An African safari in The Netherlands, is that possible? Yes, it is! Beekse Bergen Safari Park is a unique wildlife park in the south of the Netherlands. Definitely not a zoo in the traditional sense of the word, but an awesome wildlife experience. Spread out over approximately 300 acres (120 hectares) Beekse Bergen gives you the opportunity to see wild animals such as giraffes, buffalos and cheetahs from your own car, without a fence between you and the animals. How cool is that!
- 1 Beekse Bergen in a nutshell
- 2 Short history of Beekse Bergen
- 3 Safari options at Beekse Bergen
- 4 Animals at Beekse Bergen
- 5 Shows and demonstrations
- 6 Playgrounds and restaurants at Beekse Bergen
- 7 Safari resort, holiday park or campground
- 8 Conclusion
Safari Park Beekse Bergen is located between Hilvarenbeek and Tilburg, approximately 1,5 hours from Amsterdam. We recently visited the safari park with our 5-year old and had a fantastic time. Beekse Bergen offers safaris by car, bus or boat. And there’s even an option to organize a game drive and go off-road with one of the park’s rangers in an open land cruiser (additional fee, arrange in advance).
Come early so you have enough time for all the different types of safaris and still have some time left to play and eat!
Beekse Bergen in a nutshell
- opened in 1968
- approximately 300 acres
- 150 species of animals
- over a million visitors per year
- active in education, conservation and research
- located near Hilvarenbeek
Short history of Beekse Bergen
Lion Park Beekse Bergen was opened in 1968, a cooperation of municipalities Hilvarenbeek and Tilburg. Car safaris, where visitors could observe lions in semi-freedom from their car, were a novelty in The Netherlands. It became a big success and in the next years a lot more species were added and the park was extended. In 1982 Beekse Bergen added a walking safari and from 1984 visitors could see bird of prey demonstrations. In the following years the park became less popular and closure threatened. In 1987 Beekse Bergen was sold to leisure concern Libema, which also operates AquaZoo Leeuwarden, Dierenrijk Nuenen en ZooParc Overloon. A number of new species were added, as well as the bus and boat safaris and both the walking and car safaris were improved.
Safari options at Beekse Bergen
At Beekse Bergen you can go on safari in your own car, or take a bus, walking or boat safari and discover the 150 species of animals that live in the park. All safaris are included in the entrance fee. Let’s talk a bit more about the different safaris that are on offer.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Beekse Bergen are car safaris. My parents used to take me and my brother when we were little and now we get to take our own son. It’s such a unique experience for kids and our son loved it. You can watch the animals up close from the comfort of your own car. Of course, since the animals roam semi-free seeing them well or even seeing them at all isn’t guaranteed, but trying to spot them is part of the excitement. When we were little there wasn’t such a thing but nowadays you can do an audio tour via the Beekse Bergen app during your car safari.
It’s important to follow the park’s rules as some of the animals are dangerous. In 2018 a French family with a small child decided to get out of their car to get a better look of the cheetahs and were very nearly attacked and in 2012 a 10-year old boy was bitten. The rules are there for reason and it’s important your kids are aware (and can’t open doors and windows).
The safari buses are an experience in itself. Painted in ‘safari’ colors only looking at them gives you a sense of adventure. There are two bus tours you can take, from the entrance to the Kongo restaurant and from the restaurant back to the entrance. Each tour takes about 45 minutes. A ranger tells you lots of interesting facts and anecdotes about the animals and their habitats. The ranger will even let you touch and smell things, like animal hides and poo.
The 30-minute boat safari runs multiple times a day between Safariplein (lit. Safari Square) at the entrance of the park and Kongoplein (lit. Kongo Square). You can take it in either direction. It’s a fun and educational experience. You get to spot animals in and along the water and the ranger on board tells you all about them.
Make sure to take notice of the times the boat runs and be on time as it can get quite busy. There are signs at the dock and you can also see the times in the Beekse Bergen app. Unfortunately, the app mentioned a departure at 17:00 from Kongo restaurant but it turned out that was a mistake. So we saved the boat safari til the end and ended up having to walk all the way back in the end. The only advantage was that the park was almost empty by that time!
During the 2.2 mile (3,5km) walking safari there is a lot to discover at Beekse Bergen. The walking paths are smooth and easily accessible with a stroller or kids wagon. On the side of the paths there are play sets so kids can climb and clamber along which makes the walking a lot more interesting for them. Use the animal spotting feature in the free Beekse Bergen app and learn all about the animals you see around you. Some parts of the walking safari felt too ‘tradional zoo’-like for us, especially the lion area in the beginning and the aviaries, which we felt were a bit small. Seeing the animals being fed was fun though.
Animals at Beekse Bergen
Did you know an elephant drinks between 70 and 160 liters of water per day, that a crocodile can live to be 100 years old in the wild, that a male gorilla can weight up to 440 lbs (200kg) and that there are only about 300 wild addax alive?
Beekse Bergen houses over 1200 animals from 150 different species. We generally don’t enjoy zoos and seeing animals locked up, we’d rather see them in the wild. However, it’s clear Beekse Bergen really tries to cater to the animals’ needs with large enclosures and wide open habitats. They provide a lot of opportunities to learn, and we think it’s important for our son to learn about animals and nature. Beekse Bergen actively participates in breeding programs for endangered species, educational programs, conservation and research. Beekse Bergen is coordinator of the European Endangered Species program (EEP) for the white rhinoceros and cheetah.
Shows and demonstrations
Birds of prey
A number of times a day there’s a bird of prey demonstration (or bird of prey safari as Beekse Bergen calls it) near the Kongoplein. This was definitely the highlight of our son’s visit as he was chosen as a volunteer! He was so proud of himself and got to hold a huge hooded vulture. Wow! The demo is very informative and fun, with the huge birds narrowly missing the visitors as they skim past.
At set times there are feeding demonstrations along the walking safari route. The animals’ caretakers show you how the animals are fed and tell you lots of interesting facts. See how the tigers, chimpanzees, elephants and many other animals get their food and learn all about their feeding habits.
Playgrounds and restaurants at Beekse Bergen
Kids often don’t have such long attention spans. ‘Look honey a [fill in animal species]!’ is fun the first ten times and then they need something more. Beekse Bergen has clearly understood this! There are three large playgrounds in the park, at the entrance, in the middle at the Afrikadorp an at the Kongoplein. Each of these areas also offers food and drinks. You’re free to bring your own snacks if you want to mind your budget. We didn’t feel the food was overly expensive and there’s quite a bit of choice. The fries were fine but although the croquettes tasted ok they were too soft. So wouldn’t recommend those. The playgrounds are quite large and fun for all ages.
On the walking safari, there are also numerous little climbing circuits that our son really enjoyed. It’s a long walk for little ones but the ‘hidden’ play and climb structures along the way make it fun.
Safari resort, holiday park or campground
If you want to fully embrace the experience you can opt to stay at the safari resort. Wake up the sound of lions in the morning and see the giraffes roam from your private terrace. You’ll also find a holiday park right next to the park as well as a campground.
All in all we really enjoyed our visit to Beekse Bergen and would recommend it. Of course for our son the highlight was getting chosen as a volunteer for the bird of prey demo, but he also really enjoyed the excitement of the car safari. We feel this was a really nice way to combine education and play in a fun family day trip.
Tip: Fairytale amusement park Efteling is only about 20kms away from Beekse Bergen. Staying one or more nights in the south of the Netherlands (near Tilburg or even Breda or Den Bosch) will enable you to see a different part of Holland and combine the two parks.