The Big Five of Zeeland’s nature

Basking under our sunny skies, Zeeland is within some three hours’ drive or train ride of the entire country. A place you can see magnificent wildlife close by, and without spending the fortune other safaris expect. Welcome to our proud ecozone of Zeeland, with our own Big Five of the porpoise, flamingo, seals, fallow deer and sea eagle. 

Credits: Wilco Jacobusse

Porpoises

In the Oosterschelde National Park, the country’s largest, no need to splash out hundreds of euros to go whale-spotting. Out on the waters of the Oosterschelde you’ll often see porpoises at play, from your boat or from the shore.

The best spots are at the harbour entrance of Zierikzee (listen to them too), the quays of Burghsluis, the chubby Plompe Toren, and at Wissenkerke, Colijnsplaat, the Goese Sas and Wemeldinge.

Credits: Chiel Jacobusse

Flamingos

You’ll be sure to see a whole colony of flamingos from September to April in the Grevelingen lake at the cusp of Zeeland and the province of Zuid-Holland.

They migrate from northern Germany and spend the winter in the Netherlands. The colony – you’ll be impressed at its size – is best seen, at a respectful distance, from the dike at Oude-Tonge. In fact, you can see smaller numbers at most times of the year in the Grevelingen where the young ones aren’t brooding. And they’ve also been spotted in the waters of the Delta Works and the Veerse Meer lake.

During the Grevelingen week in October, take an excursion with the Staatsbosbeheer nature agency. The well-named ‘Pink Sunday’ celebrates the flamingo in a very informative way. Pretty flamingo.

Credits: Nationaal Park Oosterschelde

Seals

When we’re abroad and see seals, we tend to get excited and call out silly oohs and aahs. Here, we take their glorious slothful ubiquity in our calm Zeeuws stride, as we come across them on the Grevelingen lake, the waters of the Oosterschelde, Westerschelde and the Voordelta, around the island of Neeltje Jans and hanging out on the convivial beaches of Vlissingen. Keep a reasonable distance.

Various operators throughout Zeeland will take you out on a seal safari. Special times are the Oosterscheldeweek (second week of September), the Zwinstreekweek in end September and the Grevelingenweek in the autumn (herfst) school holidays.

Credits: Chiel Jacobusse

Deer of all sorts

In the dim light of dawn and dusk you’ll have the most chance of spotting fallow and roe deer, known for their timidity. Especially in the Oranjezon park at Oostkapelle or in the woods on the Kop van Schouwen headland, in Westenschouwen forest. At rutting time in September and October, you’ll hear the males calling. The scientific term is ‘burlen’, or belling. That’ll be the best time, so take some sturdy shoes and your photography gear but, please, be quiet and be still.

Credits: Nationaal Park Oosterschelde

Sea eagle

The first sea eagle to be born in Zeeland arrived in 2018, in the Slikken van de Heen nature area near Sint-Philipsland. It has since been ringed for monitoring purposes by the Het Zeeuwse Landschap nature agency. Young sea eagles are regularly spotted in the province, and people expect more broods in future.

The sea eagle can be 92 cm tall, with a wingspan of 2 to 2.5 metres – making it one of the ‘Big Five’ of Zeeland.

This article first appeared in Dutch on mountainreporters.com