Venture to Aurora Safari Camp, tucked away in the remote reaches of Scandinavia, and you might be surprised to find out that wildlife isn’t the main attraction.
Introduction to the Icy Wilderness
As you stroll along the narrow footpath into the camp, the dense old-growth forest surrounds you. The setting seems perfect for spotting creatures like wolves, lynx, and bears. However, Kerry, your guide with a lively English accent, bursts that bubble with a laugh, “Bears are still hibernating.” She hints at the possibility of a rabbit sighting and humorously mentions a recent squirrel encounter.
A Winter Wonderland Safari Camp
Despite the absence of animals for much of the year, the Aurora Safari Camp, located on the boundary of Lapland in northern Sweden, has been attracting visitors since 2013. Picture canvas tents and wooden cabins huddled around a fire pit, all covered in a thick layer of pristine snow. It’s the first tented winter glampsite in an Arctic climate.
Meet Jonas, the Founder of Aurora Safari Camp
Jonas Gejke, the camp’s founder, makes an entrance, described as someone who might look like an axe murderer but with a friendly grin. His background includes managing safari camps in Kenya for 25 years. Despite no prior experience or knowledge of Africa, he bluffed his way into a camp management role and later brought that expertise back to Sweden.
Skiing Through the Snowy Landscape
Gejke hands you wooden skis, slips into his own, and swiftly glides down a snowy trail. While skiing, he shares stories of his journey from Uppsala to managing safari camps in Kenya, emphasizing his knack for talking his way into opportunities. The serene landscape, with frozen lakes and snowy trails, adds to the enchantment.
Quiet Wonders of Swedish Lapland
Reaching a hilltop shelter, Gejke explains that, despite the region’s natural beauty, winter here is exceptionally quiet. Bird songs are absent, and buzzing insects are nowhere to be found. Swedish Lapland boasts eight national parks, including the historic Sarek and Abisko National Parks, contributing to its status as one of the world’s great wild spaces.
Aurora Safari Camp Dinner by the Fireside
Back at the Aurora Safari Camp, Gejke shares stories of his time in East Africa while you sit beside the fireplace. Traditional Swedish dishes, including cured reindeer meat and cloudberry jam, adorn the table. Despite camp upgrades to heated cabins, meals around the fire maintain the ambiance of the Kenyan camps, complete with a longdrop toilet.
The Northern Lights: A Unique Attraction
As Gejke indulges in his grandmother’s ox meatball recipe, you inquire about the camp’s unique appeal despite the absence of animals. He points to the Northern Lights as the star attraction, akin to a lion or leopard in Africa. Guests flock to witness this celestial phenomenon, and cabins with glass roofs provide an optimal viewing experience.
Beyond the Lights: Embracing a Different Lifestyle
Gejke emphasizes that the stay isn’t just about the Northern Lights; it’s about immersing oneself in the environment and local culture. Guests, whether in the Swedish Arctic or African savannah, take away an experience of a different way of living. For him, it’s the opportunity to create lasting memories that brings guests back year after year.
An Enchanting Experience
Inspired by the concept of a safari focusing on self-discovery, you decide to experience a sauna under the stars. The lack of running water makes it the only way to wash, but the reward is an enchanting display of the Aurora Safari Camp overhead. As you soak in the moment, a playful shout from Kerry breaks the serene atmosphere, “Watch out for the bears!” The only bears here, of course, are the ones in the playful banter.