Black Sun - starlings. Denmark's most famous natural phenomenon

Wadden Sea National Park UNESCO World Heritage. Year round adventures

The Wadden Sea is a natural wonder inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. This photo is taken from Låningsvejen to Mandø. From here you can easily look all the way to Esbjerg. It's about 20 km (12,5 miles) as the crow flies
The Wadden Sea is a natural wonder inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. This photo is taken at “Låningsvejen” to Mandø. From here you can easily see all the way to Esbjerg, a distance of  20 km (12,5 miles)

Amazing nature adventures in Denmark

A first impression of the Wadden Sea may be that it is an endless mudflat without life. The sea and the sky merge into one and the horizon goes on forever. But the area is full of life – so join us on an amazing wildlife experience in the Danish part of the Wadden Sea  near Ribe, Scandinavia’s oldest town. Find inspiration for tours all year round – such as culinary adventures, family-friendly outings and incredible tours for all bird and wildlife lovers.

The UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea in Denmark. The ebb path to Mandø – 10 km from Ribe.
The UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea in Denmark. The ebb path to Mandø. 10 km from Ribe.

The Wadden Sea is a natural wonder on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

But first – let’s tell you a little about the importance of the Wadden Sea, which is a natural wonder of unique global importance. It is inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Wadden Sea  extends 500 km/310 miles along the North Sea coast of the Nederlands, Germany and Denmark, which makes it the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats. It is home to more than 10,000 species of plants and animals ranging from tiny microscopic creatures to snails, crabs, oysters, birds and seals – many of which are rare or endangered. In 2014, the Wadden Sea World Heritage was extended with the Danish part.

The UNESCO WADDEN SEA World Heritage logo
WADDEN SEA World Heritage logo

Read more about the UNESCO WADDEN SEA World Heritage on their own homepage: www.waddensea-worldheritage.org

A huge flock of sandpipers foraging in the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea National Park
A huge flock of sandpipers foraging in the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea National Park

Buffet for 10 to 12 mill. migratory birds

Twice a day the seabed is revealed by the low tide, exposing a veritable buffet for birds foraging on the mudflats. Hidden in the mud, there are up to 100,000 crustaceans, worms, snails, and clams living in one cubic metre of water, mud and sand.
10 to 12 mill. migratory waterbirds stay here every spring and autumn to rest and forage before flying on to their breeding grounds in north in spring, or back to their wintering grounds in the south in autumn.
6 million migratory birds can be present in one place at the same time.
Follow the migratory birds from the Arctic to Africa and back again in this little cartoon: Flyway Bird Migration

Giant flocks of barnacle geese forage in the Ribe marshland during autumn and spring. As the winters have not been as cold the last few years, many of them now also stay  through winter
Giant flocks of barnacle geese forage in the Ribe marshland during autumn and spring. As the winters have not been as cold the last few years, many of them now also stay  through winter

Not all birds choose to stay in the same place

“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth, then I ask myself the same question”. A travel quote by Harun Yahya.
Migratory birds are capable of flying incredible distances.  An example is the small sandpiper called a red knot (Calidris canutus), which travels up to 15,000 km/9300 miles twice a year. After arriving in the Wadden Sea it weighs only 100 grams, when it leaves again its weight has increased to 230 grams.

Black sun starlings in Ribe, Denmark.See also the top photo on this blog post.
Black Sun – starlings in Ribe, Denmark. See also the top photo on this blog post.

Black Sun.
Denmark’s most famous natural spectacle

The most famous natural spectacle in Denmark is called Black Sun  (Danish: Sort Sol) and attracts thousands of tourists to the Wadden Sea National Park every spring and autumn.
Just before sunset hundreds of thousands of starlings gather from all corners of the sky to perform an impressive aerial ballet, during which they make constantly changing shapes in the sky. You can say that the starlings darken the sky, when they are circling around, that’s why we call this nature phenomenon Black Sun.

The range of the tide is almost 2 meters, so unless you are very familiar with the tides  you shouldn’t walk out on the sea bed yourself
The range of the tide is almost 2 meters, so unless you are very familiar with the tides you shouldn’t walk out on the seabed yourself

Beware of the tides. Join a guided tour

The range of the tide in the Wadden Sea near Ribe is almost 2 meters, so unless you are very familiar with the tides you shouldn’t walk out on the seabed yourself, as you might be caught too far out when the high tide starts rolling in.
We suggest that you join one of the guided tours.
At the bottom of this blogpost we have listed a number of tourguides, who arrange tours in the Wadden Sea National Park close to Ribe.

