Saturday, February 6, 2016

Driving to Mandø, an isolated island accessible only at low tide

The shallow waters during low tide allows one to explore the muddy ocean floor around Mandø
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Back in October we went to Ribe, an old Danish town full of charm and history. Ribe makes an excellent base camp for day-trips to the Wadden Sea National Park (inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list) and the close by islands of Fanø, Rømø and Mandø. Reaching each of these islands is done in different ways. The island of Fanø is connected to the mainland by ferry while the island of Rømø is connected by a 10km causeway. Mandø, however, is a tidal island so getting there is a bit more tricky yet manageable as access depends on the tide. Our local friend Ida had told us about the road to the little island Mandø. She was literally praising it and ensured us, that this trip surely was not one to miss out on. Going to Mandø allows for an unique and intimate experience with the powers of The Wadden Sea, so when planning this weekend, there was no doubt - we had to go to this isolated island! We packed some rubberboots and headed down south, ready for a weekend up and close with nature.
Simplistic scenery of extensive mudflats and tidal marshes encircling the island of Mandø
Getting to the little island of Mandø on our own, we had to take the 5km road Låningsvejen during ebb-tides. There was a short time gap of a few hours before the tide would rise again and swallow the road between the island and the mainland. It is possible to both walk or drive the stretch; we decided to drive and made multiple stops on the way to admire the tranquility of the salt marsh and the tidal flats. There is something spectacular about setting your feet on the ocean floor. A feeling of freedom rushed over us as we stood there in our rubber boots on the muddy seabed and gazed over the endless horizon. There was enough time for us to venture further out there into the 'open' sea. So we did - but with the high tide in our mind. One should never take things lightly when it comes to the power of nature.
Admire nature. Interact with nature. But most importantly, respect nature. For anyone visiting the Wadden Sea in Denmark this road is undeniably worth taking.

Before heading out to defy the forces of the sea it is advisable to study the tide schedule closely and refer to locals for advice, and just letting people know of your whereabouts if something unforseen should happen. There are stories of people, who have been caught by the tide and had to call for rescue from the top of their car roof!
When accessing Mandø one can choose to drive straight ahead to Mandø town or take the ring road around the island
Flat solitude landscapes of Mandø that would have been eaten by the sea, had it not been for the protective dikes surrounding the border of the island
The drive down Låningsvejen took a little longer than expected as we were simply marveled by The Wadden Sea magic that was unfolding itself right before our eyes. We were therefore left with little time to explore the island itself, but managed to pass by Mandø town. Here we walked the high dunes leading to the storm surge pole, which commemorates the many storm surges that have flooded Mandø over time. Again we found ourselves gazing over the sea - painting pictures in our heads of the breahtaking sunsets you could experience from this point. Going back to town we passed by the old Rescue Station now operating as a handicraft and souvenir boutique, and Mandøhuset a former sea captain’s home now turned into the district museum. What really caught our eyes though was the old windmill. They are a rare sight when we drive through the countryside of Denmark. However, once in a while one of these nostalgic beauties will cross our road and it just fills us with excitement.
The small quaint town of Mandø displays the simple lifestyle of the islanders, but nevertheless brims with plenty of history. Pass by Klithus Mandø to view the Nature exhibition about Mandø; the old Rescue Station serving as a handicraft boutique; Mandøhuset, an old sea captains home, now utilized as the district museum; Mandø Inn for a proper Danish meal; Mandø Church and the old Mandø Mill.
To the West of the town, a storm surge pole is found below the dunes and commemorates the mayhem caused by floods through out history. The worst flood took part in 1634 and forced the islanders to move the town to a higher point, exactly where the town lies today.
Ebbevej is another ocean road connecting the island Mandø with the mainland of Denmark, however this road is reserved for the official tractorbusses and icelandic horses. Nevertheless, we drove over to the starting point of Ebbevej to have a quick walk around. Unlike Låningsvejen, this road is often flooded and therefore marked with willow brooms for visual guidance. These nude sticks really added depth to the otherwise desolated scenery. Both Låningsvejen and Ebbevejen is found near the Wadden Sea Center, which to our unfortune was closed as we passed by. On the positive side, this gave us more time to admire the dynamic ecosystem of the Wadden Sea, and to simply take in some fresh air while enjoying the extensive mudflats and tidal marshes encircling the island of Mandø.
Ebbevejen is marked with willow brooms which guides the tractor bus and horses safely over the seabed to Mandø
This weekend-getaway to Ribe and the Wadden Sea National Park really made us realise what marvels are hidden within this country and why Denmark can be just as rewarding to travel in. There is still much to be uncovered of this unique natural landscape and we can't wait to step our feet back onto the ocean floor. Hopefully we will have time to go back in the nearest future, while the oyesters are still edible (Oyester hunting season from October till May) and while there is still a chance to catch the dancing starlings as they return from their winter break (in late March/early April).
Collaboration information
Our stay in Ribe was made in collaboration with Danhostel Ribe. For more inspiration on what to do and see in the Wadden Sea National Park, check out Danhostel Ribe's guide