Whenever I travel somewhere, I love coming across rivers and canals. Whether it be in cities or nature areas, I think a body of water always adds something extra to a place.
So when Rivertours invited me on one of their boat trips here in Belgium, I didn't hesitate. Can you believe I'd never done a boat trip on a Belgian river before?
It was time to change that.
Boat trip on the river Scheldt
Rivertours is part of a collaboration of various Belgian boat trip organizations that aims to promote all you can see and do on and along the Belgian rivers. It takes care of the bookings and practical organization of guided boat trips in East Flanders, Antwerp, Brussels, Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant, and Hainaut.
Groups can also rent out an entire boat and have boating trip custom made.
They offer “simple” guided boat trips like the one I did, but it's also possible to sign up for a boat trip that includes a guided visit somewhere along the shore, or to combine your boat trip with a bike ride along one of Belgium's many signed routes.
The river Scheldt
Most people know the Scheldt as the river that runs through the city of Antwerp. It starts in the north of France, flows through Belgium, and reaches the North Sea in Zealand in the Netherlands.
The Scheldt is divided into different sections:
- from its source in France to Ghent: “Bovenschelde” (“Upper Scheldt”)
- from Ghent to Antwerp: “Zeeschelde” (“Sea Scheldt”)
- from Antwerp to where it flows into the sea: “Westerschelde” (“Western Scheldt”)
Especially the Sea Scheldt and Western Scheldt have an abundant fauna and flora. Every year, around 230,000 waterbirds pass by here.
But the river is just as important for cargo ships making their way to the harbors of Antwerp, Vlissingen, Terneuzen, Ghent, and even Brussels. It also offers a lot of leisure opportunities.
A Sunday afternoon on the water
I was about to make use of one of those opportunities when I arrived in Temse to board one of Rivertours' pleasure boats, the Verdi. In a little less than four hours, the Verdi would take us all the way to Dendermonde and back.
Along the way, we'd pass the estuary where the Durme flows into the Scheldt, some of the idyllic towns located alongside the river, nature area “De Kramp”, as well as the polders of Vlassenbroek. All practical information about the trip I did as well as others on offer can be found here (in Dutch, use Google translate as the English site does not have this information).
It was a cloudy afternoon but nobody seemed to be bothered by that. The staff that greeted us and would serve us throughout the afternoon was cheerful and the boat was close to being full.
A large group had the lower deck, while a lot of tables at the middle deck would later be taken by people who had ordered pancakes or pie beforehand. The seats on the back deck and the upper outdoor deck were free to choose from and aside from when food was being served, you could sit inside as well.
I started on the upper deck to get a good view of the river and the shores. I lasted an hour and a half before it got too cold (Belgian summers…) and I moved to the back deck, where the boat blocked the wind coming from the front.
On our way back, I joined the people inside to work on this article while sitting at one of the large wooden tables. The Verdi has windows all around so regardless of where you choose to sit, you'll have a good view.
Thanks to the speakers, you also hear the information being shared throughout the journey no matter where you take a seat. By the way, that information isn't pre-recorded. There's a live guide on board who shares insights and fun stories about the places you pass as you pass them.
I'm usually not a big fan of guided things, but our guide had found the right balance between letting us enjoy the views and sharing information. Not only did we learn about the plants along the shore and the water works that have been planned for the following years, we also heard stories like the one about the cafe where chickens used to jump on the tables and saw which part of the Scheldt had become famous thanks to the Flemish television series “Stille Waters” (“Silent Waters”).
I thought the sound of the speakers was fine when sitting outside. Inside, it was a bit too loud for me but then again, I do think these boat trips are done quite often by seniors so that might play a role in the volume settings :-)
Oh and at one point, we passed the Mozart, another one of Rivertours' boats.
Embarking went smoothly, as did disembarking. Our boat left on time and got back in time as well. Overall, a relaxing afternoon out on the water.
Rivertours offers a wide range of boat trips in Belgium. Some of these are round trips, like the one I did, where you can make your own way to the embarkation point.
Other boat trips are one way and in that case, you go back either by bus or train. Rivertours takes care of the transportation combination but you can also choose to make your own arrangements.
The prices vary from trip to trip and each boat trip needs to be booked beforehand. It's possible to get a cold meal, a piece of pie, or a pancake on board, but you need to order those ahead of time as well. Groups who rent an entire boat, have a wider range of snacks to choose from.
While it is allowed to bring your own snacks, drinks need to be bought from the bar on board.
All available boat trips as well as other practical information can be found on the Rivertours website. This link goes to the Dutch version of the website because the information on the English site is very limited. You can use Google translate to get all the information from the Dutch website in English.
And that's it! If you have any questions about the boat trip I went on, don't hesitate to let me know.
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I was invited on this boat trip by Rivertours in order to be able to write a review about it.
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