National Parks are one of the treasure troves of nature – they are valuable reminders of the nature that surrounds us. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that are abundant in Nature reserves and National Parks, especially when you consider its size. With an area of 41,543 km2, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, but one which has learned to live side by side with trade and nature in close proximity.
That being said, the Oosterschelde National Park is the largest National Park in the Netherlands with an area of over 35,000 hectares. It has an open connection with the sea that allows tides to enter which gives rise to a dynamic environment. The combination of salt water and fresh water attracts a very diverse set of flora and fauna. The tide causes large tracts of land to be visible in low tide which gets flooded over at high tide. This causes a lot of sediment to form on the sand banks that ensures that there is food present to attract thousands of birds as well as sunbathing seals.
This National Park is not only interesting on land. It has an exceptional underwater world with seals and harbor porpoises that can be seen frequently.
Exploring the Oosterschelde National Park
If you are curious to see the underwater world of the National Park, you can sign up with one of the several diving schools that dot the Dutch coast. You will be amazed at the underwater treasures like oysters, lobsters, flatfish, clams, crabs, shrimp and other species of fish and shell fish. Many fish species like anchovy, garfish and pout hatch in this area and are also a mating ground for Cephalopods that travel from the south east coast of England. You can take that opportunity to see up close for yourself the different world that exists in this National Park. The crystal clear waters gives ideal conditions for swimming and over a million dives are made each year in this Park alone.
The Park is also known for its rare plants and mosses as well as sea lavender, glasswort and sea aster. For the avid bird watcher, this park is a treat for the eyes as thousands of birds flock here which include oystercatchers, eagles, gulls and wigeon. Birds like redshank come here to brood, and this offers a rare sight for birdwatchers to catch glimpses of their young.
If you’re wondering what you could do in such a large area – you can explore the Oosterschelde National Park by biking it or hiking it – the choice is yours. There are activities for the entire family or just for a solo traveler. You could go beach combing or even cross the mud flats and tidal marshes in low tide. This type of an adventure is possible only in areas like this in the Netherlands. You could even visit a mussel farm or go pick mussels yourself form the park. There is a limit of 10 kgs per person per day – but that is a lot of mussels! When the tide flows out, the oysters, mussels and ‘krukels’ are visible at the bottom of the dikes – so you can eat mussels to your heart’s content, all you have to do is pick them yourself.
A fishing enthusiast will be delighted with the fishing and the sports enthusiasts can paddle, canoe or snorkel their way through the numerous water bodies in the National Park. The tides are what rule in the Park with the tides changing every six hours with over 800 billion liters of water coming in and leaving the Park every single tidal flow. To protect the Zeeland from floods, the ‘Stormvloedkering’ which a storm barrier dam was constructed in 1986 as part of the Deltawerken project.