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Aerial photo of the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe.

Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe (The Drowned Land of Saeftinghe) is a national park in the province of Zeeland in The Netherlands. It is the biggest swamp of its kind within European borders.


Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe is a large swamp in the very east of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, on the territory of Hulst municipality, and borders the river Scheldt directly. It is an official nature reserve area. The area is very treacherous since large patches of land can be consumed by the tides within seconds. The area shouldn't be explored without an experienced guide for that reason.


Saeftinghe was drained in the thirteenth century under management of the abbey of Ter Doest. The most widely known occupant of that abbey, Willem van Saeftinghe, gave his name to the polderland. The polder was very successful due to its fertile soil and peat reserves. This prosperity, however, ended on November 1st, 1570 during the All Saints' Flood, which flooded the regions around the river Scheldt. Only Saeftinghe and some surrounding lands remained dry. This however, was shortlived, as in 1584, fourteen years after the flood, during the Eighty Years' War, the Dutch saw themselves forced to break through the dike. As a result, Saeftinghe sank below the Scheldt.

Attempts to reclaim the land again were made, the most notable of which was in 1907, but Saeftinghe was never reclaimed. Attempts were made until the Second World War broke out. The 1960s brought an increase in wealth and free time to the Dutch, which resulted in a growing interest and appreciation of nature. This resulted in Saeftinghe becoming a protected nature reserve of 3600 hectares of swamp.


Drowned Land of Saeftinghe with the nuclear reactor of Doel (Belgium) in the background.

As mentioned above, Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe is a swamp. Its soil is for three tenths consisting of sand banks and mosaic and seven tenths of the soil consists of vegetated ground: Salt march plants and grasses can be found. In several parts of the reserve peat can be seen on the surface.

The land is highly influenced by the tides of the Scheldt. Portions of the land can drown in a matter of seconds, making the area dangerous for anyone visiting without an experienced guide.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Cattle in the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe.

Saeftinghe isn't well-known for its flora, mostly because the soil is flooded regularly by brackish water from the river Scheldt. As for plants, you will find common scurvy grass, sea aster, sea club-rush, sea milkwort, sea arrowgrass, common saltmarsh grass and saltmarsh rush, which grow abundantly. In the east of the reserve you'll also find reeds, which benefit from the fresher waters.

The higher areas of the lands are grazed by cattle. Some of Saeftinghe's richer flora can be found here. The salt flats are roamed by Colletes Halophilus bees, which dig themselves into holes in the sandy soil. These bees are solitary and depend mostly on the sea asters, which makes them absent in large parts of Saeftinghe. The brood parasite or cuckoo bee can also be found in the region, though they are even rarer. They, however, have a rather large population in Saeftinghe. Another rare species is the Mimusmesa Sibiricina, which, in Western Europe, can be found in only several isolated and remote places. The Drowned Land is one of these places.

Greylag goose

The area is great for bird spotting as well. In the Drowned Land you'll find mostly herring gulls, which population was found to be numerous in 2012, counting well over 3000 breeding pairs. In second was the redshank with half the amount of breeding pairs. The reeds in the east are used by greylag geese, marsh harriers, bearded reelings, blue throats, water rails and many more bird species. During the winter, many geese are found in Saeftinghe - mostly the aforementioned greylad geese. They, at this time of year, migrate to warmer, more southern regions. These high numbers of wildfowl attract many birds of prey, such as white-tailed eagles and large amounts of roosting marsh and hen harriers.

As for larger mammals, the sand banks of Valkernisse, just north of Saeftinghe, are important basking places for grey seals. During high tides they often can be found in the Saeftinghe creeks. Other mammals include the brown rat, muskrat, rabbit, hare and fox. The population of the latter was found to be between 15 and 30 adult foxes in 2012.


Get in[edit]

Saeftinghe Visitors Centre.
  • 1 Saeftinghe Visitor Centre, Emmaweg 4, 4568 PW Nieuw-Namen (Visitors address is in Emmadorp), +31 114 633 110, fax: +31 114 633 111, . May 1st - October 1st: Every day but Monday: 13:00-17:00; April and October: Open during weekends: 13:00 - 17:00. November 1st - March 31st: Closed. See: Fees and permits.

Fees and permits[edit]

Members of Het Zeeuwse Landschap
or any other Provinciaal Landschap*
Guided excursion participant Free
Visitors up to 16 years old €1.00
Visitors >16 years old €2.00
Holders of a VVV-tourist pass** -50%
Parking Free

*You must show a valid membership card.
**Reduction applies to passholder and a maximum of three family members.

Get around[edit]

All forms of traffic are banned inside the nature reserve. The only option is to go by foot.



  • Take a guided tour - This is the safest thing to do: The Visitors Centre will plan you in for a guided tour (reservations are preferred) with an experienced guide that knows what he's doing.
  • Roam the Drowned Land - Though it is anything but recommended, anyone get into the Drowned Land, please make sure you're aware of the dangers of the reserve before roaming the swamp.
  • Bird spotting - Not interested in highly physical activities such as walking? Then look for a bird spotting hut and enjoy your time looking for the many birds in the reserve.





There are no longer any hotels, campsites or B&Bs near the Drowned Land. For nearby places to rest, refer to the articles for Hulst, Terneuzen, Ghent, Antwerp and Sluis.


Camping is not allowed in the reserve. See Hulst for a list of all nearby sleep listings.


See Hulst for a list of all nearby sleep listings.

Stay safe[edit]

The water in the Drowned Land can rise very quickly, so be aware and alert when exploring on your own.

Go next[edit]

This park travel guide to Saeftinghe is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.