We piled our mountain of luggage onto the boat and slipped away downstream from the floating jetty. Our destination was a further two hour journey by boat to the Ukraine border in the far north-eastern corner of the Danube Delta. It seemed like the boat journey went on for ever and we got waved in on the main channel where the border runs by the police for a passport and papers check. The border patrol officer was bemused for a little while by struggling to match Paul with his passport. Since this was issued he had lost a remarkable 70kgs in weight and bears little resemblance to the photograph inside!
We eventually arrived at Ultima Frontiera, which translates to the'The Last Frontier', and following our boat journey it certainly felt a very apt name and that we were a very long way from anywhere. We received a very warm greeting at the dock as we loaded our luggage into two pick-up trucks. Zoltan, the Sakertour guide was also staying with us for the few days and obviously keen to explore the site as we were. I will take a few moments to tell you about Ultima Frontier.The site covers an area of around 1000 ha or 2500 acres and was the location of a former fish farm that was left undisturbed for many years. Below is map of the site to give you some idea of the layout.
The site has only literally just been opened to visiting wildlife photographers and we were to be amongst the first paying guests. Obviously this has advantages and some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that the hides are new and such facilities usually take time to become established and the set-up refined. On my return I sent Skua Nature some suggestions where refinement of some of the hides could be made.
Once settled into the hotel, we all loaded up into the back of one of the pick-up and were taken by Luca and Zoltan for an evening tour of the site. This was mainly to familairise us with the layout of the huge area and hide locations but obviously the cameras would come with us just in case we came across anything on our travels. I was not expecting to get many photos though with a group of 4 photographers.
My first thoughts as we headed out in the early evening was what an incredible place this was. There were birds everywhere. Bee-eaters gliding around, Hoopoe probing the sandy tracks looking for mole crickets, the loud electric song of Thrush Nightingale from areas of scrub, Great Reed Warbler singing deep within the reedbeds, the list could go on and on. I could grow to like this place very quickly. However, it is not only birds here as there is a good head of mammals that includes wild horses, wild cat, otters and a very special animal which was one of the primary reasons for us heading here - the European Golden Jackal.
We drove around for quite a long time and eventually stopped on the main eastern track to try and photograph some Bearded Tit. The birds were relatively twitchy and are not easy to photograph with their constant fluttering and doing acrobatics around the reeds stems but we managed to get a few photographs of some young birds, my first of this species. I could see myself returning to try again for these over the next couple of days.
It had been a long day and I headed to bed early to recharge my batteries for the following day. I was excited at the prospect of next days of photography at the Last Frontier, particularly as it would start at 5 a.m with trying to photograph our main reason for being here.......the Golden Jackals.