Adventuring in de Biesbosch, NLDelta National Park
For now this will be the last article in my series about the national parks in The Netherlands. In collaboration with Holland National Parks, I visited various Dutch national parks in recent months, with the aim of giving more attention to the beautiful nature that my country has to offer. Most recently, I visited De Biesbosch National Park, part of the new NLDelta National Park to be formed. I spent the night in a sustainable wikkelhouse at Stayokay, went kayaking during full moon and explored the Noordwaard by bike and on foot. In other words: a great trip based on human powered adventure. I’ll tell you all about it in this article.
But first … check out the short video I made. Be sure to turn up the volume to hear a special meeting.
About the Biesbosch en NLDelta National Park
You may know De Biesbosch as a national park, NLDelta probably not yet. The NLDelta is a national park in the making. National park status will be applied for at the end of 2020 and in 2021, the Biesbosch, together with the Haringvliet, will form the newest national park in the Netherlands. It is a unique ecological area, where people and nature have gone hand in hand for centuries. More information about the NLDelta can be found here. Since the region I visited is the Biesbosch, I will talk about that in this article.
Arrival in National Park de Biesbosch
I drive to the city of Dordrecht where I spend the night in Stayokay, a cozy and modern hostel in the middle of nature. In addition to the hostel rooms, there is a campsite and they have four sustainable wikkelhouses and in one of them I spend the night. These tiny houses are made from recycled cardboard and fully equipped. The house has a kitchenette and private shower and toilet. There is sleeping space for up to four people. There is no WiFi and a television, so you can immerse yourself completely in the peace and quiet of nature.
After check-in, I head directly to the Biesboschcentrum Dordrecht to be informed about the possible adventures I can experience here. There is a full moon kayak trip planned for tonight, the rest of the time is at my leisure. Unfortunately it’s pouring with rain, so I decide to go for a short walk at the Biesbosch Center, where numerous short hiking trails start. The rain makes it a bit gloomy, so I finally decide to walk back to my wikkelhouse to get ready for the evening program.
Kayaing during full moon
After a nice dinner at Stayokay, I get into the car, wearing several layers of clothing and drive to the Biesbosch Center. Although it’s only a 10 minute walk, when I go back to the hostel tonight it will be pitch dark. And with a bit of luck I’m intensely cold and even wet so it’ll be good to be able to jump into my car straight.
I make my way to the canoe rental station next to the Biesboschcentrum. I’ll be heading out with a small group to kayak through the creeks and finally enjoy the full moon from the water. To be fair, I have kayaked quite a lot in my life, but never been in a kayak alone before. Fortunately, the instructors help me to get in and out of the kayak without tipping over (confession: I once stepped next to it and ended up in the water … a less charming experience when you consider that it was on some kind of date) and after everyone has settled into his and her kayaks, it is time to start paddling.
The weather has improved by now and suddenly a ray of sunshine peeks through the clouds. Could it be that after such a rainy day we can still experience a full moon?
Through the creeks
We start with a bit of paddling on the Moldiep, a fairly wide canal. In no time I have gotten my kayaking groove back and I’m overwhelmed by the happy feeling of letting yourself glide over the water surface. Not much further we enter the first small creek. We are quickly reminded that we must not forget that trees do not yield and that we regularly have to bend over to avoid colliding with trees. The tide is currently high (the tidal range can be as much as 50 centimeters in this area) and so the overhanging trees are suddenly a lot closer than when the tide is low.
The first creek is narrow and I have trouble paddling through it without any problems. I see the couple in front of me ending up in the reeds and with my paddle I regularly get stuck behind a tree. It’s frankly quite hilarious, especially because you are constantly busy making turns, braking, making sure you don’t hit a tree hard and above all not flip over with your kayak. With a little help from guide Peter I get back on the right way after I got stuck in the reeds and after quite a paddle through this creek we are back on open water without any obstacles.
The guides mention that the next part will be a bit more challenging, but that we are lucky. Because of the high tide we can pass through, when it is low tide this is not possible because you will get stuck on the bottom.
A beaver in de Biesbosch
The Biesbosch is the habitat of the beaver and I really hope that I can see one. Still, it’s failry difficult because as soon as they spot you, they disappear under water. I paddle in the back of the group through the narrow creek and as soon as we reach the Wantij canal, I see the couple in front of me lying still and pointing. The rest of the group is already ahead. They point again and suddenly I see a brown creature along the waterfront. It’s a beaver! In no time he has noticed we’re there and disappears under water. But … I saw a beaver in the Biesbosch!