See the largest oyster in the world at Vadehavscentret ved Ribe (the Wadden Sea Centre Ribe)
See the largest oyster in the world at Vadehavscentret ved Ribe (the Wadden Sea Centre Ribe)

The world’s largest oyster found near Ribe

A staff member at Vadehavscentret ved Ribe (the Wadden Sea Centre Ribe) found the largest oyster in the world in the Wadden Sea about 10 km/6 miles from Ribe. The record is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.  For your chance to improve the record, you can join an oyster tour during the winter months – October, November, December, January, February, March and  April . All months with a “r” except September. You might even be lucky enough to find pearls in your oysters, like the  very lucky oyster hunter on a tour with Mandø Event who found 30 pearls in one oyster.
Fresh oysters with a little squeeze of lemon is a delicacy – a glass of champagne is the finishing touch. You can  eat as many as you want  and collect all you can carry in your bag.

A family explorer tour in the Wadden Sea National Park, UNESCO World Heritage, Ribe, Denmark
A family explorer tour in Denmark

Sea Explorer.  A family friendly activity

At first glance you won’t see many of the small animals living on the seabed, but by joining one of the most popular guided tours,  the Sea Explorer family tour arranged by Vadehavscentret in Ribe (the Wadden Sea Centre), you will see them. These tours take place in the summer months and are the perfect family tour.  Walkíng barefoot through the soft mud,  you and your children will have a blast exploring the Wadden Sea, while trying to find beach crabs, small shrimps, mud snails and all the other creatures living here.

Seal tour with a horse-drawn carriage from Mandø
Seal tour with a horse-drawn carriage from Mandø. See “Explore with a professional guide” at the bottom of this blog post

Seal tours in the Wadden Sea National Park

From August when the seals have finished breeding and feeding their baby seals the Wadden Sea Centre (Vadehavscentret ved Ribe) arranges seal tours to the seal banks. It’s a challenging  hike and you must be able to walk at least 6 km/3,6 miles on the seabed. The tour includes an introduction of the biology of the seals at the Wadden Sea Centre and tickets to the tractor bus to Mandø. Don’t forget your binoculars.
Tour operators on the island Mandø also arrange seal tours in the Wadden Sea (read: “Explore with a professional guide” at the bottom of this blog post)

Mudflat walking during sunset
Mudflat walking during sunset

A guided mudflat hike during sunset

Another adventure you will never forget is to cross the seabed on foot to the Wadden Sea island of Mandø during sunset. As you walk the 8 km./5 miles to Mandø during low-tide, the tranquility of nature surrounds you and gives you tremendous sense of peace. The quiet beauty is only interrupted by the wind and the birds and now and then by the guide’s voice explaining about things you might see during your walk.
The tour is arranged by Vadehavscentret ved Ribe (the Wadden Sea Centre Ribe) and mostly takes place during the summer months. The Mandø tractor bus takes you back to the mainland.

The Mandø tractor buses bring tourists from the mainland to the Wadden Sea island Mandø
The Mandø tractor buses bring tourists from the mainland to the Wadden Sea island Mandø

Island of Mandø – only accessible by low tide

No real roads lead to  Mandø (Mandoe), but the Mandø tractor buses – Mandøbussen and Mandø Traktorbus – bring tourists from Vester Vedsted (10 km./6 miles from Ribe) over the seabed/ebb road to  Mandø during low tide. From the beginning of May till mid-October the tractor buses departe by low tide most days, though sometimes only once per day.
It is also possible to access the island by Låningsvejen, which is usually passable for private car, though not bicycles, during low tide if the westerly wind is not too strong. It is strongly advised that you  consult tide and weather conditions before you set out. We think the best way to enjoy the island is to take one of the tractor buses.

