When I was looking for a fun day activity to do in the Netherlands, my friend Karen from Wanderlustingk mentioned something she did earlier. As I loved the idea, I set out with my boyfriend this weekend too and we went to Pieterburen to release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands.
This might have been the most fun I had ever had on a day activity and once the day was over, my heart was fluttering with excitement and cuteness overload. We went to the seal rescue center in Pieterburen, Groningen and at the end of the day; we released 3 seals back into the wild at the Wadden Sea.
If you’re traveling to the Netherlands soon, and you’re looking for a fun day trip from Amsterdam or things to do in Groningen or Friesland with or without kids, then a visit to the seal rescue center in Pieterburen might interest you. If you love animals as much as I do, you can release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea too!
Seal Rescue Center in Pieterburen
The seal rescue center in Pieterburen is the best place to see seals in the Netherlands. The little village of Pieterburen is located in the province of Groningen, all the way in the North part of the Netherlands. It is right at the beach, overlooking the Wadden Sea and you can see the island Schiermonnikoog from the beach. More things to do in Groningen.
It all started when someone rescued a sick seal from the beach and nurtured it in a tub in the backyard. Soon, the seal rescue center in Pieterburen evolved from a backyard first aid for seals, into a full-blown rescue center. They have quarantine wards, heated and monitored 24/7. They have a sick ward and an outdoor playpen for the little seals that are strong enough to go outside. Eventually, all seals that are healthy enough will be released back into the wild at the Wadden Sea.
Not in the Netherlands? Check out where you can find the Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony in England here.
Unesco World Hertitage: the Wadden Sea
The Wadden Sea is a unique nature reserve off the coast of the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. Little islands for the coast created a unique ecosystem where the tides control nature. Due to the tides, a variety of species and flora can flourish at the Wadden Sea. When the tides are right, you can even walk from the mainland to the islands, of course under supervision to learn and to keep safe! Read more about the Wadden Sea and why Unesco enlisted it. Interested in ‘wadlopen’ as the activity is called? Check out this website.
Visit the Seal Rescue Center in Pieterburen
Although the seal rescue center in Pieterburen is a research and rescue center for seals, you can also visit it. They allow visits to educate people about the influence humans have on nature in the Wadden Sea and the habitat of the seals and also to raise awareness about our impact on the animals. The entrance fee is used to fund the rescue center and all their activities.
To find out more about location, prices and opening hours, visit the website of the Seal Rescue Center in Pieterburen. As Pieterburen is quite far from places like Amsterdam, you might want to book a hotel in Pieterburen or the surrounding area. Excellent excuse to crash and recover from the seal cuteness overload!
Sustainable travel and animals
I know many people don’t like to visit zoos because they feel animals should not be kept in a cage. You might feel the same way about the seal rescue center in Pieterburen, but after my visit there I can inform you it is one of the most sustainable ways to travel and see animals. Although you pay an entrance fee, all funds go towards the rescue of seals. The whole center is set up with the focus and priority on research and rescue of seals. The exhibit at the center is focused on education and information and the main focus is to release seals back into the wild at the Wadden Sea.
There are even more ways to support the center, for example by donations or a look behind the scenes.
A look behind the scenes
For only €2,50 you can join a one-hour tour behind the scenes of the seal rescue center. You get to see the quarantine quarters and you can see the kitchen. You can get a little bit closer to the seals who are already outside and you get a ton of information about how the rescue center operates and what the problems for the seals are and why they need our help sometimes.
For me, I felt like this was a must-do when you visit the center to learn more about the seals.
Release seals in the Netherlands: Back to the Wadden Sea
The main reason for our visit to Pieterburen was to release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea! How exciting is that?! The seals will be released by the people of the rescue center and you can join them. It will cost €40,00 to join but this money will go directly back to the seals.
The boat will go out anyways, with the seals and the volunteers. By allowing people to join, they raise more money for the rescue center without an extra impact on the Wadden Sea or the rehabilitation of the seals. It felt like an extra thing we could do to support the seal rescue center in Pieterburen and have a fun day for ourselves too!
At 5.30 pm, three wooden crates with the seals were loaded on board our boat. We’d set out for almost an hour on the Wadden Sea, to release them into the wild at a sandbank. The seals were offloaded first and their crates were places on the beach.
We joined them at an appropriate distance to see their first steps back into the wild! I was so excited. The center rescued 2 seals with lungworm and they were almost 1 year old. The other seal was a lot younger and was abandoned by his mother.
Pictures of the seals released into the wild at the Wadden Sea
My boyfriend, who is a professional photographer, took his telelens to take these amazing images. Don’t think we were that close to the animals, we kept our distance as they took their first swim in the Wadden Sea after almost 3 months!
The two common seals almost ran out their crates and splashed into the water quickly. They swam around for a good 10 minutes before they disappeared. The little grey seal was a bit more anxious and took his time. That moment when he finally decided to take the leap and robbed into the surf was amazing. My heart was exploding with adrenaline and overflowing with love. The whole sight was so cute and wonderful to witness.
Below you can find more images of the seal released into the wild at the Wadden Sea. Feel free to look for dates and activities at the seal rescue center in Pieterburen to see if you can join such an activity too! Or you can just donate your money so they can continue their work to release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea.
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Are you thinking of travel to the Netherlands? Do you look for a sustainable way to travel and see wild animals at the Wadden Sea like the seals in the Netherlands? Then the activity to release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea might be the right fit for you! Let me know if you have any questions or just want to share how cute the pictures are. You can use the comment section below!
This post was not sponsored in any way. I paid for our entrance fee and donations in full myself. This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to book something via these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.