Moon or no moon?
By now, it’s almost dark. From now on we will only paddle on wide waterways, back to the Biesbosch Center. Once back on the Moldiep, we should see the full moon appear soon. We paddle quickly, turn the corner and WOW … suddenly a crystal clear full moon shines in the sky, right in front of us.
The guides invite us to spend a moment in silence and enjoy this special experience. I put my paddle across the kayak, take a deep breath, and gaze at the full moon in front of me, reflecting beautifully off the water. Just … wow!
Then it’s time to kayak back to the Biesbosch Center. It’s still a long stretch and after two hours I’m wet and tired. Sitting alone in a kayak and trying to keep up with two-seater kayaks is a good challenge, but at the end I’m quite tired but insanely satisfied. Without too much effort, I climb back onto the dock, hand in the kayak and drive back to my wikkelhouse. Here I fall into a restless sleep, because the moon full is after all …
Biking to de Noordwaard
On my second day in De Biesbosch I’ll explore the Noordwaard. A rental bike is waiting for me at Stayokay and from here I head out, together with a junction map (called ‘knooppunten’) that I get at the reception. There is a lot to see in the Noordwaard, so I will have to make choices on where to spend my time. At least it’s dry, which makes the landscape a lot more beautiful and attractive.
To get to the Noordwaard, I first cycle to the ferry across the Nieuwe Merwede, a ride that takes about 15 minutes. As soon as I have crossed it, I arrive in the Noordwaard, the Brabant part of the Biesbosch. I cycle to Museum Island, where there are countless sights. I first decide to drink a cup of coffee in the restaurant from where you have a beautiful view over the waterways of the Biesbosch. After this I leave my bike for a while and decide to visit the Buitenmuseum (outdoor museum) de Pannekoek. De Pannekoek is a ‘hakgriend’ (piece of land) of approximately 8 hectares with various hiking trails that invite you to explore this part of the Biesbosch on foot.
The marked walking trail is only 2 kilometers, but I also explore the other trails. In the end I spend more than an hour and a half at the Buitenmuseum. I visit the Willow Garden, look for the beaver pond, spot birds with my binoculars and stroll on narrow trails and across bridges. It almost feels like a playground for grown-ups here!
Biking through de Noordwaard
After this I get on my bike again. I go to the viewpoint over the Petrusplaat, cycle over bridges, browse the horizon again in search of birds and enjoy the full headwind I experience while pedaling. Towards the end of the afternoon I get on the ferry back to Dordrecht and cycle back to the hostel, where I return the bike and get in the car home.
Do you want to cycle in the Biesbosch yourself? I cycled part of the Biesbosch route – a junction route through the Noordwaard and the Nieuwe Dortse Biesbosch. The numbers in the document match with the numbers you’ll find marked along the way, a super easy way of navigating in this area.
About National Park de Biesbosch and NLDelta
National parks De Biesbosch and NLDelta consists of various parts. I visited the South Holland part near Dordrecht and the Noordwaard in Brabant. There is a visitor center in both places where you can ask for information about the countless activities that are organised. There is too much to do to list everything, but I found the combination of all the activities mentioned to be perfect for a micro adventure in my own country.
I went kayaking with a guide, but you can also head out by yourself with a canoe or kayak. The rental station is open between April 1 and October 31. Of course you will receive an explanation and a map with possible paddling routes with the rental. There are also numerous walks in the Biesbosch. Some can be reached by pedestrian ferries, which were out of service at the time of my visit due to the corona virus.
Go here for more tips for walking and cycling tours in the Dordrecht part of the Biesbosch. I found this part the most impressive, especially because the creeks are so dense and you can really get lost in this “Dutch jungle”.
Want to search for beavers in the Biesbosch? This is best done early in the morning or towards the evening. There are even several guided excursions in search of beavers. The kayaking guides indicated that all excursions are often fully booked well before the departure date and that it is wise to book your desired activity well ahead of time.
Did you know we have a brand new national park in The Netherlands? It’s called Van Gogh National Park and here you can follow Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps. Read all about it here!
Conclusion and disclaimer
Hopefully I have given you an idea on how to spend a few days in the Biesbosch and NLDelta National Park. I experienced this micro adventure in collaboration with Dutch National Parks. All opinions expressed are of course only my own. I visited several national parks this fall, the other blog articles can be found here.