A moose safari in the heart of Swedish Lapland

When we decided to spend one week in Kiruna (Swedish Lapland) last xmas, we knew it was situated in the Arctic circle and that the daylight at that time of the year was very limited. We didn’t mind, because we were really interested by seeing the Northern Lights more than anything else, but we were wondering about the amount of activities we will be able to do over there.

Beside going at nights hunting the auroras, we managed to do a lot of other activities : some of them were totally free (like visiting the town, the church, or almost free, like visiting the mine or the drink at the ice bar) and others were organized tours, but the value for the money was very good !

We booked several excursions to entertain ourselves, including the famous dog-sledding tour I told you about in a previous post, a snowmobile tour but we also did a Moose Safari with Kiruna Guidetours.

We left in early morning, took a mini bus with two chatty Australians, and headed towards Nikkaluokta through the Kebnekaise Valley. We watched a wonderful sunrise, it was very colourful.

We stopped several times along the way to spot moose and reindeer in their natural habitat and we learnt a lot about these animals. We spotted moose and reindeer, but I didn’t manage to take any pictures, it was too dark and we weren’t close enough. Seeingthrough35mm managed to take some pictures of the moose, and I’m sharing them with you in this post.

Male and female reindeer have antlers and shed them at different time of the year based on their sex and age. Old males’ antlers fall off in December, young males’ fall off in the early spring and females’ fall off in the summer. Therefore, our guide explained to us that Rudolf (always pictured with father Christmas) was probably a female and we had a good laugh about that ! :D

We also learned that it was forbidden to hunt reindeer in Swedish Lapland as they are not wild, but farmed animals that belong to the Sámi people. They are mainly raised for their meat but only ten per cent of the Swedish Sámi community earn a living from the reindeer industry, and many combine this business with tourism.. by proposing for example reindeer-sledding tour, but it is very expensive ! I’m sure it’s a unique experience though..

I was also very surprised to learn that the right to farm reindeer requires that the person is a Sámi or that their parents or their grandparents have or had reindeer herding as their primary occupation.

At the opposite, the moose are wild animals that can be hunted. Their hunting is pretty awful according to me. They used a special breed of dogs that will find the moose but not attacking it. The moose will wait for the attack, because it’s a behavioural adaptation. They wait for the attack, to be able to kick the aggressor with their legs and save their life, they won’t run. So they stay there like this, sometimes for hours. Then the hunters come and shoot the moose, without any fight, because the moose is not moving.

In Nikkaluokta, the temperature was very cold, almost close to -30°C, and the guide decided not to set up a fire there for our lunch. Instead we drove back towards Kiruna and set up the camp near a river ! It was a much better choice in my opinion, since we could enjoy the sunset near the river, eating a delicious salmon soup, warming up our fingers near the fire, eating a good reindeer sandwich and drinking hot blueberries juice.

This day was fabulous !

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85 responses to “A moose safari in the heart of Swedish Lapland

  1. Wow, your blog is wonderful, I love Sweden but I haven’t seen more of it, to the North. Also, Iceland is one of my favorite countries :) So, I’m in the right place!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. Pingback: Exploring Kiruna, in the heart of Swedish Lapland | Darwin on the rocks and around the world·

  3. OK, that is FAR too cold for me. I got a chill looking at the pictures! Do you have any issues with your camera at such a temperature?

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    • Yeah, we had some issues when we took the northern lights pictures. We stayed there for several hours, and at the end, we couldn’t press on any button, the camera was completely frozen, same with the tripod.

      When I did dog-sledding, the lense froze and at the end of the trip, my pictures looked weird, because there was a ring of ice on the external part of each pictures, it was a big foggy ;-)

      It was very difficult for the settings, as the fingers cold very quickly. What an adventure !

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    • That was the first “real” winter I was experiencing ! It was cold, but it was worth it ! It was easier to cope with the cold that with humidity (last year we were in Singapore for xmas and it was physically challenging ;-))

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    • Actually, the camera did freeze up. At the end, I had to stop taking pictures because I couldn’t press the shutter anymore :D The worse times were when I was out for the northern lights. Even my tripod was completely frozen !

