Spring Botany (and Birds)

Day 1: Varna - Durankulak

Flight to Varna. On arrival you will be met by a representative of BRANTA-TOURS. Transfer (50 miles) to Durankulak, on the north Black Sea coast, with a stop-off en route to visit one of the richest botanical gardens of the Balkans. Dinner and first of three nights at Branta Birding Lodge overlooking Durankulak Lake and Black Sea.

Day 2: Kaliakra

After breakfast, we set off to spend the day exploring Cape Kaliakra, and its surrounds. Set in the largest surviving area of virgin steppe in Bulgaria, Kaliakra is also an archaeological monument, the site of ancient dwellings and fortresses covering more than 2500 years of human occupation.
The 70-m high cliffs make an excellent vantage point for Dolphin watching, whilst the abrupt westward turn of the coast here results in concentrations of migrating birds.
We will spend the morning on the botanical reserve of Cape Kaliakra, the largest surviving expanse of steppe in Bulgaria. Frequent autumn and winter gales have helped determine the cape’s highly specific flora. More than 600 plant species occur here, including - more notably - Adonis vernalis, Adonis volgensis, Paeonia tenuifolia, Potentilla mollicrinis, Potentilla bornmuelleri, Ruta graveolens, Stipa lessingiana, Artemisia pedemontana, Agropyrum brandzae, Asphodeline lutea, Iris pumila, Scutellaria orientalis, Salvia nutans, Salvia argentea, Salvia aethiops, Onosma taurica, Onosma arenaria, Onosma echioides, Nonnea atra, Ruta glaveolens, Euphorbia myrsinites, etc.
Kaliakra is rich in birds as well as plants and this is one of the best sites in Europe to see Rose-coloured Starlings. There, and at Boilata, where we will have lunch, you can also see breeding Pied Wheatear, Stone Curlew and Calandra Lark.
In the afternoon we will visit Cape Zelenka, where Mattiola odoratissima and Gypsophylla trichotoma can be seen.
Return to our lodge for dinner.

Day 3: Yailata

After breakfast we drive 12 miles to Yailata, an archaeological site dating from Roman times. Here steppe and sea-cliff meet in a limestone landscape that holds some 350 plant species. The normally rare Peonia peregrina is common here. Also found here is the endemic and eponymous Silene caliacrae, as well as Iris pumilla, Adonis flammea, Asphodeline lutea, Alyssum borseanum, etc.
The sea-cliffs are rich in caves and this was one of the last refuges for the Monk Seal in the Black Sea.
After lunch we visit Roussalka and Tauk-liman, some of the most picturesque locations on the northern Black Sea coast and both of considerable botanical interest. We finish the day at Durankulak Lake - a Ramsar site of high ornithological interest, close to the Romanian border.
Return to the lodge for dinner.