Track Wild Bears in the Pristine Wilderness of Northern Sweden

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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 every year for one to two week durations in August.

Individuals, groups, families and students all welcome.

The cost for food, accommodation in a wooden cabin, programme materials, equipment and training starts from £440.

Scanning the opposite valley for bears Tracking bears in the mountains Making fire Canoeing and looking for beavers Pristine waters to canoe on Led by Pieter, our guide and tracker Small hamlet in the forest where project base is located Freshly caught fish for lunch Going fly fishing The proper way to boil the kettle Cooking sausages over the fire Fly Agaric mushrooms

A brown bear in the heart of the Swedish wildernessThe Project

Live in a cosy fully equipped wooden cabin in the forest just on the edge of the National Park.

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 it is likely, as the valleys carry over 30 brown bears in the area around Sånfjället 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 wA bear's paw printeek itinerary is flexible but would look like this:

 
Day 1. Pick up in Sveg, possibility to do shopping for the week. Coffee upon arrival at the base camp - Dalsvallen, orientation and talk on programme, access to amenities.

Day 2. Bear tracking and viewing (local fauna & flora discovery), local map and compass reading, basic survival skills etc.

Bear tracking volunteers hiking through the wildernessDay 3. Fly fishing course.
Day 4. Canoe/beaver tracking on the river.

Day 5. Day off for hiking Sånfjället National Park, fishing, more canoeing (if interested), extra bear tracking (if interested).

Day 6. Bear Tracking and viewing (wilderness survival).

Reindeers can also be seen at this projectDay 7. Packing up, cleaning and lift to Sveg.
 

A day of bear tracking and viewing also involves other wildlife, such as moose, reindeer etc. and information on the local flora and fauna, basic survival technique tuition. You may also 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.

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.

2014 Dates & Costs

4th to 10th August
11th to 17th August


For specific questions on dates, numbers of people (for example if you have children or want to come as a larger group) etc., please email us!
 
Costs
One week of bear viewing/tracking at Sånfjället National Park costs £440 - this includes accommodation in wooden cabin with all amenities, lunch during guided activities, coffee/tea provision, pick up and drop off to Sveg, all training, supervision and guiding whilst in the Park, WorkingAbroad backup and placement support, and so on. Your travel to Sveg, travel and medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in this price.

Lodging, Food & Travel

Food
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. For your breakfasts and dinners, you will have to cook your own food either in your tent or 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. 

 
The lodge in the Swedish wildernessLodging
You will live in a fully equipped shared cosy wooden hut with 3 rooms, bathroom, kitchen, electricity, running water etc. (left). Participants will share a wooden hut, which can fit up to 10 people in. You can also rent a private hut, but at an extra cost.  

Guiding
A volunteer catching a fishAll bear and other wildlife guiding will be done in English by our local Coordinator based at the camp on the southern edge of Sånfjället National Park.

 
Who can join?
People of all ages can join the project - this includes families, couples with children (ideally children over 10yrs old), individuals, groups and so on. Communication will be done in English, so you will need to speak at least a basic level of English - some German and Dutch is also spoken, as well as Swedish of course. No special skills are needed, however, an interest in wilderness, peace and quiet are necessary for bear viewing, as they have very developed hearing and smell and can hear us from a long way off. Anyone interested in one week's genuine nature experience would really fit in! In addition, you will need to be able to walk at least 5kms through rough terrain without any problems, be able to swim (if you go on a canoe trip), have good hiking (and/or rubber boots), have rain clothing and warm clothing (sitting still, waiting on September evenings in the fjäll (mountain) can be quite cold), have a day pack and also have your own binoculars/telescope (it is really worth bringing these!).
 
 
A close-up snap of a bear in SwedenTransportation:
You will have to arrange to travel to Sveg, which is approximately 4-5 hours north of Stockholm. International flights all arrive into Arlanda Airport, Stockholm, and from there, you can take a bus to Sveg or you can rent a car. RyanAir, the cheap fare airline also flies to Skavsta and Vasteras Airports, about 100 Kms away from Stockholm from London and Paris - check www.ryanair.com for prices.  Or check www.norwegian.com for flights into Arlanda Airport, which has very reasonable prices.  For more details on travelling to Sveg, or to Sweden, please email Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com and we would be happy to advise. Please note, it is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project:


 

A bear atop a rock in the Swedish forests

About Sånfjället National Park

Sånfjället National Park is a unique and beautiful area situated in Härjedalen, Sweden's highest county. With its 1,277.77 metres, Sånfjället rises majestically above the surrounding forests and its familiar silhouette is visible from most parts of the region. The mountain is surrounded mainly by sparse pine forests with lichen ground cover, but there are also sections of primeval spruce forest and plenty of fragrant marshes. The stream ravines close to the mountain have a rich and colourful flora, with an abundance of the high-altitude plants such as alpine blue sow thistle and Norwegian angelica. Higher up the slopes the mountain birch forest gives way to heaths, and as you near the top, the landscape turns into a sea of boulders where virtually every single rock is covered in beautiful yellow-green map lichen.
 
Sånfjället is bear country and the area has the highest density of bears in Sweden. Other large wild animals include elk and lynx, and the occasional wolf and wolverine. Some years the Norway lemming population is very high, providing pleasant company for hikers. Sånfjället also has rich birdlife - you are likely to catch a glimpse of rough-legged buzzard, golden eagle and osprey.
 

Sånfjället national park and the adjacent nature reserves offer unique opportunities for exciting and enriching activities.

 

The dense wilderness of SwedenHistory

A small part of the Sånfjället 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 Sånfjället 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.


A tree that has been gnawed at by a beaverBears

The mountain is famous for its thriving bear population and the bear is what makes Sånfjället 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.

 

Capercaillie birds are also prevalent in the Swedish wildernessClimate

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.

Volunteer Testimonials

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!

Bear tracking volunteers cooking over the camp fireI 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.

Yours,
Alexandra

ps. I have already a few families here in Belgium who would be very interested in doing a Beartracking week in Sweden..

One of our bear tracking volunteers with a fish they caughtAntoine 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:

Hi Vicky,
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

Hi Vicky,
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

Hi Vicky,
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.

Chaya and Cathy Sriranganatha spent one week in August Bear Tracking in Dalsvallen, write about their time:
 
We thought we would send a quick email to let you know how we got on in Sweden. We had an absolutely amazing time, we really loved every second of it. Lennart was so kind, generous and hospitable to us, he has such a great sense of humour. Everything about Dalsvallen was excellent, the mountain surroundings, our little cabin, wonderful breakfasts and lunches everyday and just the peace and quiet in general. We enjoyed all our hiking and both feel very fit now! We were so lucky to see 3 bears on our second day out, it was such a breath taking sight, one we will never forget! We hoped to see moose and lynx but unfortunalty didn't, although we did see very fresh print from both animals. We enjoyed also gorging ourselves on the blueberries which were everywhere and are very grateful to Lennart who completely accomodated our vegetarian diet. So, yes, all in all we had such a wonderful time and we can't wait to return again very soon.
 

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.

Another place where you can sleep at the campHow to Join

 
If you are interested in tracking bears in Sweden, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form and your deposit of £120. If for some reason, your application is declined, we would reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid one month before departure by bank transfer, or directly in SEK upon arrival. Once you have been accepted on the programme, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, suggested items to bring etc. If you apply as a family or as a group, please email me at Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com for specific details/procedures.

 

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