The Dutch Islands of Tomorrow

From the Lelystad dock, the Markermeer could hardly seem less amazing. Reinforced by unlovable concrete slipways, the shallow lake, also included an inland sea which stretches for some 40km, flooding a 700sq-km expanse of the central Netherlands.

At the latest count, some 120 species of birds have arrived at Marker Wadden (Credit: Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

At the latest count, some 120 species of birds have arrived at Marker Wadden (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

As per the latest count, some 120 species of birds have arrived. There are geese, gulls, eider ducks, cormorants, waders, spoonbills and more than 2,200 nesting common terns. Its colony of pink-tinged avocets is now the biggest of its kind in the Netherlands. Four different types of insects, plus 170 different species of plants, were included.

“Welcome to Europe’s new coastline,” said Posthoorn, as we stood ankle-deep on a mudflat, gazing at the Eden-in-the-making. “By the end of next week, this will look completely different. Then, when our involvement draws to a close next year, nature will completely take over.”

Roel Posthoorn's vision has turned the Markermeer into a spectacular wildlife pocket (Credit: Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

Roel Posthoorn’s vision has turned the Markermeer into a spectacular wildlife pocket (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

“As an outsider, I had a bold idea to rescue it – to boost biodiversity,” said Posthoorn, who has a background in environmental science and nature management.

Visitors to Marker Wadden can have an experience they can’t have anywhere else in Europe (Credit: Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

Visitors to Marker Wadden can have an experience they can’t have anywhere else in Europe (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

“It was a simple equation of water, islands and nature, and yet I had difficulty explaining to people what I had in mind,” said Posthoorn. “I brought people here in a boat to explain how we would begin by reclaiming the land from the lake floor, but they still couldn’t see what I was seeing.”

“If I’m allowed to build another island after that,” said Posthoorn, smiling, “I’ll leave it entirely to nature to see what happens next.”

“Lelystad was made by people, and you can see these islands are the next step,” Adema said, the late afternoon sun casting a hazy golden light onto the beach. “They’re made by people, yet this time not for us, but for nature,” he further added.

Marker Wadden was built with reclaimed land from the Markermeer (Credit: Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

Marker Wadden was built with reclaimed land from the Markermeer (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

Once completed, the publicly accessible island’s four, frontier-style cabins for overnight volunteers and visitors to help with ongoing costs and an off-grid laboratory and research centre will run on solar power and desalinated sea-water as well. The only concession is a ferry, which will ply the Markermeer beginning next spring, offering travellers the chance to visit and locals an opportunity to reconnect with nature which they have almost lost.

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