Seal Safari in Koster National Park
Kosterhavet National Park houses one of Sweden’s largest harbour seal colonies, and to the southwest lies Ursholmen's lighthouse with its parallel black dolerite dykes – the work of the devil with a harrow, they used to say. Join the seal safari, and simultaneously get a taste of Sweden’s first marine national park.
West Coast harbour seals are only half the size of their cousins in the Baltic Sea - the grey seals. Unlike grey seals, which give birth to their pups on the ice in late winter, harbour seals have their pups during the weeks around midsummer. Respecting the national park’s different seal sanctuaries, especially in early summer, is therefore important.
During the summer, the M/S Kosterskär departs from Strömstad or Daftö in the morning. An hour later, the boat makes its first stop at Ekenäs where those that wish to explore South Koster disembark. On the journey over, you are told about the Koster Islands’ history and the national parks’ wildlife resources. Then the tour continues through the narrow Koster Sound, with its huts and fishing boats, and out into Koster archipelago’s myriad of islands and islets. The goal is Ursholmen’s lighthouse in the southwest, and on the way there, be on the lookout for seals. There are plenty of gulls and eider, and sometimes some guillemots or an Arctic Skua turn up in pursuit of a tern or gull to steal their prey. If you observe closely and have luck on your side, you can even see a porpoise’s dorsal fin breaking the surface.
Kosterhavet’s harbour seals are almost always around, whether soaking up the sun on the rocks or popping up around the boat with their dog-like heads curious to see who’s visiting. There is enough time to possibly make it once around the seal sanctuary before you move on towards Ursholmen’s lighthouse. Here you disembark and take a guided tour of the island's small museum, which tells of life as it used to be out in the outer archipelago. When the lighthouse staff was at its most numerous, there was even a school on the island. You also receive a geological lesson, and "The Devil’s harrow lines" testify to a violent past when the gneiss bedrock cracked millions of years ago and black granite crept out from the earth’s interior.
On the way back on the M/S Kosterskär, assuage your grumbling tummy with an assortment of sandwiches and coffee. The boat is also fully licensed for those who want to complete the day's outing with a glass of wine or a cold beer.