Mudflat hiking in the Wadden Sea

An active mini-break in Holland

shoes for the wadden seaFor years we went to the north of the Netherlands some weekend in September to spend time with friends. Whether that weekend would be at the beginning of September or at the end depended on the tides, because we would hike from the coast to the island Schiermonnikoog and we didn’t want to walk at ungodly hours.

I guess I went about seven times and every time I was in awe all over again. The Wadden Sea is a beautiful part of Holland and it is so strange to have the impression to walk over water.
Walking over water sounds light-footed which the tour certainly is not, but you can’t see how deep the water is and most of the times it’s only a couple of inches.


UNESCO’s World Heritage List – A unique intertidal zone

The Wadden Sea is a part of the North Sea and stretches from Den Helder in the Netherlands to Esbjerg in Denmark. The Dutch and the German part are on the World Heritage List, like Uluru and the Grand Canyon.

At first impression it looks like only water and sand, but the flora and fauna is unique because of the tides. Twice a day the water retreats from the sandy soil turning the mass of water into a muddy area with puddles and gullies.

From April until October it’s possible to cross the sea on foot under the guidance of a trained pilot. We always had the same guide despite the fact that both him and me nearly drowned on my first trip.

Checking the last bits while we are still on the dike (the guides are the ones with the poles)

Not a trip for people who are afraid to get dirty

Before starting the hike the guides will check all the shoes. Anyone wearing shoes that are not tied above the ankle is not allowed to come along. Basketball shoes are ideal because we can throw them in the washing machine the next day.

Right at the start I could make pictures, later on that would have been a big mistake

The first 500 meters of the Wad is mire in which you sink knee-deep. It’s the most difficult part of the hike. And you have to move on this first part, because standing still means sinking even deeper and not coming out again on your own.

After that it gets better. The dirt will wash off in the gullies where we wade through and by the time we arrive at Schiermonnikoog we only have sea sand in our shoes.

How about the shoes and the legs now?

olieplatformBeauty or horror?

Unfortunately even in this deserted and empty area there are some derricks for the extraction of natural gas.
And although I can enjoy the beauty in technical buildings and machines, I hate to see them in this beautiful sea. Which means I can buy this picture for my wall and at the same time participate in a demonstration against drilling.
How is that for inconsistency. 🙂

Frugal Dutch, Saving the fare for the ferry

Schiermonnikoog is a great island. There are no tourist cars allowed and lots of bicycles for hire. We used to spend the night at a campground or in a hotel and then go for a bike ride the next day. At the end of a lazy Sunday we would take the ferry back to the mainland.

In all the years we went for the Wad Walk we always walked from the coast to the island and never the other way around. I really don’t know if that was on purpose but we did save ourselves the ticket for the ferry every time. You only pay for the fare on the way going to the island.

Walking on water

Necessities on the Wad. These are the things you really need.

  • Garbage bags are on the list. You need to stuff everything in the bag and then put the bag in the backpack.
  • Same tip as for the shoes: get the cheapest backpack. You’re not going to climb the Mount Everest and everything is bound to get wet and dirty.
  • Energy bars don’t take up a lot of space and are great for the short breaks.
  • Energy drinks come in different flavors. I always prefer to take both energy drinks and water.
  • High basketball shoes. Take the cheapest pair of shoes you can find. Afterwards I throw my shoes in the washing machine so they don’t need to be too fancy.

Tours start from Pieterburen

Most tours are about 11 kilometers and last 3 to 4 hours with a couple of breaks. Okay, there are no benches on the Wad, so it’s make do with the breaks, but if you prepare well, you’ll be fine.

You have to be older than 14 years and taller than 1,65 meters which is 5.4 feet.

Tell me

Have you ever heard of mudflat walking? Put it in the commentbox below.

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