Áldu: Showcasing reindeer and Samí culture
By Molly McPharlin | Photos: Áldu
Situated in Karasjok, Finnmark, a part of northern Norway close to the Finnish border, Áldu, a family-owned company, specialises in reindeer herding and sharing Samí culture with visitors from around the world.
Reindeer have been in founders Piera Ailu and Bjørn Petter’s families for hundreds of years. Sire Márjá, Piera’s partner, also has ancestors who made their living from reindeer husbandry. Through tours and experiences, the families show guests how they live with nature. With a variety of professional backgrounds, they decided to open their company to give the world an opportunity to get to know life with reindeer and the life of a Samí family.
“On our tours, it’s possible for people to interact with reindeer in different ways,” says Sire Márjá. “You can feed and cuddle them. We train our guests to be reindeer herders and share with them the tradition of reindeer sledding. These are fantastic experiences, to be so close to reindeer in nature, in completely normal surroundings.”
Áldu, which means mother with calf in Samí, offers a variety of tours and experiences. “Reindeer calving is definitely the most popular and most unique tour,” says Sire Márjá. “On this, you can experience both closeness to nature and sweet, small reindeer calves, get to know us as a family, and learn about Sami culture in absolutely wonderful settings. This spring we had a visit from some guests and they were lucky enough to experience a coot calving, or female reindeer giving birth. It is such a rare experience that even most reindeer practitioners have never experienced it.”
In the summertime, tours change a bit. “In the summer, we don’t have the reindeer at home,” says Sire Márjá. “They are out at pasture and graze in peace until autumn. But then, we offer Samí experiences at home in our lavvo where we serve biđus (a type of stew) and talk about reindeer herding and Samí traditions. It is also possible to spend the night in the lavvo.”
Áldu receives visitors from all over the world as well as local schools and businesses. “The tours are suited to most people,” says Sire Márjá. “We are hoping to also make them accessible for guests with disabilities.”
For the future, Áldu also wants to expand operations and offer more activities and accommodation year-round. “We really want to promote an understanding of reindeer herding and Samí culture,” says Sire Márjá. “So that all our visitors can experience how rich and interesting our lifestyle is.”
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