At Oravi, in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland, you can do canoeing excursions to two national parks and enjoy the offerings of fishing safaris.
The plentifulness of islands in the Finnish Lakeland can be seen at Oravi, on the shores of Haukivesi. Wherever you look, you see scattered islands as far as the eye can see. Haukivesi is the central basin of the Vuoksi water system. It collects as much as 80% of the water which finally flows through Vuoksi into Lake Ladoga. The most important boating routes of Greater Saimaa lake to the north, east and south also run through Haukivesi. The labyrinth of islands, capes and straits formed by the ice age offers limitless possibilities to boaters, recreational fishermen and friends of nature.
SaimaaHoliday Oravi organises fishing and canoeing safaris for tourists into the magnificent Saimaa archipelago, whose most famous inhabitant is Europe’s only inland water seal, the Saimaa ringed seal. It lives in the Linnansaari and Kolovesi National Parks, located 30 kilometres from each other. Between the national parks is the Joutenvesi natural reserve, through which one of Finland’s most beautiful ship routes, the Heinävesi route, runs. In addition to the national parks, tourists can stay at more than 30 camp grounds and enjoy the silence and purity of the archipelago.
The second proprietor of SaimaaHoliday Oravi, Marie Louise Fant, fell in love with the Haukivesi landscape while working as a wilderness guide for the National Board of Forestry, together with her husband, Jukka Laitinen, in the Linnansaari and Kolovesi National Parks.
“I’m fascinated by versatility and magnificent sceneries of lake nature and the archipelago at Oravi. The water system is so vast that you always find new, interesting places”, says Fant.
The guides working for the company know the labyrinthine archipelago and the best fishing spots.
“The guides’ local knowledge is important. We stress to foreign independent travellers not to go canoeing in any circumstances with light gear and without a map. We can always be called on the mobile phone, and we help, when necessary.”
As Fant and Laitinen are passionate recreational fishermen, they decided to establish a nature tourism enterprise providing fishing safaris. In addition to fishing tours, they started offering guided canoeing safaris and trips to the wilderness. In the winter, the company offers tour skating and snowmobile safaris together with spa hotel Järvisydän on the opposite shore. There is a twenty-kilometre winter trekking route between Oravi and Järvisydän. You can walk, ski, skate or ride a snowmobile on the ice of the lake. Three campfire sites are located along the route. There are activities around the year.
“In May, the Saimaa ringed seals are easy to spot. At that time we organise seal photography excursions.”
The labyrinth formed by islands and capes is unique. Greater Saimaa is one of the world’s most labyrinthine lakes. There is 14,850 kilometres of shoreline on the continent and the islands. This is more than double compared to the world’s largest lake, the Caspian Sea. Of all the world’s lakes, the number of islands (13,710) here is the second greatest, and the shoreline is the third longest.
The Linnansaari and Kolovesi National Parks and the magnificent archipelago of Joutenvesi are the canoeist’s paradise. The Linnansaari National Park is 40 kilometres long and 5–10 kilometres wide. In addition to the main island, the park includes 130 islands and hundreds of small islets and rocks. Characteristic of the Kolovesi National Park are narrow bays and straits flanked by cliffs. There are boulders and vertical faces on the shores. There are plenty of forests over a hundred years old at Kolovesi.
Although the Varkaus paper mills are near, good purification methods and a closed system guarantee that the quality of Saimaa water is excellent at Haukivesi and elsewhere.
“Canoe renters ask whether the lake water is potable. We say it is. On the safaris, we always make coffee of the lake water.”
Pure water also influences the quality and taste of fish. About 30 different species of fish swim in Greater Saimaa. The most desired are vendace and trout, the salmonids of the region. All salmonids thrive only in clear and clean waters.
“Our normal fishing tour lasts four hours. We also sell fishing permits. You can troll in the entire area. In the summer, we also catch brown trout. Clean water is our definite asset. We want to make sure the waters stay clean in the future as well.”
SaimaaHoliday Oravi serves in its restaurant fish of the day from local fishermen. There is burbot, perch, vendace, zander and, of course, pike.
“Many like to make their own fish dishes. We can also smoke the fish caught by the tourists or serve it in the restaurant as à la carte dishes, naturally more cheaply.”
Fant and Laitinen have a passionate relationship to local food, which is not limited to fish. Depending on the season, the restaurant serves venison, beaver, mallard and mushrooms.
“We also offer the visitors an opportunity to take part in elk hunting, wild duck hunting and hare hunting.”
There is accommodation capacity for 200 visitors at Oravi. Oravi’s wellness villas are located within a walking distance from the services of Oravi village. Each villa has its own peaceful shore, dock, rowboat and campfire site as well as a patio. There is a view of the lake from the separate sauna compartment.
Ari Turunen (2017)
Oravi is a hub of boating routes of the Vuoksi water system. From Oravi, you can take two water routes to Kallavesi and Kuopio and from there all the way to Iisalmi. From Kuopio, you can go to Tahkovuori via Siilinjärvi and Juankoski. The Leppävirta deep-water route goes to Kuopio and Siilinjärvi. The Heinävesi route is famous for its beauty. The six channels of the route were built in the turn of the 20th century. Of these, the Varistaipale channel is Finland’s biggest with a 14.5-metre drop height. In the east, a deep-water route to Joensuu opens via Tappuvirta and from there via three channels to Lake Pielinen and Nurmes. The distance from Oravi to Nurmes and Iisalmi is well over 200 kilometres. In the south, equally at 200 kilometres, Lappeenranta is accessible by waterways.
Greater Saimaa is one of the world’s most labyrinthine lakes. There is 14,850 kilometres of shoreline on the continent and the islands. This is more than double compared to the world’s largest lake, the Caspian Sea.
“Canoe renters ask whether the lake water is potable.. On the safaris, we always make coffee of the lake water.”
Kolovesi National Park
Linnansaari National Park
Joutenvesi natural reserve