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National Park Oostvaardersplassen

Tour National Park Netherlands & Encounter Wild Horses

The Oostvaardersplassen is a unique nature reserve in the Netherlands, managed by the State Forestry Service. This Dutch government organization for forestry and the management of nature reserves was founded in 1899, and currently oversees 250,000 ha (over 615,000 ac) of land in the Netherlands.

Tulip Day Tours is proud to be the first and only tour operator in the Netherlands to collaborate with State Forestry Service. Together we offer afternoon tours, departing from Amsterdam, that entail exploring national park Oostvaardersplassen with a ranger of State Forestry Service by eco car.

To understand why the Oostvaardersplassen, covering about 56 sq mi (56 sq km), is so special, we should also take its location into consideration; the province of Flevoland. Flevoland is the twelfth and youngest province in the Netherlands and almost all the land belonging to the province was reclaimed in the 1950s and 1960s. Watch the video below this article to learn more about reclaiming land. 

So when the Flevopolder was drained during these years, the wet part (what is now the Oostvaardersplassen) remained unused. It was intended to become an industrial area, but there was no immediate need for that. The swamp area was sown with reeds and then left alone. Nature seized its chance and a swamp with ponds, reed fields and willow forests arose. The area turned out to be an important stop on the bird migration route from the high north coast to Africa. The reed swamp quickly became a home for many, often exceptional bird species. As a breeding area, hideout area or to search for food.

It now makes the Oostvaardersplassen an internationally renowned bird paradise. The dikes around the area are real "bird boulevards". Almost half of the Northwest European population of gray geese comes to the Oostvaardersplassen to moult. Some continue to breed. It is also one of the most important breeding grounds for spoonbills in Western Europe and home to one of the largest cormorant colonies. The Oostvaardersplassen is also rich in prey birds. Hardly anywhere can so many species be seen in one day. And in 2006 the Oostvaardersplassen had a scoop with the first breeding sea eagle in our country for a long time. Now, there are 31 bird species that are protected in Europe and for which the Oostvaardersplassen is of (international) importance.

But the Oostvaardersplassen is not only interesting to visit for the birds. The area is also important for the large grazers. The herds of red deer, konik horses and heck cattle are not to be missed when visiting this national park! They play a key role in the dynamics of the area. Heck cattle keep the grassland open with their grazing activities. The konik horses graze on the half-dry landscape, and the red deer control the bushes.

Speaking about the large grazers in the Oostvaardersplassen; we can’t deny it’s a controversial topic in an ongoing debate in the Dutch society. Intense discussions have taken place (and still are) about decisions that were made about the large grazers. Decisions that were not understood nor supported by everyone, such as not feeding the large grazers extra during winter or the shooting of red deer to control the number in the park.  But we’re still talking about nature and we should not avoid this beautiful park. Instead let’s create awareness and visit this park, for funding goes to State Forestry Service and hence to nature.

During our tour, let’s have the ranger explain what’s really going on with this nature reserve and encounter the large grazers everyone is talking about. And for two hours the silent electrical vehicle, the eco car, takes us far into the nature reserve.

In the end, we believe that nature, regardless where in the world, can use all the support it can get. By joining our afternoon tour, you support not only nature in the Netherlands, but you also get a chance to discover what the Netherlands has to offer besides the well-known tourist sites. And after all, isn’t much healthier to spend time in nature instead of a hot and crowded city?