The Wadden Sea - the tidal wetlands along the North Sea - is Denmark's biggest National Park. Here the horizon is wide and the sky goes on forever, while the colours shift in subtle hues between all the colours of the rainbow, depending on the seasons and the weather. A unique nature experience year round.
From the Danish Wadden Sea Coast just outside Ribe - Ribe Dike by Vester Vedsted (10 km) or from Kammerslusen (Ribe Pound Lock) (7 km) - the view reaches out to both Ribe and to Esbjerg as well as all the Danish Wadden Sea islands, Fano (Fanø), Mando (Mandø) and Romo (Rømø).
The amazing nature is ready to reward both adults and children with surprising adventures and fascinating nature activities.
But: Don’t walk too far out unless you are very familiar with the tides, for at high tide the water rises above your head unless you are more than 2 meters tall. Join a guided tour with a professional guide instead
What's on right now, tours etc. in the Wadden Sea National Park also see:
High lights of this year
Wadden Sea guided tour with ranger to hear about wildlife and history of the National Park
The Wadden Sea has global significance as one of the world’s 10 most important wetlands. Tidal wetlands, like the Wadden Sea, are some of the most productive ecosystems known. Plant materials, myriads of animals and micro-organisms in the sediments of the Wadden Sea make the area to one of the largest feeding grounds for migratory birds.
The total Wadden Sea National Park in Denmark, Germany and the Nederlands covers an area of 13,500 km² (5212.4mi²). The Danish’s portion of the Wadden Sea is 1,200 km² (463.32mi²) and was classified as a National Park in 2010.
Danhostel Ribe is situated in the middle of the National Park (north/south). As the protected meadow outside the door is part of the National Park, our guests can walk directly out of our door into both the Wadden Sea National Park and also into Ribe – Denmark’s oldest town. Our view to the meadow is different from season to season. Sometimes when it is completely flooded we have "sea view". The meadow is called Meadow of the Heads (Hovedengen) Read here the macabre story of how it got its name: Beheaded pirates.
Furthermore the hostel is the only accommodation in the National Park with an official ecolabel.
Danhostel Ribe and sports hall to the left. The meadow is a part of the National Park
The best way to experience the magic of the salt marsh and the tidal flats is by bicycling through it. Get a free cycle map at the reception desk and bike from Ribe, through the marsh, to Ribe Pound Lock (Kammerslusen), along the Ribe Dike and the Wadden Sea, to the Wadden Sea Centre in Vester Vedsted and back to Ribe. About 25km. Nothing disturbs the silence - except for the chirping of birds and the wind singing through the flat landscape and the reed-beds. This is a unique nature experience at any time of year.
In summer time sitting on the dike facing the sea will relax your mind and let all thoughts disappear from your consciousness - in spring and autumn in addition to this you'll see huge flocks of migration birds.
If you don’t have your own bicycle you can rent one at our Hostel: Rent a bicycle
Birdwatching is a popular activity with some of the best conditions in spring and autumn. Particularly the starling migration during spring and autumn is an incredible sight. In Denmark we call this natural phenomenon “Black Sun” because thousands of starlings cover the sun, so that it cannot be seen. Read more: Black Sun.
Also other migration birds like Sandpipers and Barnacle Geese make beautiful sights.
The Wadden Sea is one of the world’s most important feeding grounds for migratory birds. Here birds congregate by 10 to 12 million to feed and increase their weight - some twofold - before continuing to their breeding grounds in the far North or to their winter quarters far South. No other place in Denmark has as many birds during the spring and fall migrations.
Wading birds primarily eat snails, mussels and worms, and their different beak lengths mean they find different food.
Short beaked birds such as sandpipers, plovers and redshank take mud snails and mud shrimps off the surface, while long beaked birds such as godwits and curlews can find mussels and sandworms deeper in the sand. The Oystercatcher take care of the common cockles and the common mussels, which it is expert at opening with a quick attack on the hinge muscle or by crushing the shell. During high water the mussel banks are left to the eider ducks. Ducks primarily eat the many mud snails, mud shrimps and other things off the surface of the water, and some ducks supplement their diet with the many plants that grow in the marsh.
