The Saimaa ringed seal

The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) is an endangered lake seal subspecies only found in the labyrinthine waters of Finland's largest lake system, Lake Saimaa, which became cut off from the Baltic Sea about 9,000 years ago due to post-glacial land uplift.

The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis). Photo: Mervi Kunnasranta

Saimaa's seals have recently returned from the brink of extinction thanks to the efforts of nature conservationists, but they are still endangered, as there are only around 320 of these unique seals left.

These attractive seals are most likely to be spotted in waters near the historic lakeland town of Savonlinna, including the national parks of Linnansaari and Kolovesi - where canoeists may come face to face with these curious creatures at close range as they pop their heads out of the water to see who is passing by.