The arched wooden bridge built from wooden beams in the 1980s has now become a symbol of Kis-Balaton. We can enjoy a wonderful view from the bridge. We can admire such special waterfowl as the great egret, gray heron, or the cormorant, which is less popular with fishermen. On the one-and-a-half kilometer long Búbosvöcsök nature trail, 15 signs present the fish, birds, and mammals of the Little Balaton. You can also fish on the island and you can spy the water and the Zalai hills from two lookouts.
In cooler weather, a little indoor attraction is good
The Kis-Balaton Visitor Center is an exhibition of the Balaton Upland National Park that has only been open for 2 years. It is an excellent choice for the whole family all year round. You can walk along an interactive nature trail on the building's green-roofed structure, which looks like wildlife crossings. From here you can clearly see the winter bird feeders and you can hear the "opening song" of the ever more active black tit. The building houses a gift shop and a restaurant, and children can enjoy fresh air on the playground in the courtyard, while parents refresh themselves with coffee. Part of the exhibition is the cinema, where during a half-hour film we can get to know the winter-summer, autumn-spring life of Kis-Balaton through soul-touching quotes selected from the novels of István Fekete Tüskevár and Téli berek, all in the understanding interpretation of Gábor Reviczky.
In the interactive part of the exhibition, we can find out what invasive species are and why we don't like them. We will find out what the role of Little Balaton is in protecting the water quality of Lake Balaton, and we can even examine water samples ourselves.
Those who want to see even more of this magical wildlife can take part in a guided canoe tour organized by the Balaton Upland National Park from early spring to late autumn. The winter canoeing season has also started on the Hévíz stream. Those who take part in this can row along the Hévíz stream and then the Gyöngyös stream, and get to know this unique wetland. The end point of the rowing tour is Diás Island, where the Matula hut, evoking the atmosphere of Tüskevár, stands. At the István Fekete Memorial next to the small wooden hut, you can also delve into the hidden wonders of Kis-Balaton during a very interesting exhibition.
Our secret tip is the bird watch and fish ladder
Several locations in Kis-Balaton, such as the aforementioned Diás island, can only be visited with a guide, but there are still quite a few romantic and protected areas that can be visited freely without a guide. Next to the Zala river, at the dam of Lake Hídvégi, you can find the Madárvártara, which was built by Zurich students from thousands of acacia logs without any nails or screws. Next to the parking lot, 100 meters away on the fish ladder, depending on the season, you can marvel at the cavalcade of fish. The fish ladder between the Zala River and Lake Hidvégi slows down the flow of water, so that fish can easily swim upstream.
Buffaloes and other types of animals
In the Kápolnapuszta buffalo reserve, in addition to the black giants, the ground squirrels are the favorites of children and adults, who cutely graze on the grass grazed by the buffaloes. Anyone who did not know János Arany's poem Arany Lacinak would not even think that the poor groundhog was "cast". Even at the beginning of the 20th century, groundhogs were considered harmful and therefore water was poured into their passages. Other spectacular animals are the jumping goats and donkeys in the petting zoo. In the colonies dug into the loess wall, the gophers attract attention with their brightly colored feathers.
But what about buffaloes? The Balaton Upland National Park started breeding water buffalo in the area purchased in 1992 for the purpose of gene conservation. The largest herd of buffaloes in the country can be found in the territory of the reserve, which lives in great peace with the gray cattle. During the winter, the animals spend most of their time in the barn near the entrance, where you can see the traditional animal husbandry in a cozy old photo next to the buffaloes. In case of good weather, the animals are in the pastures, which can be reached in the easiest way by a horse-drawn carriage ordered from the reception building. The giants are "buffalo-strong" and do not necessarily always approach people with friendly intentions, and driving through them in a horse-drawn carriage is a real "safari" feeling. A new feature of the reserve is the viewing platform, which was handed over on January 28, from which we can now also observe the animals from above. (GPS: 46.581816, 17.20314)
Kis-Balaton House, cultural trip
Next to Zalavár, next to the foundation walls of the former St. Adorján church and the Cyril and Methodius memorial column, you can enjoy photos of the wonders of Zala county in a very cool Millennium Memorial designed by Imre Makovecz. You can read the names of the county's settlements in the letters hanging from the top of the specially shaped dome. At the Kis-Balatonház exhibition, you can learn about the living world, and children can have fun on the playground. Next to the Kis-Balaton Ház, you can reach the Kányavári island on the asphalted bicycle path on the banks of the Zala river. At the Kis-Balaton Ház you can also rent a bicycle, if you don't start on the asphalted Zala coast, but in the other direction, you can even go as far as Zalaapáti on the embankment.
Are you interested in more hiking tips in the area? Click here, because you can browse through many hiking trails, even with the help of a map.