A volunteer programme for those seeking a short term deep wilderness and wildlife tracking experience, an alternative to a holiday, and ideal for a short break, families, couples with children, retired folk, travellers, nature enthusiasts, wildlife photographers, and so on. Live in the heart of pristine Swedish wilderness.
Volunteers can join for one or two week durations in August each year.
Individuals, groups, families and students all welcome.
The cost for food, accommodation in a wooden cabin, programme materials, equipment and training starts from £465.
Bear tracking or bear viewing is made with respect for the bears and on nature terms - absolutely no baits.
This means there is no guarantee you will see a bear, but there is a chance, as the valleys carry over 30 brown bears in the area around Sonfjällets National Park where you will be staying and hiking. There will be hideouts and special areas where you can sit and scan the valleys with your binoculars or camera. Basically you will be spending a week watching wildlife and being immersed in a wilderness setting that is becoming rare in the world. You will have clean pure water to drink straight from the streams and lakes, golden eagles nesting on the tree tops, beavers building their nests alongside the river banks, predatorial wildlife living freely, such as lynx, wolverine and bear, as well as other wildlife, such as reindeer, moose, deer and so on. Also a special silence that only wilderness provides.
The one-week itinerary is flexible but would look like this:
A day of bear tracking and viewing also involves other wildlife, such as moose, reindeer etc. and information on the local flora and fauna, collecting wood and fire making. You may also have the chance to visit the bear's hibernation dens to see how they live throughout the winter months.
A day of bear viewing usually lasts 8 hours and can go late into the night during the summer periods when bears and other wildlife are more active. So a head torch is essential.
This wildlife volunteering project is therefore suited for those with an interest in the natural world, particularly endangered ecosystems and the tracking of rare species.
You will be provided with a day time simple meal on each of the guided activities, as well as coffee snacks whilst out in the National Park. Most lunches will be packed lunch that will be eaten whilst bear viewing or if the activity leaves in the afternoon until the evening, you will have a hot meal provided around the fire.
For your breakfasts and other non activity meals, you will have to cook your own food in your wooden cabin according to your tastes, and will have the opportunity to buy food for your meals on Day one - access will be provided to shops for this - about 45 mins drive from closest town with shopping and telephone facilities.
All bear and other wildlife guiding will be done in English by our local Coordinator based at the camp on the southern edge of Sonfjällets National Park.
Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project:
Expansive Northern Wilderness and elusive bears at our Bear Tracking Project in Sweden - here is a short video clip - captivating the one week experience where volunteers are taught bushcraft and tracking skills and experiencing the sense of freedom that only the wilderness can bring:
Below is an interactive video, a 360 degree view of the Bear Tracking lookout point created by previous volunteer Stuart Collier:
Sonfjällets national park and the adjacent nature reserves offer unique opportunities for exciting and enriching activities.
A small part of the Sonfjället mountain was designated as a national park as long ago as 1909, and was one of the first in Europe. There was a desire to preserve a forest and mountain area in the southern mountain range and Sonfjället was chosen because its lichen-covered heaths were relatively undamaged by reindeer's grazing and trampling. Another reason was a need to protect the area's bear population, which was very small at the time. In 1984, the national park was extended from 27 to 104 km2, encompassing the entire mountain plateau and a significant part of the surrounding forest.
The mountain is famous for its thriving bear population and the bear is what makes Sonfjället special. The bears live mainly in the area at the foot of the mountain but in the late summer and autumn they move up to the berry grounds on the south and southeast slopes to fatten up for winter. Bear tracks are quite common and easy to see for an attentive hiker. Look for droppings, paw prints, disturbed anthills and scratch marks on trees. The bear is an omnivore and therefore is rarely short of food. The bear is generally a peaceful animal, and is often more scared of you than you of them! Don't confuse the bear found here with the Grizzly Bear whose reputation can give people the wrong impression about bears. The only incident that occurred with a bear in this region was in 1909 when an old woman hit the bear on the head with a broomstick! Nonetheless, more details on how to behave should you meet a bear will be discussed when you arrive. In general though, if you see a bear, it will be from a distance.
During the months of August and September, the days are still very light and you can be bear viewing and tracking until midnight, in particular for August. The deciduous parts of the forest start to turn yellow and red and the autumn air sets in. Snow only comes in October and stays until end April, early May - (some of the photos on the site are taken in April when snow was still lying in places). Temperatures in August and September can range from 10 up to 20 degrees and it can feel pleasantly warm, although it can rain too! Good hiking, outdoor clothes are needed.
David Archer from the UK was part of the project for 2 weeks in August 2017:
From hiking to bear tracking to canoeing, the two weeks was all I could have hoped for in a fabulous setting. Pieter, Elena and Adam were amazing guides who were always happy to help and answer any questions; I learnt a lot from them. The food was delicious and I was pleased they could cater for my gluten-free diet. I met a great bunch of people too along the way and enjoyed seeing lots of animals in the wild; beavers, moose, reindeer, roe deer, red squirrels and was lucky enough to see three bears! I really couldn’t have wished for a better holiday.
