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The Danube Delta is one of Europe's largest wetlands. About twenty percent of the Danube Delta is situated in Ukraine and eighty percent in Romania. It consists of 150.000 ha of alluvial islands, marshes, tributaries, canals and lakes. With an internationally recognized importance for biodiversity (there are three RAMSAR wetlands in the Ukrainian part alone and one in Romania). The area supports more than 70 fish species, 225 bird species, 500 plant species and 22 mammal species. Also including several endangered birds, like the Dalmatian pelican, Pygmy cormorant and White-tailed Eagle. Dynamic natural processes give this area its unique character. More than 46,000 ha of the delta was included in the Danube Biosphere Reserve in August 1998. The abundance of wildlife, especially birds, makes the Danube Delta a potential top destination for eco-tourism.


Who, Where and When

Gura Portitei is located in the southern part of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve on a sand spit bar between the lagoon system Razelm Sinoe and the Black Sea. Recently, a small touristic resort has been developed at Gura Portitei with a minihotel, pension, floating boats accommodation, several wooden bungalows and a camp site.
Gura Portita is well known for the beauty and the wildness of its landscapes. Being situated on a natural sand split offers the possibility of a holiday into the biosphere's reservation and the littoral. There are beaches, which are mostly visited by young people in particular those who love nature and fishing. Varied, plentiful bird life and varied fauna can be found in the vicinity of these beaches which are located in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Access to Gura Portitei is possible only by boat from Jurilovca village, situated on the other side of the lake. Besides tourists that spend their holiday in Gura Portita, the beaches are visited daily by tourists.

Gura Portitei beach is a beach which is situated at a small resort. It provides toilets, meals, drinks, ice cream and there are lifeguards at busy weekends. The largest amount of tourists prefer to visit a beach with some facilities. While people also want to enjoy the environment of the Danube Delta and the sea at the same time. Access to this resort is only possible by boats which depart from Jurilovca (a small village situated on the western shore of Razim Lake)
This beach is well managed by a private company which developed beach facilities such as: toilets- (more then three, all very clean), showers (with hot water / very clean), restaurants (meal and drink offers), presence of lifeguard, rent of boats and pedal boats.

Beach design and comfort are highly appreciated by tourists at Portita beach due to the wild landscape and environment. A small sewage treatment plant has been installed, as well as potable water treatment. Showers with hot water, toilets and wooden bungalows together with a small pension and mini hotel exist. Taking into consideration that this area is protected for conservation, tourism development is not allowed everywhere. The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration which is managing the area, including the beaches, prevents the economical agents from developing significant tourist activities. This is the reason for the low number of tourist in this area. They enjoy the beaches as they are quiet and not well developed. At Portita, an office of DDBRA for ecological inspection of the area is the main local point for survey and observation.


Coastal erosion tendency has been noticed on the Portita shore since 1980. This phenomenon appeared as a consequence of the hydrotechnical works carried out northwards, in the Sulina area. Extension seawards of the jetties from Sulina branch mouth to prevent navigation channel silting changed the marine currents direction seaward and consequently Portita beach received diminished sand quantities.

Additionally, hydro-meteorological conditions were not favorable and so erosion of the beach became stronger. At that time, decision makers considered it useful to build hard coastal protection structures to prevent the creation of a sand bar at Portita. The most fragile area which separates Razim lagoon by the sea.

Coastal protection projects for the Gura Portitei have been developed to ensure coastal stability for the next fifty years. For the moment, the erosion phenomenon in this area has been halted, but further south, where no coastal protection exists, the erosion process became stronger.


Comments and theory

In many wetland areas there is potential for growth of forms of tourism that protect and enhance the environment. This kind of tourism is sometimes referred to as eco-tourism. This term concentrates on the goal of protecting the environment without reference to the means for its achievement. It is a more recent term that seeks to include the means as well as the goals of responsible tourism. Responsible tourism refers to a situation where all the stakeholders, local people, business and institutions gain from the development of an industry which is set up and run according to sustainable environmental principles. Such an approach which recognizes the needs of the local people as well as their environments can be glossed as "ecotourism for people". It reflects the growing acknowledgement among ecologists that local people cannot be left out of the equation and must be beneficiaries if environmentally friendly development is to succeed.

Lessons learnt

Besides the natural environment, the Danube Delta offers tourists unique historical monuments and cultural traditions that add to the experience. Ecotourism developments are very much dependant upon the protection of natural ecosystems and their associated cultural values. With the benefits of well-managed tourism flowing into the local community through local based operators, guides and facilities, eco-tourism will add to the spectrum of wetland activities that sustain the Danube Delta's population and further motivate wetland conservation.


No other development projects or actions are planned in this area due to its specific aim concerning nature conservation. During the last years, a remarkable investment has been made following the sustainable tourism principles. A the new touristic site with an accommodation capacity 230 places which is made up out of 72 places for bungalows, 158 places in wooden huts and three stars hotel has been built. Suitable areas have been arranged for tent settlements. The touristic development plan includes all the required facilities for ecological and sustainable tourism in this natural reserve; Sewage,freshwater networks, a sewage treatment station and freashwater treatment have been installed recently. Toilets and warm water showers, an observation tower for lifeguards and reed umbrellas for tourist have been placed on the beach .

For the short term, no threats exist which directly affect the touristic infrastructure and fishery activities. On the other hand, there have been conflicts between users that are controlled by the DDBR Administration. However, beach protection and preservation needs more attention of local and governmental authorities in this particular area and pilot projects are necessary to avoid the potential risks that could appear in the future.
The population around this area is mainly interested in preservation and conservation of this area. At the same time, the development of eco-tourism creates new jobs for the locals and this represents an alternative income resource for them besides the ones from fisheries and agriculture.


Further information

Claudia Coman e-mail:
NIMRD" Grigore Antipa" Constanta, Romania
Pictures are developed by Claudia Coman

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Exercise for user

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