Wildlife watching in Sweden

The brown bears of Sweden

So far Sweden’s Mammals had not disappointed. We had seen moose in the wild, including a moose cow with twin calves. We had seen fox cubs, roe deer, mountain hares and beavers. Not to mention absolutely stunning scenery.

Now we were heading North, off to spot some brown bears, I was very excited! We met our lovely hosts and their very beautiful dog and we were given instructions, this was important so as not to jeopardise bear sightings! No coffee as it smells too strong, only tea. If you must talk, talk in hushed tones, as is the case whenever you want to see wildlife! Even if you need to sneeze or cough you need to muffle it. Sleep on your side, the bears don’t want to hear your foghorn snoring! My granddad wouldn’t have stood a chance when it came to sighting a bear! Work as a team, take it in turns to sleep but wake each other up if the bears come.

A ten minute drive, then a twenty minute walk up the hill to the bear hide, our home for the night. Our host left us with “If you hear knocking, you can open up, you hear scratching, maybe don’t!” Truly back to nature, and that is one thing I really loved about this holiday, so peaceful. The hide consists of a row of bunk beds, a row of chairs with a letter box sized window to look for the bears. And a toilet. Basic is so worth it for brown bears though!

I tried and failed for the first couple of hours to sleep as the bears are more active late at night. I wrote and wrote to pass the time, diary entries of the holiday. It did pass the time it got later and later I would pause to pick up the binoculars, this went on and on until I heard “BEAR!” Yes! The girl next to me had spotted them, a grand total of two brown bears, one very cautious and kept coming back and then running away at great speed, which was extraordinary, breath taking to watch. The other clearly had the munchies and just ate and ate and moved around to another spot and ate some more. A lot of time passed as we watched these bears. I was blown away. Nothing beats seeing these animals in the wild, I was sad when the experience was over. Just to see them running and observing and just showing their normal, natural behaviour, it was just unbeatable. They are so beautiful and they were really quite close too!

Our host was up early as promised in the morning to walk us back. I left with some beautiful, stunning bear photos and amazing memories, very happy and hungry for more wildlife watching!

Bear sanctuary in Romania- a place of beauty

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After my previous week away animal volunteering abroad, I was completely ready for another placement and to book another week off for more animal volunteering. I found a volunteer opportunity for a bear sanctuary in Romania online, and what really struck me was how well it looked like the bears were cared for. Unlike some places, their welfare really was absolute top priority, no tricks or gimics for the public, just beautiful wilderness enclosures where the bears can have everything they need and are entitled too, but have always been denied in their previous abusive homes. They are all rescue bears, rescued from many horrible, upsetting situations such as circuses, poor quality zoos and even outside shops and restaurants as a sad tourist attraction.

My favourite bear, Max, was rescued from someone who abused him, made him blind and used him as a tourist attraction.

After enquiring and hearing from a previous volunteer, I was quick to book. Part of the cost of the placement includes a donation to the sanctuary and I really wanted to help by volunteering.

So I arrived on the Friday, we then had the weekend to enjoy before volunteering all week, then going home. On Saturday, we were taken to the bear sanctuary to be shown around before volunteering. And I fell in love with the place! Around the mountains with lots of beautiful views, the best of all of course being the sight of all the bears, happy and with their every needs catered for! I met Max, my favourite bear, and was shown a video of him when he first discovered the water and was taking his first dip. It was very moving after his upsetting story, a bear who had known nothing but abuse now living like a bear should-with a good diet, a big pool of water and lots of wilderness and tunnels and dens.

We also met a bear who had previously been a circus bear, and was now free from having to perform and flip for her next meal.

I walked around, the whole place was really beautiful. It was a beautiful perfect home for the eighty plus rescued bears and also a small pack of rescue wolves, rescue donkeys and a lot of dogs!

So we got taken back to our accommodation, and us volunteers cable cared up to the big Brasov sign and took a long trek back down! After visiting Dracula’s castle on Sunday, it was time to volunteer.

As a volunteer, we had lots of privileges, we could walk around the sanctuary as we pleased, many dogs in toe, and observe the bears. There were lots of photo opportunities, and there was also huge steps with a high up lookout point where you can get a great view of the sanctuary and the bears and take lots of photos. It was up here that I had the highlight of my week, seeing Max get into the water and have a long bathe! He scrubbed himself with some shrubs too and lay back, orange in hand, the ultimate chilling pose! Next door was a bear up a tree! Opposite was one bear, enjoying the peace next to his pool.

We also had a cute bear follower, part of the volunteering was gardening, maintaining the areas around the enclosure, raking up the leaves and one bear took it upon himself to ‘help’ getting whatever wood he could find and taking it apart, as if he was trying to work too! Or he would supervise just watching us and following us around. And if he wasn’t supervising, the many dogs of the sanctuary were keeping us company, I was very, very happy to not be short on dog companions.

I love the bear sanctuary. Their welfare really was number one, top priority, possibly the best place I’ d ever seen for that. They have the public in, but not going around as they please just for guided tours, which the volunteers can help with. This is nice, because after what the bears have been through there s not too much exposure to the public and its as much like the wild as possible. Where they can’t be released back into the wild, because they wouldn’t survive, the sanctuary is doing the next best thing.

Back home I miss the bears, the dogs, the mountains, I love them all so much and have lots of lovely memories and photos!