The kings of the Arctic.
I’d been staring at the same old window view for most of 2020, so I figured I should start 2021 optimistically, with a travel story. Once upon a time or actually in November 2018 when I lived in Sweden, my boyfriend came to visit me in Luleå. Since he was only there for a few days and had never been to Sweden before, I tried to find some experiences that would be unique, but wouldn’t require us to rent a car.
Through the dubious power of social media and targeted ads, I came across a new wildlife park opening near Luleå, which was to be called Cape Wild. Their webpage said they offered the option to meet a moose, learn a bit more about these majestic animals and best of all, their opening was on the weekend my boyfriend was there. So, we contacted them and off we went to meet a moose.
In fact, we met a couple of them, and they both had funny names, as they were called Ziggi and Zebbe. Even though we interacted with them in a controlled setting during a feeding opportunity (who would’ve thought moose love bananas?!), I kept getting shocked by how huge moose really are. There’s something about a 400 kg animal standing on those muscled, too thin and way too tall legs that just defies understanding, particularly coupled with such huge heads. On that note, even though these guys were raised to be tame, moose are still wild animals in the north of Sweden. It’s not uncommon to run into one in the depths of winter near Luleå and they can be quite aggressive. I’m 90% sure I saw one during one of my forest walks and let me tell you, I didn’t stick around to examine it. Whatever I saw, it looked scary and big and I got away really fast.
While I’m at it, here are some fun facts about moose, because they really are the kings of the Arctic: moose are the largest deer species and don’t form herds. They’re solitary animals, except for during mating season, when the males battle for female affection with their huge antlers. They also shed their antlers every year – their antlers are their fastest growing organ, as they grow about 2 centimetres per day during spring and get larger every year. Moose are also herbivores, so they need to eat about 20 kg per day, which also where their name comes from, as the word moose means “twig eater” in Algonquin language (yes, I had to Google which language that is and it’s the language of an indigenous people in Canada).
As for the Cape Wild opening event, it was nice, if a bit simple and disorganised, and the owners were very friendly and spoke reasonably good English. We got to meet the moose couple and learn some fun facts, see their little souvenir shop and a guest cabin in the making, as well as try a moose souvas (a type of local salted smoked meat prepared similar to a kebab).
Now, before you get all at me for eating moose kebab, let me first say I’ll eat almost anything local. Souvas is a traditional food in the Swedish Lapland, normally made with reindeer meat and I got to try that during my visit to the Jokkmokk winter market in 2019. The meat is first dry salted, then smoked and grilled in pieces and has been eaten in this way by the indigenous Sámi people for centuries, so if you’re vegan or vegetarian and these kinds of things make you uncomfortable, I can honestly say that Lapland is not the best place for you. You can find all sorts of reindeer products (meat, leather, fur or antlers) everywhere and Cape Wild was no different. While they don’t raise their moose for food as a wildlife park, they source their foods from local farmers and also offer dog training for moose or boar hunting dogs.
Of course it wouldn’t be a true “me” travel story if we didn’t have some sort of a mishap, so let me tell you about our way back. As Cape Wild is located quite a bit outside the town and the opening was on a Sunday, there was almost no chance of catching catching a bus, so we took a taxi on the way there and figured we’d wing it back. However, it turned out to be much further than we’d expected and also a bit expensive, so for the way back we decided to walk to the nearest major bus station and hope for some luck. Well, we ended up walking almost the full 3 hours back to Luleå, as we only managed to catch a bus at the nearby shopping mall. It was cold, it was grey, but it was also beautiful, although my boyfriend kept complaining the north of Sweden was way too gloomy for him.
On the way back
Anyhow, I’m glad we went. Meeting a moose was definitely an experience worth having and I could tell that the owners loved their animals very much. As far as I could tell, the moose were well-groomed and had a lot of living space, so I would recommend a visit there to anyone interested in meeting a moose or experiencing a rather authentic piece of northern Swedish life.
I’ve also been following Cape Wild on social media since then and they’ve expanded quite a bit, so they now have 4 moose, 7 reindeer as well as some pigs. They offer feeding opportunities and educational visits with the animals, as well as local food, a meeting place for groups and accommodation in a cabin next to the Lule river, which is perfect for fishing or spotting the Northern lights during the season (I can confirm that from a different location by the river – see my Aurora Borealis post here). They also post the most adorable animal videos on Facebook, so if you’ve ever wanted to see a moose shower, then here‘s your chance.