Most people have heard about the Big Five in Africa. Tourists make it a sport to see the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard & rhino on safaris. However, I’m sure that not many people know about the Big Five in the Netherlands.
You might start to wonder whether we have elephants & lions in the Netherlands. Let me stop this train of thought straightaway, we don’t have those animals in the wild. We have our very own Big Five though; animals that are native to the Netherlands which are difficult, but very rewarding, to spot. These animals are the roe deer, the red deer, the seal, the wild boar and finally the beaver. I decided to visit Biesbosch National Park for the sole purpose of finding this elusive creature.
The best way to spot them is by taking a whisper boat during the twilight hours.
The best place to spot them in the Netherlands is the Biesbosch National Park which is why I chose this location. It’s a unique freshwater area on the border of the provinces of Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant. I visited the Brabantse Biesbosch, which is where the museum island is located and where the boat left from.
The National Park consists of a large network of rivers and smaller and larger creeks with islands. This is where the whisper boat comes in. A whisper boat is a small boat, powered by electricity or by solar energy, which can go to the centre of the Biesbosch, even in shallow creeks.
This is mainly due to the fact that the boat can reach shallow areas where you’re surrounded by willow forest, wet grasslands and reed fields.
The search for animals makes it even more exciting.
Beavers in the Netherlands
Beavers were reintroduced to the Netherlands, because they became almost extinct in the past. They are doing quite well now, but it’s still incredibly difficult to spot them.
However, you can easily see the path of destruction they leave in their wake. Trees are tipped over and nibbled on left and right, but it takes a hardened tour guide & animal expert to find out which disfigurement was most recent.
We had people on our boat who had done the boat trip ever year for 40 years (because they lived in the area) and they had never seen a beaver. Every trip they were hoping to see one.
My track record of spotting elusive animals has been quite good the past few years. For example, I’ve seen the Sri Lankan leopard in Yala (when a minister had been driving around for days trying to spot the animals). Now, I can add this trip to my list of lucky breaks. Towards the end of the tour, the guide enthusiastically pointed towards a little swimming head. We found a beaver! Taking pictures in the twilight is hard, so the photos below aren’t masterpieces, but they offer proof that I’ve really seen one!
We also spotted a roe deer standing by the edge of the water – another one of the Big Five – however, someone stupidly started shouting and it ran off.
All-in-all this was a super successful trip!
Activities in the Biesbosch aren’t limited to the whisper boat. You can also walk or bike through the National Park, and you could explore the water by yourself in a kayak.
I did a 10km hike, which started at the Biesbosch museum. There are many different routes to choose from. You can pick up a map at the museum and the routes are all colour-coded. It’s an easy walk, remember that we don’t have hills in the Netherlands, so it’s a good hike to enjoy nature.
It’s worth checking out the museum before you undertake any of the activities to understand the history of the area.
In the past two years, I’ve undertaken quite a few trips in my own country. Most of those things are worth checking out, but the Biesbosch is not to be missed. Definitely not for the Dutchies who are reading this post! It’s so much fun taking a boat through the narrow rivers in the hope of spotting a beaver. I can heartily recommend this fun day trip.