Our weekend trip to Friesland was magical as it included releasing seals back into the wild (technically starting in Groningen, but we sailed into Frisian water), taking a boat tour to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Wadden Sea, enjoying the sandbanks/views of the Frisian islands, and exploring the traditional polder landscape of Friesland as well as the cute cities of Friesland.
For those seeking an ethical animal experience to add to their travel bucket list, releasing wild seals back in the wild is a must. If you're looking for the best activities to do in the Netherlands, I definitely rank this responsible tourism do as one of my favorite memories.
(Thank you to my friends and colleagues who took the time to give me advice on what to do in Friesland and making this post-wedding weekend so perfect.)
What you'll find in this article
1. Information about the seal release (zeehonden vrijlaten): a unique ethical tourism experience where you can release rehabilitated seals back into the Wadden Sea and watch them swim away.
2. Travel tips for Friesland (Fryslân), one of the most unique Dutch provinces. Perfect for a weekend trip from Amsterdam for those ready to dive into culture, nature, and architecture. There's so many things to do in Friesland, so stay tuned for more tips from my weekend away in Friesland (weekendje weg naar Friesland)
Note: This post uses affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
Seal Release in the Netherlands: Tour Information
If you want to skip the reading, hit play to see a heartwarming video of our journey releasing the seals into the Wadden Sea (Waddenzee)!
Ecotourism in the Netherlands does exist. This amazing sustainable travel experience is offered through one of the leading seal sanctuaries, the Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen. This seal sanctuary for rehabilitating injured, abandoned, and sick seals is located about 2.5 hours by car from Amsterdam. All proceeds of this non-profit seal sanctuary in the Netherlands go directly back to helping rescue more seals. I'm not a big zoo person, but I loved the idea of supporting this seal rescue center that functions as a hospital, nursery, and nursing home for seals at all different stages as they're found around the Netherlands.
Although the Pieterburen seal sanctuary offers regular tours from Lauwersoog showing you the wild seals on the sandbanks, this is a special tour (Zeehonden Vrijlaten) that is not offered regularly that you must book ahead costs 40 euros per person. The website for the Pieterburen seal sanctuary is only in Dutch and German although you can use foreign credit cards (I used a Visa). That said, they post fairly last minute about these tours (1-4 weeks ahead), but if you're willing to sponsor a seal (500 euros), you will be allowed to do a private release at a time of your choosing when the seal is ready.. It is a truly memorable experience for those seeking ethical interactions with animals.
Note: getting a ticket is not easy as I (a resident of the Netherlands) spent months checking the website weekly for upcoming seal releases. I do not recommend this as a day trip from Amsterdam as it's a lengthy drive. Lauwersoog is not the easiest place to get to from Amsterdam (or Rotterdam) and we ended up giving a ride to two strangers who were stranded unable to get back home. I highly recommend renting a car if you want to do this.
More about our tour of the Wadden Sea and its unique ecosystem.
Karen and Jacob. American expats from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... We are moving to Paris!
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