May 2018 (Last updated in May 2022)
Update from May 2022: Elgtun is temporarily closed, but you can visit the elks at Viltgården in Iveland. See Viltgården’s webpage for further information.
On our journey through Setesdalen, we stopped at Elgtun in Bygland. We had heard that Elgtun offered close encounters with elk, and we were excited to see just how close this encounter would be.
We bought our tickets at the small café and entered the park. Inside the park, were different activities, such as an elk jewelry workshop and an elk exhibition. These things were interesting but did not manage to draw our attention away from the big elks lounging in the sun nearby.
We had timed our visit with a guided elk forest trek, and the tour started not long after we arrived. After being let inside the elk area, we were at first slightly unsure but soon felt comfortable as the elks did not seem to mind us visiting them.
Our tour guide was the very enthusiastic and knowledgeable Per Johansson, who is also the founder of Elgtun. It was obvious from the very beginning that Johansson lives and breathes for Elgtun and its residents. We got an extensive introduction to the elks and their way of living, presented in a lively and humoristic way.
The highlight of the tour was when one of the elks, Knøtte, decided to join us for the trek. It was a mighty, and slightly scary, sight to see Knøtte make his way through the forest. Luckily, all he wanted was some company. For the remainder of our tour, Knøtte stayed with us, which was greatly appreciated by everyone in our group.
The elks at Elgtun have large areas to roam around freely, and they can choose themselves if they want to come down during feeding time. The elks are born and raised in captivity, which makes them safe for people to be around. At the time of our visit, there were five adult elks and four calves at Elgtun.
After the forest trek, it was feeding time. Large containers with bananas and fruit were prepared and made us wonder if the elk likes bananas? We did not have to wonder for a long time. As the containers were opened, the elks came rushing. Everyone could take part in the feeding, and it was great fun having the elks eat bananas from our hands. The big animals were surprisingly gentle as they grabbed the fruit, and even the smallest children could feed them.
As soon as the fruit salad was gone, we were let back into the elk area. We were instructed to move calmly around the elks, and be extra cautious around their back feet to avoid them kicking. As everyone was on their best behavior, we could now get close and touch the elks. Some of the children even got to sit on top of them!
At the end of our visit, we got to meet the elk calves. They were incredibly sweet and seemed to enjoy cuddling, and it was really hard leaving them when our visit came to an end.
A visit to Elgtun is a must for anyone with interest in elks. We had a fantastic experience, and if you are still wondering we can inform you that the elks really love bananas!
A 75-minute drive from Elgtun lies Kvåsfossen – Sørnorsk Laksesenter (Kvåsfossen – Southern Norway Salmon Center). Kvåsfossen – Sørnorsk Laksesenter has a salmon ladder with large windows that lets you closely observe the salmon. We strongly recomment a visit here.