Sheep and lambs on the Wadden Sea and North Sea island Mandø
Sheep and lambs on the Wadden Sea and North Sea island Mandø

Mandø – a paradise for nature lovers

Mandø is the smallest of the 3 inhabited Wadden Sea islands in Denmark. Around 30 people live on the island,  and they are forced to adapt their daily lives to fit in with the tides and the storm surges in the Wadden Sea.  As Mandø is the most difficult island to reach, it is an unspoiled paradise for bird and seal  watchers and those who want to collect oysters.

National Park Partner, Danhostel Ribe is a great stopover for bicycle tourists in Denmark
National Park Partner, Danhostel Ribe is a great stopover for bicycle tourists in Denmark

Cycling – a great way to get out and about in the National Park

Why not do as these five young French travelers and rent a bike at Danhostel Ribe,  and enjoy a beautiful sunset picnic while sitting on  the dike at Kammerslusen ( the Ribe Lock) – where the Ribe River flows into the North Sea (6 km = 3,5 miles).

Spend a day cycling through the Ribe Marches along Ribe River to the Wadden Sea Coast at Kammerslusen, then follow the dike along the North Sea Cycle Route south to Vester Vedsted and back to Ribe.  Approx. 25 km./15,5 miles (In Denmark is the North Sea Cycle route identical with the Danish National Cycle Route no. 1)
The National Park stretches all the way from the meadow outside the hostel and all the way to the coast, from where the area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can cycle the whole distance – bring your own bike or rent one at the hostel, where you can also get a map.
Danhostel Ribe, a National Park Partner, welcomes cycling tourists and is quality labeled with both Bed+Bike and Cycling Denmark

The view of Ribe hostel from the harbour, in winter with the flooded meadow
The view of Ribe hostel from the harbour, in winter with the flooded meadow

The National Park in Ribe, Denmark

One part of Ribe town is included in the Wadden Sea National Park, called Hovedengen (Meadow of the Heads) outside the hostel, where pirates where once decaptiated as punisment. Some of the hostel is even included in The National Park. The hostel is the only eco-friendly accredited accommodation in The National Park (Green Key, Flower or Swan) and makes it an obvious choice if you are looking for sustainable accommodation.

The guides from Vadehavscentret arrange tours that are open to anybody as well as  group tours
The guides from Vadehavscentret arrange tours that are open to anybody as well as  group tours

Explore with a professional guide:

  • Vadehavscentret ved Ribe (The Wadden Sea Centre) in Vester Vedsted 10 km./6 miles from Ribe arranges tours including Black Sun Magic, starling migration (March, September and October), other bird watching tours, Sea Explorer (Summer), seal tours (August, September and October), oyster tours ( October, November, December, January, February, March and April, mudflat hike to Mandø (summer), tours on Mandø (summer), herb picking tours for making your own schnapps.  Vadehavscentret schedules tours during periods which present the least disturbance to nature and wildlife
  • Tours from Mandø. 22 km/13,5 miles from Ribe (remember to be aware of the tides and weather conditions )
    • Mandø Event arranges tours with horse carriage in the Wadden Sea around Mandø: seal tours (May-October), oyster and champagne tours  (from September until spring) as well as sunset tours
    • Mandø Traktorbusser arrange seal tours with a tractor bus to the sand bank Koresand south west of Mandø. Koresand is flooded by high tide and can only be  visited during low tide. (May-October)
  • At the Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseet i Esbjerg ( Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg ) 34 km/ 21 miles from Ribe you can see the seals being fed in the sealarium every day at 11am and 2.30pm and go on mudflat walks in the Wadden Sea during July and August
  • 50 km (= 31 miles) south of Ribe (towards Germany) Sort Safari arranges  tours including Black Sun, Bird Watching, winter geese and swans tours, Oyster and Seal tours
Oyster catcher with a lugworm in its beak and a redshank in the Wadden Sea. Ribe, Denmark
Oyster catcher with a lugworm in its beak and a redshank in the Wadden Sea. Ribe, Denmark. (Photo taken on the ebb road , Låningsvejen, to Mandø)

– don’t forget to book your room

at Danhostel Ribe. Read more about the hostel: Danhostel Ribe
All rooms have bath/toilets and half of them have a view of Ribe old town and the Wadden Sea National Park

Book Online at Danhostel Ribe
Book Online at Danhostel Ribe

© Hope you have enjoyed our photos.
All photos were taken by Gudrun Rishede, Danhostel Ribe

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