The Netherlands is a beautiful country but more than 50% of the country is less than a meter above sea level, with 20% of its territory being below sea level. This type of geography, of course, gives rise to unique landscapes. After the North Sea Flood of 1953, many countries who were affected by the severe flooding took preventive measure to ensure that this would not happen again. The Netherlands had access to the Wadden Sea, but after this tragedy the Dutch Government decided against raising the existing dikes, and instead decided to build a new dam across the inlet, cutting off access to the Sea. While this meant that an existing natural reserve was lost, a whole new one was created that would draw bird watchers and nature lovers by the thousands.
Lauwersmeer National Park is located in the border of the provinces of Friesland and Groningen in the Netherlands, and at any given point of the year you are bound to be enthralled of birds in flight or as the balance of the bird population rest in calm waters. This national park is the highlight of many visitors’ trips to the Netherlands and is also part of the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage area. This beautiful landscape includes forests, grasslands, mud flats, orchid fields, lakes and large reed beds that stretch from the Dutch island of Texel to the Danish Wadden isles. The Lauwers Sea became Lauwersmeer after it was separated in 1969, and it gradually became a freshwater lake which in turn became a national park in November 2003 to protect the new and young nature area.
No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, you are guaranteed to see over a hundred species of birds in the National Park. However, if you visit in Spring, Summer and early Autumn, you will be treated to the view of waders. The time period of October – April brings in Geese and you will find raptors there throughout the year. Due to its unique landscape, Lauwersmeer National Park is a breeding ground for many birds and a refueling station for the birds’ annual migration.
Some of the species found here include the Spotted Crane, Golden Oriole, Montagu’s Harrier, Ruff and Bluethroat while rarer species like the Caspian Tern, Red Breasted Goose, Marsh Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and the Osprey can be sighted here.
No matter what your interests, if you are a nature lover, you can explore the rich flora and fauna by walking, cycling or sailing. This reserve is overflowing with activities for the adventurous visitor. There are various hiking and biking tours which can be explained at the Tourist Information Office. Some of the walks are 50 kms and the longest bicycle tour runs around the Lauwersmeer and is 45 kms in length.
There is also something for the history lover, with many characteristic villages dotting the path like Zoutkamp which was a fishing village. To know more about the history of the place, you could visit the Visserijmuseum which is the Fishery Museum, and be treated to a healthy lunch at the Paling Rokerji which is down the quay, which gives you a beautiful view of the multicolored buildings of Zoutkamp.
For the sports enthusiast, there are plenty of water bodies in the National Park to canoe, surf, sail and motor boat. There are also many places where you can camp around Friesland and Groningen – either pitch a tent or park your RV – there is something there for everyone. You may just end up seeing many Konik horses and Highland cattle grazing on the open landscape to maintain it. Visit Pieterburen, a small village which is renowned for mud flat walking and is also a seal sanctuary. There is enough o keep any visitor entertained while being surrounded by the bliss of nature.