Tested: Beekse Bergen or as the kids said "We visited cold Africa"
For the past few years, our family has been travelling to celebrate New Years. We enjoy kicking off January in a different place, with a new outlook on the year to come, and if possible, somewhere warm.
The past adventures included climbing Kilimanjaro, partying in Marrakech, discovering Sri Lanka... Since having children, the adventures became a bit quieter - read less partying and more early morning walks. But we continued the tradition and kicked off 2019 in a local's home in Chiangmai and 2020 on a farm in South Africa.
There is always a special atmosphere travelling over the festive period. And travelling on Christmas day in even better. Somewhat quieter and more relaxed.
So with 2021 fast approaching and no end in sight to the 'situation', we decided at the last minute we needed to escape. But where?
Here were the important facts:
We had to stay within the borders of the Netherlands.
It had to feel like something different, like an adventure
It had to be easy, relaxing and comfortable for everyone
After discussing with friends, we booked a 4-night stay in Beekse Bergen. About 1h30 drive south of Amsterdam, it is the biggest Safari Park in the Benelux.
I must admit I was slightly dubious of going to a safari park, in the middle of the Netherlands in December. What was it going to look like? How can animals be happy over there?
All the amenities were obviously shut, so the safari park itself, the indoor kids' activities, the pools, restaurants, etc... and anything that could entertain small humans.
Why go then?
We arrived on the 31st, all the lodges were lit and people were enjoying celebrating the end of a challenging year. At midnight, everyone stepped out and cheered as we could hear fireworks in the next town.
We arrived and checked in past 17h so we didn't get to see our view and had no idea what to expect in the morning.
But wow, that was a beautiful surprise. As we were all enjoying breakfast, our daughter just screamed "Grumpy Buffalos!". What?
Around 9 am, the animals get up and make their entrance in the Savana. Buffalos, Ostriches and Camels walked by our windows. A little while later, Zebras, Rhinos and Giraffes paraded around. It felt quite surreal to be just a few meters away from them, in the comfort of our lodge.
On that first day of the year, we went for a walk around the grounds, this is what it looks like:
The walk was easily manageable with young kids. The main playground was open by the ice skating rink and the coffee place. Both parents and kids found what they needed.
We stayed in a Savana Lodge Plus which can host up to 8 people. We stayed with 4 adults and 4 children. The kids enjoyed 2 rooms with bunk beds. The master bedroom has a shower room en suite and the main bathroom has a bath, shower and a sauna.
The kitchen equipment is basic but sufficient. If you are planning on doing some proper cooking, bring your own knives and chopping boards.
The self-catered accommodation has everything you would need for such a holiday. We came with all the food and drinks and some basic cleaning supplies (dishwasher tabs, kitchen towels.. ).
❤️ Loved: the proximity to the animals and the possibility to just stare out the window and the simplicity of a walk around to see everything
👍🏼Nice touches: full contactless check-in. You receive a code ahead of your arrival. This one allows you to enter the park as well as your accommodation.
💪🏼Can be improved: cleanliness of the house. The cleaning felt rushed.
😕Disliked: The sanitary situation didn't allow us to exchange with anyone from the team or discuss anything about animals with anyone. We would have appreciated getting some form of information, even indirectly (maybe a nice booklet or phone application).
🌱Beekse Bergen mentions participating in conservation of threatened species and breeding programs. Apart from what I can read online, I do not have further information due to the limited contacts we could have. There is no information about any CSR, animal treatment or any sustainability program on their website. It is a pity, this kind of information is crucial nowadays.
➕Best for: an easy and uncomplicated get away with the family with guaranteed entertainment.
✅Would visit again: probably in a quiet period with the possibility to use more amenities. I would be worried to visit in the height of summer, it would be too busy for us. But for a weekend, in low season, why not!
I can safely say I would have never visited Beekse Bergen for New Year's eve had it not been 2020. I would probably not have visited this place at all. However, I am very happy we did. This was a great experience, super easy to organise and smooth to enjoy. We got to see incredible animals from up close, without having the feeling of a zoo.
I remain a firm believer that animals should not be captive and that any place like this should have a strong conservation purpose.
2020 has been filled with unexpected 'travel' experiences, what will 2021 bring to us?