- I’ve done a lot of wildlife based trips previously with a variety of tour providers, so I understand that you need a large dose of patience and luck. Generally speaking, good sightings ‘make a holiday’, but I do feel that there are other things that operators can do to ensure that in the event that luck is not on your side, the holiday still provides ‘other memories’ to take away. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side, and in the absence of bears there wasn’t really much else to take away from this trip.
We saw very little on the nature walk on the Saturday morning – the highlight being a very hard to identify bear track which our guide told us was from last year! I couldn’t help but feel that the walk was a bit of a filler before the ‘main event’ that evening. Unfortunately, the ‘main event’ was hugely disappointing as on the first night in the group hide we saw nothing – not even a bird - despite keeping our eyes peeled for 14 hours. This meant we got a free night in the smaller hides the following night (NB from the moment I stepped foot in the smaller hide I felt more confident that we would see something, and I think Explore should consider putting people in these hides on the first night). We doubled our sighting from the previous night when we saw one solitary bear, in addition to a wolverine, but both sightings were distant and fleeting. When there’s nothing to see you get very bored and weary sitting in the hide - you’re literally just staring into a forest for 14 hours trying desperately to stay awake in case you miss ‘the moment’. Given the description of the holiday I never for one moment considered that we wouldn’t see anything, but at least two people on our trip saw nothing over two nights. We were told that the group the weekend before us also had only one poor sighting on the second night. Perhaps we were all very unlucky but I do think the description and detail of the trip should be amended to manage people’s expectations. That said, two people on our trip had an excellent close up encounter, which just goes to show that it’s a game of complete chance and ‘being in the right time at the right place’.
I was very surprised by the lack of other wildlife around the lodge, and generally in this area of Finland. I spent hours at the bird hide, and saw the sum total of one great tit. The pair of red squirrels which frequented the hide were fun but I couldn’t help but think that ‘this is something I could see at home in the UK’.
The accommodation is basic (cold/lukewarm showers, food adequate). This was more or less expected and would have been fine had our bear sightings been good. However, when the main attraction fails to turn up you look to what else the holiday has to offer and unfortunately that is very little. The “moose safari” (a bit of a misnomer), which cost an additional EURO 50, was very poor value for money. We were bundled into a people carrier which was not suitable for the activity – the back windows were darkened and didn’t open. I think this activity should be included in the price of the holiday. There were 8 of us in total so someone, somewhere, made EURO 400 which is a lot of money for what was essentially our guide driving a vehicle of people up the road for a little more than an hour, and pointing out some moose in the distance.
On the plus side, the sauna was enjoyable, the weather fantastic and Sabrina, our guide, tried hard and generally speaking you couldn’t fault her. I know that my review would have been very different had I experienced good bear sightings, so don’t let my misfortune put you off. Please do however manage your expectations beforehand, and be prepared to risk experiencing a holiday which represents pretty poor value for money in the event that you don’t see much widlife. I guess however that that risk is to be weighed against the potential opportunity for an experience of a lifetime.
Published on: 22 June 2016