He nearly drowned in the Sahara...

My little Belgian homeland is known for it: at the sight of a single sunbeam, a mass migration takes place towards the coast. As a result, the roads are jammed with traffic.
Imagine hours of restless waiting in the car while you have but today to enjoy the sun.
Scary right?

Luckily, Belgium offers plenty of other alternatives to spend the day outdoors. We recently decided to check out the Lommelse Sahara for the first (but probably not the last) time.

This protected nature reserve offers a wide variety of plant species, making it a treat to explore the large domain of 193 hectares.

Depending on your mood, you can spend your day being active (hiking, cycling, horseback riding) or you can keep it more relaxed. We chose a combination of both and started by following the 12km hiking trail.

It lead us from open spaces to blooming heathlands and then straight up the wide pine forest.

‘The strong scent of pines will instantly shift you off to warm summer nights.’

From there, we entered the lake area. Surrounded by sand and dunes, this spot has 'beach feeling' written all over it! The perfect place for us to take a break and enjoy nature's peace and quiet at one of the many little inlets surrounding the water. I think we got exactly 5 minutes of relaxation before some overexcited dogs came splashing around the corner, scaring the hell out of us! (So much for keeping them on a leash...)

Although it’s forbidden to swim in the lakes, dogs and children do tend to seek out refreshment in the water on those rare hot summer days. And now and then you have the occasional daredevil who accidently ends up in the water. Too bad I didn’t capture Bernd flipping his Windpouch and falling in... :D. (Thank you sixth sense for telling me to let him go first!).

We decided to continue our hike and started treading through the loose sand. Fitness program of the day: check! 
Pretty soon we got a glimpse of the 30m high watchtower and so we hurried over there.

Three different levels and 144 steps led us to the top where we got to enjoy a 360° view of the surroundings. Afraid of hights? Then just circle around the tower and enjoy its unique structure made out of steel, wood and draped ropes. These last ones were designed to symbolise the lines formed by the dunes in the Sahara.

Strategically placed at a point where hikers, bikers and riders cross each other’s paths, you’re not likely to miss it!

If you've gotten curious about The Lommelse Sahara, then the following might come in handy:

De Souverein, Sportveldenstraat 10, 3920 Lommel
This is a stadium, so lots of parking as long as there’s no big soccer game planned!

There are no real bars or restaurants in the park, so bring everything you need. (drinks, food, beachwear, ...)
! Please take all of your garbage with you when leaving! (There are almost no trash bins either)

Dogs: must stay at a leash at all time
! There is a large fenced area where they can run around freely.

Walks: There are 3 hiking trails, marked by different colours and forms.

  • Blue = 2,9 km (the children walk)
  • Orange = 5,9 km
  • Red = 12 km

    ! The blue walk offers two play elements for children and takes you through the ‘Play Forest’. This part in the forest with giant toys made out of natural materials is an ideal spot to entertain the children at noon when the sun is too hot. Tip: bring a ball!

     ! Near the end of the 12km walk, there's a small part where you walk next to a busy road. This was such a contrast with the rest of the day that we would have prefered to return at the pedestrian bridge (which by the way is also an architectural piece of art) should we have known.

    To test next time:
    Rent a hammock for free.
  • Available at the counter of the Souverein
  • Although free, you'll have to leave them your passport or 50€ as a guarantee
  • Inside the little backpack is a list with the best spots to install your hammock