A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Summer plan: Visit the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park and see European bison

Now that summer is here, and hopefully all of the final exams and assignments are done and over with, it is time to enjoy the good weather and spend time outdoors. And what better way that in the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, located less than an hour away from Leiden, where you can see wild European bison as well as wild horses and dozens of other amazing animals and plants in an incredible dune landscape.


A herd of European bison at the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, less than an hour away from Leiden.

The park

Zuid-Kennemerland is located next to the towns of Overveen and Bloemendaal near Haarlem in North Holland. Covering an area of over 38 square kilometres, the park was established in 1995 to protect and manage the nature, landscape and wildlife of the special dune area located between Haarlem and the North Sea, and to encourage local residents and visitors to enjoy and learn about nature.

With hundreds of species of flora and fauna such as red and roe deer, dune peal butterfly or sea buckthorn (and also some very funky mushrooms that grow directly out of the sand!), the park houses around 40% of all plant and animal species in the Netherlands. But definitely for me what’s more special about Zuid-Kennermerland are the bison.

The bison

The European bison (Bison bonasus), also called wisents, are the largest land mammals in Europe and have a complicated recent history of battling extinction. After intensive hunting for hundreds of years, wisents went extinct in the wild in the 1920s, surviving only in captivity. Over the following decades they were successfully reintroduced in their native habitat at the Białowieża Forest in Poland as well as in other European countries such as Germany.

In April 2007 three bison were introduced into Kraansvlak, an enclosed region of Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, as part of a project to help keeping the dune environment healthy and free form the overgrow of shrubs and trees through grazing, as well as study the relationship between these animals, the landscape and natural recreation areas. A year later three more bison were released to join the herd.

The enterprise has been as success. A dozen years after the start of the project the bison are thriving, as more than 20 calves have been born in Kraansvlak in that time. Now, the dune landscape is richer and more diverse thanks to the grazing bison and other introduced species such as Konik semi-feral horses and Highland cattle; and a wealth of information and experience has been obtained from the research carried out in the area.


The whole park is amazing, but definitely seeing the bison from a distance was what I enjoyed the most when I visited it last September.

How to get there and see the bison

Fortunately for visitors and nature lovers, there are mainly two ways to see the bison in Kraansvlak. One is from a viewpoint close to the national park’s visitor centre, and the other one is by walking a trail that crosses the enclosed area, which is only open from September to March due to the bison’s breeding season. Other than this, you can also join on monthly excursions into Kraansvlak led by park rangers (the next one will be on 13 July) or organize your own excursion.

Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is easily accessible from Leiden and The Hague. From Haarlem central station there are a number of buses that can take you to different parts of the park as well as one close enough to Kraansvlak and the bison trail.


Thanks to the wisent project at Kraansvlak the survival of these amazing animals is further ensured.

So what are you waiting for? Get your hiking shoes, a hat, camera, water, sunscreen and maybe a nice picnic and go enjoy the natural outdoors at Zuid-Kennemerland!

About Daniel Salinas

¡Hola! My name is Daniel and I’m a second year RMA student at the Faculty of Archaeology specializing in heritage. Besides my academic interests, which include history, tourism and museums, I enjoy photography, spending time in nature and drawing. Since arriving to Leiden back in the summer of 2017 I have been drawn by the history and heritage of this lovely university city. In this space I will be writing posts mainly about those topics, sharing interesting spots, art, museums, cultural events and little known stories of Leiden so you all can get to know the city a little better!

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2019 by in Daniel, Leisure, Living in Holland, Student Life, Travel and tagged , , , , , , .

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