A journey to the Arctic wilderness
'Visit Natives' is an innovative adventure travel company that brings tourists to the far north of Scandinavia. The company runs tours to meet the indigenous tribes, allowing visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the cultures of the people, and how they interact with the wilderness of the region. The company is run by Anniina Sandberg, an adventurer from Finland who has spent a lot of time exploring the far north.
Anniina has told us a bit more how this adventure started: "The journey starts from Africa, very far away from the Arctic Circle. I have graduated in African Studies form the Helsinki University and I also studied anthropology as a minor subject. I went to Tanzania to learn to speak Swahili and to do a voluntary work amongst the Maasai pastoralists - the very famous East African tribe. I lived 9 months with a Maasai family. I participated in the everyday life of the Maasai women - for example I fetched water and fire wood, milked cows and goats etc. I saw how the indigenous Maasai people live in such a beautiful balance with the nature. They don't waste nature, how their community is close and how the culture is strong and totally different from the Western world. "
"Interacting with and learning more about indigenous peoples has always been an interest and passion of mine - I love to gain a deeper insight into their unique and fascinating cultures. The best value learnt from this trip and from my studies is that Western culture is not the only culture even if it is dominant and often seen as above to others. I became emotionally moved how Maasai society is not about individuals - it is about the community and extended families' well being. Something that is so rare in Western culture and which is not really questioned in our lives."
"After Africa, I came back to Finland and finished my studies. I settled down, got married and had children, so I was not able to explore and continue my rural adventures in Africa. I started to think what I really want to do with my life, and suddenly I realised that in my own country live the European Union's only indigenous people - the Sami. Then I had this idea, that I want to promote sustainable indigenous tourism in the Arctic Circle which is so close to my home. I travelled to Lapland and I searched contacts with the Sami. I learned how similar struggles the Sami have than the Maasai, and other indigenous peoples in the world."
"For the Sami, who still practice the traditional reindeer herding, tourism is an important part-time income. It is also an important way to ensure that important traditions, such as reindeer keeping, are recognised and passed on to the next generation."
"Visit Natives focuses on tourism that benefits all sides. For us, environment and sustainability are core things. We don't build anything special or separate for the tourists. Instead travellers will participate in the Sami people's normal and everyday life. Our adventures are real and they are based on both modern and traditional Sami culture."
The company offers travellers the opportunity to join a local Sami family when they herd the reindeer across the tundra, learning about Sami culture and traditions in a real environment. Visitors can even participate in reindeer spring migration with a Sami family and experience the nomadic life. The food is local and based on traditional Sami diet, which includes reindeer, salted fish, bread, Arctic berries and herbs. A fully immersive holiday experience!
Photo courtesy of: Visit Natives and Hoang Le Giang.