A visit to the kingdom of bears and eagles
With a cozy little log cabin as a hide in the middle of an ancient pine forest, Nature's Best approved company Wild Nordic organizes astonishing close encounters with wild animals like bears and golden eagles.
When Sara Wennerqvist was four years old, she sat curled up in the window of a small cottage in Älvdalen, hoping that a bear would walk past outside.
- I have always been fascinated by bears, says Sara. I now finally have the opportunity to bring others out into the wilderness that I love so much.
When she was 15, she decided never to have a boring job.
- People around me did not like their jobs, and it seemed rather pointless doing things you don't like. Even back then, I was very interested in animals, nature, and photography. My goal was to become a photographer for National Geographic. It was a little naive perhaps.
Sara in her natural habitat. Photo: Wild Nordic
The start of her not so boring work life, in addition to a lot of university studies, was working 18 years as a guide in Northern Norway and Svalbard as well as the inventory of whales.
- I learned to be responsive. It is important that even quiet guests get to feel seen and that they get answers to their questions. When you are on a tour ship with 40-50 guests, it is important that everyone gets the same experience. For Wild Nordics wildlife watching experiences, there is a maximum of 4 guests on each tour.
Sara's company Wild Nordic has encounters with wildlife in focus. A bit north of the town Sandviken, near the Dalarna county border, Sara has her base of operation. It is there, in a 150-year-old pine forest that you can find her hide.
Eagles and bears are not the only ones visiting Wild Nordic, sometimes guests as the red fox and the magpie stops by for a visit. Photo: Wild Nordic
During the summer period, Wild Nordic offers bear watching, in the winter golden eagles and black grouse lek in early spring. In the future, Sara plans to extend Wild Nordics offering with more wildlife experiences as spotting owls, buzzards and Siberian jays.
- The hide is a tiny cottage in the forest. I call it a hut and it's fitted so that it is functional for both photographers and families with children. The hide has nine photo windows in different heights and directions. This place, where I know every stone and branch, has become my soul.
Golden eagle photographed from Wild Nordic's hide. Photo: Wild Nordic
Wild Nordic's Bear Watching is successful and Sara estimates that nine out of ten occasions there are bear encounters.
- I started in 2012 with moose safaris and day trips with various nature themes. I only had 8-10 guests a year in the beginning. When I launched the bear watching in May 2016 I thought there might be 25 guests. But I had 150 guests already in the first year. Since then, it has only increased. Last year, I had over 300 guests in the hide.
Five quick questions:
What initiatives do you work with related to nature and culture?
- During the winter activity, the golden eagles get additional feeding and during all my activities I inform my guests about our Swedish fauna. Most guests attend my "Wilderness School", with skulls, droppings, track stamps and furs, we also talk about the Swedish wild animals. In the summer, I arrange the Wilderness School at several children's camps and I work actively in different ways to get the younger generation interested in animals and nature. I participate on the Day of Biological Diversity, which takes place every year on May 22. In addition, I inform my guests about the impact and expected consideration for the environment in which we operate, and pay road fees to landowners and work to have a good dialogue with all parties concerned.
What made you want to become an eco-tourism entrepreneur?
- The criteria on which Nature's Best is based, I have sought and tried to live by throughout my life. What I do must not change the behavior of the animals or harm nature. I want the forest to remain and bring in money through sensible nature tourism. The environmental thinking has always existed and I try to contribute to the local economy by utilizing services from local companies, shopping, refueling in the village and cooperating with related businesses and housing facilities. Nature's Best fits in with my own values.
What benefits do you get from being a quality labeled Nature's Best company?
- It is a well-known quality label both in the industry and for people who are careful about their choice of holidays and experiences. I think it gives "right" guests. I am very proud to have the label.
Do you notice an increased demand for sustainable experiences?
- Absolutely. I do virtually no marketing but the number of guests is increasing every year. If you have products that guests appreciate, the word spreads, especially through social media.
Nature's Best contains six codes of conduct. How do you communicate these as added values to your guests?
- I communicate these when I meet my guests. It is important that they understand the holistic thinking about animals and nature that permeates my entire business.