Five students have set out to navigate over 400 kilometres of rivers and canals in Belgium, some of it against the current.

The group left the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands on Saturday, and plans to arrive in Ostend, on the North Sea, in three weeks’ time after passing through Liège, Namur, Mons, Tournai and Ghent.

The kayakers will produce a short documentary based on their journey to boost eco-tourism in Belgium. In this way, they aim to promote “local adventure, the beauty of our Belgian landscapes and environment-friendly travel free of greenhouse-gas emissions.”

“We have 100 km on the Meuse, and part of the Sambre upstream, but we found it nicer to have the sea as our destination,” team member Igor De le Vingne said.

The students have launched an online fund that will remain open until their estimated date of arrival in Ostend, 12 September. The donations will be deposited with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to finance the “Plus de place pour la nature en Belgique” (More Room for Nature in Belgium) project, aimed at creating and protecting an ecological network of rivers and forests in the country.

“The aim is for animals like the wolf and the otter to be able to move around freely,” Igor said.

So far the fund has received €500.

Two students were set to begin the expedition on Saturday in Maastricht, and three others will join them in Namur on Friday 28 August, after their resits.

“We checked with the tourism offices and the municipalities we will be passing through to make sure it was possible,” De le Vingne explained.

The 450 km of non-navigable stretches along which kayaking is authorised in Wallonia are in fact closed for the moment due to the drought, but the expedition is following a different route.

The Brussels Times

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