Old round Baikal railway (Krugobaikalka)
The old railway is a remarkable work of talented Russian engineers and builders. Diving here is very well coincides with tours to railway and observation of antique tunnels and bridges.
Dive sites in the area of railway are beautiful, interesting and rich. We can imagine how good they were before railway construction. There are many tunnels on railway and all rocks that were not used for construction were thrown down to Baikal and thus really damaged many of dive sites. The good example is Katorzhanka – a huge underwater wall that goes to the depth of 100m. Above the site is a long tunnel and under the wall it is possible to see blocks of rock thrown down from the tunnel. We can guess that before this the depth of the wall was about 150m!
But even now the dive sites are excellent and the tunnels are not everywhere.
1. Port Baikal
The boat moors to the outer side of the pier. The interesting thing of this place is that is possible to observe the old underwater part of the mooring and see a boat rubbish gathered here for hundred of years on the steep slope. In simmer there are a lot of fish here: grayling, perch, pike, omul. On the territory of harbor there are two wrecks: a barge sunken at 10m and superstructure of the big vessel on the depth of 16m.
In the second part of winter this place is free from ice. It is possible to drive a car to this site at this time of year. This is very convenient place for deep dives at winter period. The steep slope goes from the pier to the depth of 50m then it gets gentle. But a series of dives to the depth of 90m were made here. In winter of 2006 the fresh bottom shift on the depth of 40-55m was discovered here. Its study is carried out by tech divers of limnological institute. They passed their training in BaikalTel dive center. Instructors of BaikalTek took part in this scientific program. Except scientific interest there is an applied as well. The shift is situated not far from the moorings of the harbor and they are bent forward to the lake. The estimation showed that their inclination is about 30 degrees.
In spring it is possible to dive cross the outlet of Agara River. During the dive one can see duck feeding underwater. They can dive to the depth of 10-20(!)m.
2. Angara river source
Diving from a drifting boat. At the source of the Angara lake Baikal drop off is embraced by the inclined right and the steep left (with lots of canyons, richly covered in the Baikal sponges) banks of the river; when going further into the riverbed one can see its bottom of pebbles and long weeds forced by the river flow to incline north-west. The dive is to be finished in the fast waters of the Angara at the depth of 2 meters. There is a 99% chance of running across a big school (hundreds of fish) of graylings at the beginning of the dive, when the divers move from the Baikal to the Angara riverbed.
In wintertime the river source does not freeze, so one can make a safe plan of a long dive from Port Baikal to cross the Angara source and drift in the riverbed. By «a safe plan» we mean that in wintertime there is no navigation. The Angara source crossing takes 90 minutes.
3. YAKHONT Point
A dive site opposite guest house Yakhont, located in the outskirts of port Baikal. Shore diving or diving from the boat. Sand-and-stone inclination. Scarce sponges. As a rule, plenty of bullheads, especially during night dives.
The anchorage point is on the shelf, to the north of valley. There is stepped drop-off, thickets of sponges, sculpins. In the southern part of the site there is a sandy canyon.
4. DARK VALLEY
Diving from a drifting boat, because a sand-and-stone drop off to the Baikal abyss begins right from the shore. Beautiful white sand, big stones covered in sponges, lots of small fishes.
5. NORTH OF BARANCHIKI
6. BARANCHIKI PIER/Serebrianiy Klyuch (SILVER SPRING)
A dive boat is tied to the pier next to the former tourist shelter. A narrow stripe of shallow waters unexpectedly finishes with an almost vertical horse-shoe-shaped drop off. Starting from the depth of 125 meters the wall goes vertically down to 160 meters and deeper.
There are two canyons which start in shallow waters and run to the drop off. There is a grotto under one of the canyons. One can see quite many sponges here, bullheads, during night dives - graylings. An ideal place for deep diving - many dives to the depths of 120 and 130 meters, as well as a dive to 155 meters were made here.
