Wildlife-loving travelers with dreams of going on safari can look to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, and…Sweden? Yes, that’s right, Sweden. It may not have the elephants, lions, and giraffes, but if you forgo the African animals in favor of Nordic species such as bear, elk, beaver, and seal, you’ll find that Sweden has a great deal to offer in the way of wildlife tourism.
A recent survey of Swedish safari tour operators shows a growing interest in wildlife tourism in the country’s vast natural areas. Interest in bear watching just keeps growing,” says Hans Nordin of Norrigården Vildmark in Hälsingland. “This year we have extended the season and supplemented it with an additional hide, and all indications are that it will be the best summer ever.
Along with bears and wolves, one of the most popular safari species is the elk, which is not what North Americans call an elk but rather the Eurasian counterpart to the North American moose. Wild Sweden is one operator that has been offering wolf, elk, and beaver safaris in Västmanland for 10 years. Guide Jan Nordin says elk are a “tourism magnet” for foreign visitors, while beaver has attracted increasing numbers of primarily Swedish tourists in recent years.
Mikael Nilsson of Nordic Discovery in the Bergslagen region says “Swedish safari tourism is met with a completely different respect than when we started 10 years ago. Then, it was just safaris with lions in Africa, and they laughed at my ideas about offering elk and beaver tours.” These days, Nordic Discovery’s visitor numbers are at an all-time high, with about half the guests coming from outside Sweden.
Getting out in nature has long been an important part of the Swedish lifestyle, and with the rising interest in organized wildlife viewing, safari tourism is becoming an increasingly viable business model. Swedish safari tourism has developed tremendously over the past 10 years. Now, we can see the creation of real jobs for talented nature guides around the country and around a wide range of exciting animal species, says Per Jiborn of the Swedish Ecotourism Society.
As interest grows, Swedish tour operators are getting creative, offering safaris to see not just large mammals but also lesser-known but equally interesting smaller animals. In southern Sweden, offerings include porpoise, catfish, and butterfly safaris. Seal safaris are available in various locations along Sweden’s long coastline, including Haparanda on the northern Baltic Sea and the Koster Islands off the west coast.
A listing of some of the best wildlife safari activities available in Sweden can be found on the website of Nature’s Best, the Swedish national ecotourism quality label.