The Dutch island of Texel, 20 minutes from mainland the Netherlands, has a celebrity. Well make that several celebrities. Each year more than 300,000 visitors make their way to Ecomare, a nature centre in the dunes, to visit the rescued seals. Two species of seals live along the Dutch coast – the grey seal and the harbour seal. Both types hunt for fish in the North Sea and the Wadden Sea. The seal population has faced its fair share of challenges. Prior to 1980 it experienced hunting and pollution. Then two virus epidemics in 1988 and 2002 also affected the population. Despite rebounding back from these challenges, a few seals still need an extra hand. Seals have been cared for on Texel since 1952. Back then the seals were held at the former Texels Museum. The seals at that time were not released due to active hunting. Nowadays, approximately 30 seals are cared for and returned to the sea each year. A small cohort also live permanently at Ecomare – many of which are blind or missing teeth. With the ability to get up close and look into their sweet faces, it is no wonder why the seals are quite literally stealing the show. But there is much more to Ecomare than its popular residents. For example, the current exhibition on the oarfish, a monster of a fish, sends shivers down your spine while intriguing you at the same time. The oarfish was found on Texel on May 19th 2009 (another one was found on the nearby island of Vlieland). Some parts of the oarfish have been preserved in conservation fluid while a replica has been made for you to admire.
When in Amsterdam how can a canal ride not be on your agenda? Created in the 17th century to keep the sea out, either book a canal cruise from the various types on offer - hop on hop off to romantic candlelight dinners, or use the city card for a free one. With over 100km of canals around, enjoy the ride as you hear the history of the city.