The Wadden Sea National Park also provides food for several breeding and wintering birds.
Black Sun - starling migration
Your visit to the Wadden Sea National Park could start at the Wadden Sea Centre (Vadehavscentret). The visitor Centre contains displays about the Wadden Sea, hands-on activities, video about Black Sun and a multi-media show about storm surges in the National Park. The displays are informative for all age groups.
The Wadden Sea Centre arranges a range of public walking tours and group tours in the National Park - they also arrange special guided tours and walks for kids .
Join the the Wadden Sea National Park's guided tours with ranger: These tours range from oyster safari, seal safari, "Black Sun" - called "Starling Magic" by the local rangers, to tide tours exploring the low water and the dry mudflats, walks over the sea bed to the Wadden Sea island Mandø, and The Wadden Sea for children.
Please be aware that Black Sun and other migration bird tours are during spring and autumn. Oyster tours are only available from October to April, etc.
Let the ranger show you, what you can experience of tastes, sounds, colours and sights in this video of a Oyster Tour.
A ranger from the Wadden Sea Visitor Centre tells about oyster safari in the Wadden Sea
Oysters in the Wadden Sea National Park are harvest from fall until spring. They are delicious and those you don’t eat can be kept fresh in the refrigerator if you stay at Danhostel Ribe.
During recent years Pacific oysters have been found in the Wadden Sea. They spread very quickly, and there is concern they will outcompete native mussels, and disrupt the food chain that oysters catchers, eider ducks and herring gulls depend on. The pacific oyster’s only natural enemies are humans with a taste for delicacies, because birds are unable to open their thick shells. Pacific oysters often grow twice as large as common mussels, and there are already many tons of them in the Wadden Sea. These oysters should not be able to reproduce at our latitude, as they require a temperature of 20 degrees to thrive. Oysters and Mussels can be gathered from October till May, as they are only eaten during the cool months, because oysters found in warm water can have dangerous bacteria - There is an old saying to eat oysters only in months that are spelled using the letter “R”. The tours are strenuous and not for children, and are arranged with nature guides from the Wadden Sea Centre (Vadehavscentret ved Ribe). Ask for the scheduled Oyster excursions in the Wadden Sea. Excursions for groups are arranged. Don't try to wander to the oyster beds yourself, it it dangerous because of the tides.
Here is what Simon Calder from London Evening Standard said 2013:
Swap the Oyster Card for an oyster breakfast
– feasting on the freshest seafood beneath the vastest skies.
A week ago I joined Danish naturalist Klaus Melbye on a wintry wander across the North Sea shore to the oyster beds. It felt like walking on a watery moon, save for the flock of geese sweeping across the horizon. With one eye on the tide, we sifted through the seabed in search of oysters. He prised one open, cleaned it and drained the water. And there it was: with a bit of ice and a bit of sand, the bivalve became the freshest thing I have ever eaten.
The Wadden Sea, moreover, has Denmark’s largest population of common seals (harbour seals). Also a few grey seals can be seen.
In 2011 a little less than 3,500 seals were counted in the Danish part of the Wadden Sea, in August 2012 the number had increased to approx. 5500
From 1976 -2011, the population has grown by an average of 5.7%, despite two major epidemics in 1988 and 2002. In 1976 there were less than 400 seals in the Wadden Sea.
The seals in the Wadden Sea is totally protected and now the stock of harbour seals (common seals) has increased so much that it is debatable whether it has now become a threat to fish stocks in the Wadden Sea (seals primarily eat fish), or there will soon be another epidemic.
The seals can be seen resting on offshore sandbanks. As many as 800 seals can be assembled. The sandbanks around the Wadden Sea island Mando is the Wadden Sea's most important place for seals.
Seals in the Wadden Sea
It is a pleasure to walk barefoot and look for shrimps, worms, mussels, birds, seals and much more. At the Wadden Sea Centre you can rent a Wadden Sea handcart with fishing equipment, binoculars and an activity map for children. The children can play in and learn about the Wadden Sea at the same time. Be careful. You should only be there 2 hours either side of the low tide.
