group.
Breakfast generally includes juice, coffee or tea, local whole-meal bread, toast, either cold cuts & cheese, or yoghurt, muesli, vegetables, fruits, Hungarian pastry or scrambled eggs / ham&eggs / Frankfurter/Sausage. Lunch For our nature-lover groups we offer usually a nice picnic either at a butterfly & wildflower-rich meadow or at a birdfull forest, nice riverbank or shore of an alkaline lake. Or we put out even more food at breakfast, so you can make your lunch of your own style & amount of food, according to your needs. Snacks & drinks during the day When you are on a tour with us we try to pamper you with coffee/tea/cappuccino, salty and sweet bisquits, fruits and water during the day Dinner At the end of the day we offer local Hungarian & Transylvanian food which range from the famous Gulyas Soup or the Catcher of the Guy Soup through substantial portion of main dishes till local desserts if possible. Drinks at dinner are not included. BAR In our small, but attractive bar we serve juices and beverages, local and international beer, a great selection of local wine from Bull's Blood till Tokaj Aszu originating from different famous wine-regions, local fruit brandy which is called palinka and many more. WINECELLAR Our wine cellar offers a cool place to check the birdlist while enjoying a variety of our great wines. If we know in advance then we can cater vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free and any other dietary needs. Some of the above might force us to ask an extra fee since it is difficult and/or very expensive to provide.
May-June-July-Aug-Sept But please note each months offer a bit different chance for most of the species. Obviously during May you have more birdsongs, June is generally characterized by birds feeding busy their chicks which makes it easy to observe them, June-July-August is excellent not just for the birds but butterflies, dragonflies, wildflowers and other wildlife, while second half of August and September is spiced with the migration and Bears start to prepare for the Winter. So the best if you tell us what is your main focus and based on that we can suggest the best for you.
We have had returning guests with 80+ years without difficulty. In Hungary the visited National Parks, Kiskunsag & Hortobagy are perfectly flat areas where we refer a molehill as a mountain. :-) Most of our trails are sandy. In the Transylvanian Hills & Carpathian Mts. there are some trails which have some elevation difference but wherever it is possible we drive up to a point from where we can walk down where you will be picked up again. Alternatively it is always possible to split the group or even rest closer to the van/bus if you feel tired. But generally with an average fitness it is an easy walk, sometimes a moderate effort. Since we visit 3 major areas in 2 countries the itinerary involves some longer drives but all on generally good roads.
We should discuss any doubts, questions before the tour, the best to use emails, but you can call us as well. Durig the tour the most important for us that please tell us immediately if you do not understand something, if you need help or there is any smaller or larger issues to be solved. We will try our best and we strongly believe in open, honest communication. Wifi will be available at each accommodation. Phone coverage at rural areas during the day can be zero but should work at the accommodations.
Please provide in written any important relevant health issues you have what we should know so in case of a health situation we are aware. Also please travel with necessary travel and health insurance. In Hungary at certain areas including some of the areas like Bukk Hills tick-carried diseases are possible to encounter (Lyme, Encephalitis, etc). At certain time of year and areas mosquitoes can be a minor issue. Other areas with loads of farm animals can have horseflies and other bugs. Otherwise Hungary and Romania are safe and pleasant countries to visit.
Reservations If you wish register for a tour or trip you should complete a Reservation Form and send it to our address. https://www.ecotours-worldwide.com/booking-form Upon received the completely filled out booking form we send out a deposit invoice with full bank details. Deposit Reservations for tours require a deposit of 50% of the total price per person of which 25% is non-refundable upon receipt. Travellers will be notified of the amount which they must deposit and the deadline by which they register. We accept reservations with deposits in order of their receipt. Telephoned reservations are accepted provided they are followed by the appropriate deposit within 10 days. Payments Invoices for the balance of trip costs will be mailed about 10 weeks (70 days) before departure date. Payment is due on receipt of our invoice. We adjust the prices to the changes of the exchange rates if these exceed 0.05. Sorry, but we can not accept credit card or cheque payments. But you do not need to bring Gold Bars either :-) , neither to see Golden Oriole, nor to pay the Bar bill, partly because our prices are really affordable and also because we prefer bank transfers in advance. During your days in Hungary generally you can pay with credit card or local cash, HUF. Bar bills you can pay by cash, Ł, $, EUR and HUF are accepted. Cancellations & Refunds If notice of cancellation is received in writing more than 10 weeks (70 days) before departure of a tour of one week or longer, the deposit/payment is refundable. If notice of cancellation is received between 10 weeks and 5 weeks (35 days) before departure, half of the deposit/payment is not refundable. If notice of cancellation is received 5 weeks or less before departure the deposit/payment is not refundable.