Carol Donaldson from the UK joined for 1 week in August 2017:
I loved my time in Sweden. The best thing was the chance to live with people from all over the world. I spent the whole week laughing. The scenery was great and Pieter and Adam worked really hard to take us somewhere interesting each evening, even when the weather did not play ball. Adam was a great tracker and I really hope he runs a tracking course soon.
I enjoyed the variety of activities and the free time which allowed everyone to chill and do there own thing. I think you do need to be pretty fit for this holiday. We walked at speed up very steep slopes so anyone out of shape would struggle. Overall I had a great fun time.
Olivier Jansen from Belgium joined the project in August 2017:
I really enjoyed this project for many reasons. First of all, I loved the place we stayed at because it was cozy, not too big and distant from everything. The view we had when we looked up through the window was just amazing. I will always remember the mist getting up on the hills covered by forests and the small pound behind the house where we swam.
Second, I had a good time with the guides which I found really interesting. The group of people I met was nice and I had a lot of fun with them. Campfires, tracking and living together in a small house helped to bring happiness and laughs. Third, I liked the activities we made. I was exactly looking for something like this. Although the waiting time to see wildlife was long, without any certainty to see something, it was still worth waiting. The wonder full landscape and the excitement we had when we saw authentic wildlife made indeed up for the waiting time.
I hope many other people will do this project because it make you feel great and you discover the Swedish nature without disturbing the wildlife and by being respectful towards the Swedish ecostystems.
Christophe, Gilles and Amelie, 3 Biology students from Belgium, write about their time at the Bear Tracking Project in August:
An adventure in Sweden
Our heroes arrived Monday after a long travel through the land and sky of Sweden. Three Belgians, one Swiss and one American. In the valley of Odin, they survived all kinds of danger, like swarms of mosquitoes and the extreme climate. They went on an epic quest to find the big brown bears of Harjedalen. They climbed mountains, crossed valleys and paddled on wild rivers to achieve their goal. They stumbled on beavers, fish, moose and reindeers, but no bear was seen that week. They prayed to the mighty Odin and the powerful Thor, and even to the cunning Loki but even the Gods were out of bears (and vipers). Still the heroes were satisfied and we thank Pieter and Elena for this amazing journey.
Alexandra Salmon-Bobek, her husband and 3 boys spent 1 week on the project
We just got back yesterday from Sweden. What a great week we had with Pieter. It was all perfect, we enjoyed every moment, the canoeing especially. For the kids the highlights were the fishing and the cooking on fire outdoors. They loved Pieter and were happy that he spoke German to them!
I can recommend this week to every family who loves untouched nature and the outdoors and being away from mass tourism! Thanks again for the organisation, we will for sure recommend this to friends with kids.
P.S. I have already a few families here in Belgium who would be very interested in doing a Beartracking week in Sweden.
Antoine Schmid from Switzerland, writes about his time on the project
Had a fantastic time in Sweden, great group of people, we stayed five in one cabin and a couple had their own private cabin. Great atmosphere in the cabin...
We did lots of hiking, saw some reindeer on the other side of the valley, and on a canoe trip lots of beaver dams and a beaver swimming along... lots of other birds and fowls, a capercailie...an osprey....
Also learned how to go fly fishing, which is not as difficult as it seems, at least to get started...caught a fish and gutted it and then barbecued it for lunch, rainbow trout I think.
Staying on the boat in Stockholm was nice, most of us stayed there on the last night, was nice to be there having a beer and sad to say goodbye to people....
Super friendly guide too!
Maria Delapena, writes about her time there:
It was great. The whole fire, trekking, learning about wildlife and just being in the great outdoors and getting to observe it was wonderful. Pieter is a very well knowledgeable man and you can tell he really enjoys the outdoor - I learnt a lot.
The houses are lovely and it was good that there was a mid week 'day off' as for me, I know I wanted to just enjoy being in a peaceful, scenic environment and take it all in. Another thing I would say is you feel very safe there and with Pieter. You can certainly trust that no accidents will happen.
3 Bear Trackers wrote this about their experience:
I had a really good time on the course and it was amazing seeing those animals in the wild! Would definitely do it again. Pieter is a really friendly and knowledgeable guy, and I learned a lot from him.
Thanks, Jamie Donaldson
Just a quick note to say how wonderful our bear tracking experience has been. Peter is great, lovely, laid back guy and very knowledgeable.The programme was really well balanced with walks, activities and spare time and suited both myself, active, and my boyfriend, not so active. On our spare day we helped him working on his farm stacking hay into his barn. It was so much fun!
Thank you, Claudia Brambilla
Just wanted to say thanks very much, I had an amazing time in Sweden, the best holiday I have been on in years (probably since I did Ocean Spirits in Grenada!). Mary Holden.
Also thank you very much for all of you help in organising our trip, booking us on to the bus that took us to and from Hede (which was excellent) and also recommending the hostel boat, which we also really liked. It made our day in Stockholm very enjoyable. So thank you for all of your help.