Nature areas

The Port Authority attaches great importance to sustainability, and strives to maintain a balance between economic growth and protection of the environment. Most people don’t realise that there are many protected nature reserves within the port with a unique range of plant and animal life. Some of these areas are open to the public. In addition there are several hundred hectares of “ecological infrastructure” where nature is allowed to flourish alongside human activities.

There is a lot of nature in the port of Antwerp to be discovered with lots of plant and animal species, some of them quite rare. The mudflats and saltmarshes are home to innumerable fish, birds and invertebrates, while half-wild Konik horses graze peacefully in the meadows. Some of these plant and animal species are port-specific, occurring mainly or even exclusively in the Antwerp port area. You might not expect it, but various rare or threatened species such as the natterjack toad, sand martin, swift, tern and various kinds of orchids can all be found here.

The various nature reserves that are fully or partially open to the public are listed below.


- Galgeschoor and Groot Buitenschoor saltmarshes

This tidal area of mudflats and saltmarshes is completely or partially submerged under brackish water at high tide, which happens about once every 12½ hours. It is home to many plants and animals that are specially adapted to these conditions, including numerous salt-tolerant plant species. During the winter and migration period there can be as many as 150,000 water birds here at any one time.

Accessibility: The areas are bordered by the Scheldt dike, which is open to walkers. The areas themselves are not accessible as they are flooded twice per day.

 

Opstal valley

This nature reserve with areas of open water, reed marshes and woods is home to reed and marsh-dwelling birds, as well as water birds.

Accessibility: Accessible to walkers via the towpath alongside the Canal dock (viewpoint) and via the Reigersbosdreef road. From the towpath there are steps up to the viewpoint, affording wide views over the nature reserve and the port area. From the Berendrechtse dike there is a path to the bird observation wall.

 

- Kuifeend, Grote Kreek and Verlegde Schijns

This nature area of open water, reed marshes and meadows is a refuge for water birds. In the late summer huge flocks of water birds assemble here, including gadwal, teal, shoveler, wigeon, tufted duck, smew and various others.

Accessibility: Not open to the general public. However, guided excursions are organised regularly on Sunday mornings by Natuurpunt, the nature conservation society that manages the area. http://www.antwerpennoord.be There are two observation huts and five observation walls, most of them accessible to wheelchair users.

 

- Great Reedbed and Kallo Reedbed

These two nature reserves have areas of open water, reed marshes and meadows, attracting mainly water birds and reed dwellers. Both are important as core conservation areas for the natterjack toad, while the Great Reedbed has one of the largest populations of marsh helleborine orchids. Kallo Reedbed is still under development.

Accessibility: The Great Reedbed is open to walkers, who must however keep to the paths, which are not accessible for wheelchair users. There are two entrances, one from the Kwarikweg road and one from the Scheldt dike. Kallo Reedbed is similarly open to walkers along the paths; these are accessible to wheelchair users, with the exception of the buffer dike which is rather steep. There are two entrances from the Melsele dike and two from the Gasthuisstraat road. For guided tours for groups see http://www.natuurpuntwal.be.

 

Haasop

This nature reserve has areas of open water, reed marshes, alkali marsh, wet and dry meadows and natterjack toad ponds. It is mainly visited by “reed and open water” birds, “pond and shore” birds and to a limited extent also meadow birds. This is a very important area for orchids, including the extremely rare fen orchid.

Accessibility: Visitors must keep to the paths. In the western part there is one entrance from the Koestraat road; this part is also accessible to wheelchair users. In the eastern part there are two entrances from the Koestraat road. There are no guided walks; in fact, guided groups are not allowed.

 

Drijdijk and Spanish Fort

Ponds and shores, reeds and open water, and meadows. Mainly “pond and shore” birds are found here, including many ducks, geese and grebes. This is an important roosting place for curlew and also for many birds on winter migration. The Spanish Fort is mainly important for birds of open water and reed marsh. This area is still under development.

Accessibility: The Drijdijk area is not open to visitors, it can only be observed from the Drijdijk road or from the Spanish Fort viewing platform above the port buffer dike. In the Spanish Fort visitors must keep the paths. There are two entrances, one from the Spanish Fort and one from the Watermolen dike. Not accessible to wheelchair users. No guided walks, guided groups are not allowed.

 

Putten West  and Zoetwater Creek

This nature reserve has wet grasslands, open water with nesting islands and reed marsh. It is mainly visited by reed dwellers and water birds. The nesting islands are used by "pond and shore" colony breeders such as black-headed gulls, mediterranean gulls and black-winged stilts.

Accessibility: Not open to the general public, may only be observed from the Oud Arenberg and Middenstraat roads. No guided walks, guided groups are not allowed.

 

- Doel Polder North

This nature reserve has open water with nesting islands, and is mainly home to meadow and water birds. “Pond and shore” colony breeders nest on the breeding islands with varying success.

Accessibility: Not open to the general public, may only be observed from the Zoetenberm and Westlangeweg roads and from the buffer dike in the South where two observation walls have been built. There is access at the foot of the buffer dike where it is crossed by the Ooslangeweg road. Not accessible to wheelchair users, but can be observed from the Scheldt dike. No guided walks, guided groups are not allowed.

 

Prosper Polder North

This expanse of mudflats and saltmarshes is an important flood area for the Scheldt river. It is currently being developed and will be further extended as a nature reserve. In the meantime temporary nesting islands have been built for “pond and shore” birds.

Accessibility: Not open to the general public because of the construction work. Once work on the adjoining Hedwige Polder area has been completed it will be accessible, for wheelchair users as well, along the newly built Sigma dikes.

Information on the development project, accessibility and construction site visits for groups can be obtained from the info kiosk at Zoetenberm. http://www.hedwigeprosper.be

 

- Paarden Saltmarsh and Ouden Doel Saltmarsh

These saltmarshes and mudflats form a feeding area for large number of birds that come here to breed. Together with the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe, Ouden Doel saltmarsh is the largest area of saltmarsh in western Europe, covering more than 3000 hectares. The muddy area is home to thousands upon thousands of birds and provides a habitat for rare species of halophyte (salt-tolerant) plants.

Accessibility: Not open to the general public, may only be observed from the Scheldt dike. Guided walks for groups are organised only in Ouden Doel saltmarsh: go to http://www.natuurpuntwal.be.