Netherlands

Beekse Bergen: An out of Africa experience in the Netherlands

So you live in Europe, and have lived here for quite a while or likely all your life. Perhaps you were born here, and this is all you’ve known.

Well..Ever wanted to go off on a safari and be in the wild for a weekend or so, with tropical animals in close proximity? Ever wanted to do so but didn’t want to board a plane, battle altitude sickness, and being in a cramped air capsule for hours on end and land in a country full of National parks like Kenya or South Africa, Rwanda or even Tanzania? Ever wanted to save airfare, accommodation and tour costs, vaccinations and all of that? You’ll miss the hospitality of the locals, the mouth-watering cuisine and the warm feel of the sun’s rays on your skin, but Beekse Bergen has got you.

On a sprawling land that straddles Tilburg and Hilvarenbeek in North Brabant province, there’s a replica of what just may be a Savannah smack in the tiny country, complete with African animals.

The first day we get to the park, we’ve been promised a nice time especially for Little Miss Ashley.

I wave aside the expectation of a good time; after all, I’m Kenyan and have been to the real deal: parks like Amboseli and Maasai Mara. It would take ‘much’ to impress me. I express the same sentiments to the tour guide commissioned to help me bring my luggage to the accomodation. He chats with me and says he’s been to the Gambia, and asks whether I’ve ever been to the Safari Resort, and offers to drive me around the place.

When I see giraffes, lions, ostriches walking around, my jaw drops. I do a double-take, and begin to talk in what Little Miss Ashley calls “my excited high pitched voice.” I sound to her like a kid who has stumbled upon a candy store full of free treats. It’s like time has come to a standstill, and I’m in a world where nothing else exists but these animals out of Africa.

Ostrich and dromedaries in the background

Giraffes at the Safari Park Resort, Beekse Bergen.

I’m so sure these animals think they are back there in some random National Park. Just as tourists gawk at them from their cars and safari tour vans back home; the same thing happens here.

Gazing at the animals in the distance

Tour buses with African cities on their headboard.

Lions in the background, Little Miss Ashley in the foreground.

The design of everything else is an added bonus. You have eating places given “an African touch.” The interior decor at the reception is so African, with a blown up picture of a lion, and smaller pictures of zebra and buffalo.

Then the names. Moto restaurant in Karibu town. ‘Moto’ is Kiswahili for “heat or fire” depending on the context. “Karibu” another Swahili word means welcome.

We do a couple of tours there: the Boat tour, the Bus tour and a walking tour. It’s refreshing to see these animals in their element. I felt sorry for them some two weeks ago when they were out in the snow and cold. Now the temperature has improved and the sun is shining.

Snacking in Moto Restaurant

Karibu town

Bowling alley, Karibu town

African-inspired chalets

Africa club

Swimming pool at Africa club

The boat tour

The only downside to this beautiful place is the mural at the reception. I felt iffy the first days and consecutively each time I pass by. The black men portrayed in the mural are half-naked, with a confused wide-eyed look, their accessories are bones around their necks, and animal skin around their waist. One of them holds a sharp sword. It’s an offensive mural. It’s like they’ve been frozen in a time-warp, seen the same way colonialists viewed our fore-fathers, the same way Joseph Conrad viewed Congo and it’s inhabitants centuries back when King Leopold was busy pillaging the country. When all they saw of the black indigenous people was that they were savages, and any stories they would have told were muted: the danger of a single story.

C’mon Beekse Bergen, this is the 21st century. I’d love to see the blacks on the mural laughing in enjoyment, as they explore and travel, and take these safaris.

Offensive mural

I have my first travel vlog out, of Beekse Bergen. It’s quite raw and we didn’t close it well, hopefully I will refine my vlogging skills as time progresses, but enjoy the video, give it a thumbs up and subscribe!

Have you been to Beekse Bergen?

 

 

 

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3 replies »

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    Like

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