What do a moose and an orangutan have in common? At first glance, perhaps not a whole lot. But for Marcus Eldh, founder of WildSweden, these two fantastic creatures marked the beginning of a great journey, turning a curious go-getter into a global voice on wildlife conservation – a journey he now gets to share with nature-loving people from all over the world who quite literally choose to visit his neck of the woods.
Let’s go back to 2002. I had just finished a master’s degree in computer science at Stockholm University. Nice, but a bit boring. So I headed to South-East Asia. Alone, with a bicycle. After a few months of cycling around Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia I decided to head south and ended up in the small village of Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, Indonesia, where I was welcomed by friendly smiles, a gushing river and the sticky heat of the rainforest.
During my time in the Sumateran jungle I met a number of young local guides. They took me for a jungle trek, enabling me to see the amazing wild orangutans. I was so impressed! Actually, I was most inspired by the guides themselves. Their job was to bring people into the jungle, to create memorable experiences for travelers to bring back home. Surely this was the best job in the world?!
That’s when I realized what my mission in life was: I would become a guide myself! That way, instead of being stuck in an office, I would be able to spend most of my time outdoors – and I would get to enjoy incredible experiences with likeminded people from across the world.
Sweden has green forests and lots of wildlife, but mostly in shades of grey and brown: nothing quite as interesting as orangutans. Or at least that’s what I thought. When I returned to my home town of Västerås I went straight to the local tourist information center, something I had never done before. Once there I didn’t know exactly what to ask for; all I could think of was the orangutans in Sumatra. I hesitated and grabbed a tourism brochure from a shelf. As I flicked through it an Austrian couple stepped through the door.
I listened carefully. They wanted to see moose? I was eager to hear what kind of advice the young clerk would give them.
The zoo?! My heart stood still! I knew that Sweden’s forests were full of moose: about 350,000 of them. Why send these tourists to the zoo in Stockholm? Imagine if the guides in Sumatra had told me the same thing when I wanted to see orangutans – go to the zoo! Madness.
That madness spurred me to action: I just had to do something! My mission was to become a wilderness guide, and here was my chance.
By the end of the afternoon I had set up a website offering guided moose safaris in the nearby forest, led by an expert moose guide – that was me, apparently! To my surprise, within a couple of days I had my first bookings. I had three guests: a Russian man and an Austrian couple. My very first tour.
Is the founder and owner of WildSweden. He leads multi-day tours in Central Sweden and Lapland as well as wolf tours.
Tipp from the expert: Wildlife watching should never be done without?
I always bring binoculars, headlamp, knife, matches, thermos and chocolate since you never know how long you will stay out.
pictures: © Simon Green