The effect of the rising flood is rather impressive. The water pulls in at the speed of a walking person. This isn’t dangerous close to shore as the water is still shallow and you can easily walk back to the beach with the flood. However, in the sandy water you do not see Priele or holes any more, and stumbling into these deeper water currents can cause distress or even drowning. So turn around in time, and make sure you are landside from the last Priel before the water rises. After observing the rising of the flood once you’ll understand why it is so important to know the times of the changing tides.
Walking the mudflats is not dangerous during low tide and good weather but you MUST observe the hours. The time of the next high tide (Hochwasser) and low tide (Niedrigwasser) as well as the hours for swimming/bathing (Badezeit) and tideland hiking (Wattlaufzeit) are displayed on blackboards as in photo 2 everywhere at the entrances to the beach. Check because the hours of the tides change daily.
Take a watch and observe the hours.
Watch the red balls on the beach - when they are pulled up it's time to return.
Do not set out on foggy or rainy days with bad visibility or if a thunderstorm is approaching.
Don't go too far unless you're with a local who knows.
If the ground feels muddy, don't go any further. Avoid the area outside the salty meadows between Duhnen and Sahlenburg.
Take care when crossing a Priel (water current), the current may be strong. If the water becomes too deep, better not continue.
Rescue baskets (photo 1) are put up far out, in case someone gets stuck beyond the Priels. The water out there will go up to the red or even the green ring on the pole! The basket is supposed to hold up to 7 people. Not exactly comfortable!
The life saver guys are on the watch. But if they have to come and get you and it's your own fault, you'll face a nice big bill!
The Red Ball
At the life-saving stations on the beach, a red ball is pulled up when the tides change to call tideland hikers back to the shore (photos 3-5). They pull it up right after low tide has reached its lowest level. If you are far out, this means it is time to turn round and return. Close to the beach you can still keep walking for a while, but don’t go too far, don’t cross any Priel any more. See the tip about the rising flood.
The red ball can also indicate dangerous weather conditions that do not permit bathing or tideland walking. It is the official warning.
Check the weather before setting out for walks into the tidelands. If there is a thnderstorm approaching, do not go. The tidelands are entirely flat and very wet, the danger of being struck by lightning is extreme as you are the highest point.
Equally dangerous is fog. Do not go out when the sight is bad. If you don’t see the shore any more you’ll easily lose your way and walk into the wrong direction. The rows of Pricken, bundles of birch trees, help to find the way back to the shore.
The idea of a crab catching your toes with its pincers isn't too pleasant. During your first walks in the mudflats you will probably, just like I did, panic when something living tickles your feet. In 99% of the cases, the causer is completely harmless and almost invisible.
The shallow waters near the beach are full of tiny baby shrimps. Look at the first photo carefully - there are 4 of them in it.