Waking up to the sound of water gently sloshing against the wooden edges. While it is still foggy and a faint sun tries to break through, a Konik horse neighs in the distance. Furthermore, it is quiet. Who would have thought that you would have to travel abroad for such an idyllic setting is wrong, because sleeping on the water is simply possible in the nature of Flevoland!
In the middle of the Silent Core of the Horsterwold you can spend the night on a raft in the open air. Great starry skies are guaranteed here, because in this beautiful location you can count on hardly any light pollution. A unique experience in the Netherlands, and that just in the Flevopolder.
Exploring the Horsterwold
The Horsterwold is an unprecedented piece of young nature in Flevoland, not far from Zeewolde. This vast deciduous forest is home to many wild animals. There is a good chance that during a walk you can spot the stately red deer, beautiful roe deer or majestic Konik horses in the wild!
The Silent Core of the Horsterwold is about 900 hectares in size and is surprisingly varied, from vast grasslands to dense forests and serene water features. The core is the quietest place and in principle you will not hear sounds produced by external sources here. You are allowed to roam freely in the area. So you can wander off the trails and look for the ‘Big 5’ of Flevoland, or enjoy the wealth of bird species that nest here.
Sleeping on a raft in the Silent Core
Yet there is really only one way in which you can experience the Horsterwold in all its glory and that is by staying overnight. There is a sleeping raft on the water in the middle of the Stille Kern. Alone, the raft floats on the water, far from all the noise and bustle of the city. Only accessible by boat, you can withdraw from civilization here in peace and become one with nature.
Because it is only a single raft and there are no hiking trails in the immediate vicinity, you are really in the middle of nature, with only the starry sky and the Konik horses to keep you company.
Paddle to the other side
It goes without saying that this is a special overnight location. At the end of the day, after having extensively explored the Horsterwold, we walk towards the water in which the raft is located. The pre-received map with the location of the raft was still a bit of a challenge to read, but with the help of two volunteers from Staatsbosbeheer we found the raft in no time.
The boat that should take us to the raft is attached to the jetty with a combination lock. Because of the long dry period that lies behind us, the water level has dropped considerably and the boat is high and dry in the mud instead of waiting for us in the water. No problem of course. The view of the fluorescent orange boat is perhaps a little less idyllic than the wooden canoe that Staatsbosbeheer shows on its website, but the fun is no less. With some push-and-pull work and a few muddy feet further on, we are really paddling towards our overnight place.
Sunset from the raft
Once on the raft, we are soon rewarded for the crossing. As the sun slowly sinks behind the trees, the first horses come to the water’s edge to drink. Soon the entire bank is filled with the majestic Konik horses that neigh loudly through the mud, sprint and drink water from the lake. A true spectacle to behold against the now bright orange skies.
While night falls and the campfire is burning, you can really enjoy the peace and space. Occasionally you hear a horse, a bird or some sounds from the water in the distance. The swan family that is entrenched a little further on the water seems to pay no attention to us and it is extremely relaxing to be able to admire the starry sky from this place. The raft may be relatively basic, but you can rightly call it a thousand-star hotel!
Spider fear and morning fear
The semi-covered raft is equipped with a fire bowl, two pans and a good supply of logs to get through the night. No superfluous luxury in this clear and therefore cold October night.
What was not necessarily thought about beforehand, but which should also come as no surprise in the middle of autumn, is the profusion of spiders that find the raft a great place to spend their days. You can’t see a mosquito on the silent water, but when you arrive on the raft it quickly becomes clear why.
It doesn’t bother you much, even as a fervent spider-scared. Most are entrenched along and under the wooden edges near the water. Getting in and out of the boat can therefore be a bit of a struggle, but that should not spoil the fun.
Being lulled to sleep by the calm rhythm of the water makes every spider forget. When the mists lift the next morning, a single horse can be found on the shore again, and the birds skim over the water, you realize all the more that this is a very special piece of nature in the Netherlands.
Practical tips for your overnight stay on the raft
The Staatsbosbeheer sleeping raft is about half an hour’s walk from the parking lot of Buitencentrum Zeewolde. Here you can park for free and continue on foot with your things in a sturdy backpack. If you are not lucky enough to meet two volunteers from Staatsbosbeheer who can help you with the location of the raft, the map below can help you with your walk from the parking lot. And remember: it’s a walking area, so don’t be afraid to step into the tall grass if necessary!
The raft itself is semi-covered – enough for shelter in the rain – and there is a fire bowl, as well as a pan with which you can cook on the fire. Logs are ready for you at the jetty, but otherwise you have to bring everything yourself. So think of a lighter, possibly some firelighters, food, water, ladle, etc. A few garbage bags are also useful to collect any junk and take it back with you. In addition, it can of course get quite chilly in the middle of the water, so a warm sleeping bag, sleeping mat and good clothing is not an unnecessary luxury!
The raft is located directly above the water and there is a gap of about one and a half centimeters between the wooden planks of the raft. Big enough to drop a phone or something straight into the flop, so keep an eye out for that or bring a large rug or tarp for the raft to cover the planks with. There are no other facilities on the raft, so no lighting, toilet or socket. Pure nature on an adventure!
Admittedly, as a backpacker through Thailand you will probably be able to get by with less luggage than if you spend one or two nights on the raft in Flevoland. But then you have also found the most unique place to sleep in the Netherlands. That full backpack is really more than worth it!
How can you book it smoothly?
The sleeping raft is managed by Staatsbosbeheer and can be booked for a maximum of three people and no later than two nights in a row. The costs are a fixed amount of €150. The raft must be reserved in advance via State Forestry. When your reservation is confirmed, you will receive a ticket with the exact location of the raft and also the code of the combination lock with which you can release the boat. Book on time, because especially during the beautiful summer days, the raft is very popular, quite rightly!
Want to read more about Flevoland? Then take a look at our other adventures in this young province, or visit the website of Visit Flevoland!