Lug worms, mud shrimps, common periwinkles, mud snails, sand gapers, common shrimps, sandworms, common mussels and common cockles can be seen during low tide. Microscopic algae and plankton is the reason for the Wadden Sea’s enormous population of lower life forms, because they transform inorganic materials to organic particles.
Kammerslusen is a favorite recreational area for many Ribe citizens.
The Ribe River flows through Ribe town - passes the hostel - and has its outflow at the pound lock "Kammerslusen" at the Ribe Dike along the Wadden Sea. The pound lock has a chamber (=kammer in Danish =the pound) with gates at both ends that automatically close when high tide and open again at low tide.
If we have high water in the Wadden Sea over a longer period, the gates do not open, and therefore water accumulate in the river and starts to spread out across the marshes - all the way to Ribe.
At such times - often a large part of the winter - you will see water on both sides of main road A11 around Ribe. On the Ribe side of the road, the water goes up all the way to the bank around the hostel (Danhostel Ribe) and gives the hostel guests a "sea view". See more photos and read more: Storm surges.
Boats and small ships can still get through Kammerslusen when it is closed, because the boat is locked in between the 2 locks before the next lock opens. However, this requires that you get hold of the lock operator, as this work takes place manually.
Danhostel Ribe with "sea view" when the meadow is flooded
Take a tour over the seabed to the small Wadden Sea island Mandø (Mando).
It is a fantastic nature experience to drive across the bottom of the sea and study nature and animal life. The tour takes approximately 3/4 of an hour with the Mandø bus or with the Mandø tractor bus from Vester Vedsted (10 km from the hostel) - both tractors that draw a "bus" with passengers trough the Wadden Sea.
Two of Denmark’s most remarkable roads, Låningsvejen and Mandø Ebbevej, go from Vester Vedsted to Mandø Island. Both roads are submerged by the tide twice daily. Låningsvejen is open to the public, if you know the tide, and know when the tide is out. Ebbevejen may only be used by the Mandø Island busses, which transports mail, students and tourists to and from the island. The Mandø Island bus schedule is also controlled by the tides. The schedules can be seen on the noticeboards at the hostel
The Wadden Sea island by the North Sea in Southern Denmark has the widest beach in Scandinavia.
Romo island is famous for its exceptionally wide white beaches, which are up to 2km wide. In fact its narrowest point is still almost 700m wide. So why not go spend an enjoyable sunny day on the beach. It is often possible to drive a car right down to the water's edge.
Plants such as common sea-lavenders, glassworts, and sea plantains grow in the beach meadows and tolerate being flooded by salt water. Glassworts are usually the first plants to grow in the marsh, and Common Cordgrass become dominant in subsequent years. It was imported from England for its ability to bind and hold the sand.
Ebb and flood alternate along the Wadden Sea coast.
Every 24 hours there are 2 floods and two ebb tides, at six hours intervals. The reason for the variations in water depth is the moons gravitational pull. The moon is smaller than the earth, and the earth’s gravity cause the moon to revolve around the earth. But the moon's gravity is strong enough to influence the liquid part of the earth’s surface, the ocean.
About one third of the Danish Wadden Sea is submerged at low tide, while two thirds are exposed. The tide moves 1 billion cubic meters of water back and forth over the salt march.
During low tide an immense amount of food is exposed to birds, and they take advantage of this bounty.
The marsh is land deposited by the ocean. Its composition is particles of the oceans living organisms, fine grained sand and clay. It is called silt.
Because the silt deposited during each tide is so fine, the deposit left each year is only 1-2 cm thick.
Fences made of two rows of poles about a half-meter apart, and filled with branches, have been built out from the coast to gain land and to encourage silting. The water easily passes through these fences at high and low tide, but each time a little silt is left behind.
When the deposits reach a certain level it becomes economically feasible to dike the land so it doesn’t flood. A number of fresh-water plants begin to grow, but the soil is still very wet and is mostly used for grazing sheep and cattle.
In recent years preservation has become important, and the silt farms are only used for maintenance and to preserve the coastline in a few places, like along Låningsvejen to Mandø.
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