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  4. Gorgeous shots and very nice writing! I’m not sure how I would deal with such short days though. I very much need the sun. Still, it looks like a place worth visiting. Thanks for sharing! x

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  5. Thanks for the beautiful photos. Specially like the sunrises – wow!
    We saw a moose in the wild one time, were surprised on a hike in the Grand Tetons south of Yellowstone. Moose are very large animals. I think both of us were surprised to see each other. We sidled around the animal, trying not to stray too far from the trail. On our return, the moose was in the same place.

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    • Moose are rather unpredictable, and I think you did well by staying not too far away from the trail. Yes they are huge ! We didn’t see any when we went to grand Tetons, but we saw some elk, deer, and various animals.

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  6. What an amazing experience Gin – it does look very cold -30 my goodness! Not sure about the moose hunting either but then I find any sort of hunting upsetting I guess it’s how people survive in these parts. The hot salmon soup sounds very welcoming and the hot blueberry juice sounds delicious :) It would have been a memorable day out! :)

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    • It was a good day tour, but it didn’t seem so popular amongst the tourists over there. For nature lovers, I think it’s a must-do. I also have mixed feeling toward hunting, sometimes it’s necessary, I understand it… but I can’t help myself and think it’s crual and unfair.

      I bought some blueberry juice and I made myself a hot cup, and nice memories came back :-)

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  7. What a great experience!!! It must have been great. And -30°C isn’t that thing one experience all day. The food the guide offered sounds pretty delicious to me. I was very very often in Scandinavia, Sweden and Norway as well. But only two times I saw moose. Therefor I saw many reindeers in the course of years, also in the Southern Norwegian regions. So you’re really lucky ones. ;) Have a lovely day!

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    • The guide told us it was very common to see moose near Kiruna, because the snow is too deep and therefore, they walk close to the road (or on the road sometimes) to be able to find food and move from one place to another ! :-) Kiruna is a good destination for moose spotting, especially in January. December, it’s usually more difficult to spot them, because there is not so much snow, but we were lucky this time as it has snowed heavily :-)

      I have the feeling that you love cold countries :D

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  8. Beautiful post… really loved these images and the story :)

    I can’t even imagine how it would be to sit in snow and cook :)

    I have never seen snow before and it really looks lie a wonderland to me…

    Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day :)

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    • I was a bit scared at the beginning, because we were so close to the river, with a FIRE, so I was wondering if a disaster would happen, like falling into the freezing cold water :D But nothing happened :D

      Would you like to visit one day ?

      Thank you, have a nice day as well :-)

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  9. What beautiful pictures! The lighting is really beautiful, but is looks freezing!!! I’m glad you had some soup to warm up on! :) I might be controversial, but I don’t think the moose hunt sounds worse than any other type of hunting. To be honest – if we knew how animals in captivity are treated and harvested we would probably all be vegetarians…I am not saying this is right – rather the opposite! But an animal that has lived wild and been harvested has probably had a much better life than those is captivity in my opinion. Well..hopefully that was not to political:)

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    • Thank you ! The soup was very welcomed after the short walk in the cold wind. It was very comforting.

      It’s nice to have another opinion ! :-) What I don’t like about moose hunting, it’s that the moose doesn’t even get a slight chance to escape. It’s not like the fitter will survive. Because they won’t run if they are spotted by a dog. I think it’s a bit interfering with natural selection, and I don’t really like that. For the other type of hunting, we can imagine that the weak animals will be spotted sooner than the others, and that it can help maintaining a healthy population. But maybe I’m disillusioned about how hunting works :D It’s quite possible. I’m a dreamer :D

      For the reindeer, they are farmed but they run “wild” in Lapland, they migrate but still belongs to one person. But I agree with you with some type of animals in captivity.

      Don’t be afraid to share your opinion, I’m very open-minded and it’s very interesting to learn about what other people think.

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    • It was very cold. When I was breathing, my nose was hurting so much, it was like burning inside, was very strange. The soup was amazing and it felt a lot warmer when he set up the fire. In Sweden, everyone can lit a fire, there is no regulation, weird isn’t it ?

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  10. The moose hunting sounds barbaric but how interesting that the Sami people are the only ones allowed to farm the reindeer!! As ever your pictures are amazing – especially love that sunrise but they’re all beautiful.

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    • I was also very surprised to learn that about the reindeer ! I thought that any swedes could start in the business, like any other jobs !

      I was a bit sad not being able to take moose or reindeer, they will stay as memories at least :-)

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