A dive boat is tied to a pier next to the tourist base. A narrow stripe of shallow waters runs to the drop off, which looks like a stairway to the abyss. The southern part of the drop off is deeper and more steep, one can see there some trees fallen from the shore. When going to the north one can run across a huge wide 40-meters-deep canyon, after which the Baikal floor has quite a steep inclination into the abyss.
Shallow waters are 3-4 meters deep. One can see lots of cartiridges underwater. There is also a platform at the depth of 10-12 meters abundantly covered in sponges. As for local fauna representatives, there are bullheads, during night dives one can run across grayling schools.
There is a nice banya (Russian sauna) on the tourist base premises.
8. CANYON LAST TUNNEL BUT ONE
A dive boat is parked over the underwater canyon with the help of ropes tied to the trees on the shore. Diving in the canyon, which finishes with a steep inclination at the depth of 60 meters. Ascending along the stairway-like drop off is recommended to the south of the canyon. There are some scarce sponges, bullheads, huge stones in the shallow waters.
9. "POLUMYEIATS" (THE CRESCENT)
It is impossible to explore the place within just one dive. There are canyons in the middle and in the northern part of the dive site. In the central canyon at the depth of 40 meters there is an ancor. We ancor our dive boat in the southern part of the dive site.
Shallow waters are 3-6 meters deep, the bottom is of white sand and huge stones. In the southern part of the dive site there is a very beautiful wall of steep platforms, which runs into a stone-and-sand inclination at the depth of 70 meters. A narrow and deep canyon starts almost from the shore. The northern wall of the canyon runs farther into the lake as compared to the southern one, it is located at 90 degrees to the shoreline - very smooth and vertical. Then the wall makes a 90 degree turn and runs parallel to the shore. After the turn the wall is not as vertical, but still quite steep. Then starts the next canyon, it is 40 meters deep. Maximum depth of the central canyon is 54 meters. In the northern side of the central canyon the bottom of shallow waters (3-8 meters deep) is of a huge number of different-sized stones.
Lots of sponges, bullheads, Lake Baikal shrimps (acanto gammaridae), graylings.
A dive boat is anchored on the edge of a horse-shoe-like stripe of shallow waters opposite Cape Sytiy. There are huge stones underwater. A beautiful drop off is formed by massive platforms going into the abyss. Picturesque abundance of sponges. Schools of graylings attracts local fishermen, who come from Listvyanka and port Baikal to put fishing nets, so divers have to be cautious.
11. KATORZHANKA THE WALL
Diving from a drifting boat, because there is no way to tie a boat.
The group moves either to the north or to the south, depending on the place of entering the water. A narrow stripe of shallow waters is 3-4 meters deep, bits and pieces of a railway carriage on the edge of a drop off - a vertical wall runs to the depth of 100 meters, then it is followed by a stone inclination of 45-60 degrees.
The wall is of interest for dives of all levels, but it is very convenient for deep techno-diving. We descend along the wall and there is no need to go far away from the drop off.
12. KATORZHANKA THE SHELF
A dive boat is anchored in shallow waters (4-8 meters deep), on the edge of the drop off. There is a canyon in the middle of the dive site. When moving to the south one can see a stone inclination covered in sponges. When going to the north - smooth, benchy, inclined walls of the drop off. Dives to the depths of 5-55 meters are of interest. Scarce colonies of sponges. In shallow waters close to the shore we can run across schools of graylings (this is usually at the end of a dive during a safety stop or a decompression stop).
13. TOLSTY CAPE THE PIER
A dive boat is tied to the pier in the southern part of the cape.
The center of the dive site is a comparatively narrow great canyon, starting at the depth of 18 meters. At the depth from 18 to 24 meters the canyon is blocked with logs, then it runs to the depth - vertical walls, bottom of pebbles. At the depth of 60 meters there is a vertical bench, at the depth of 78 meters there is one more huge pole crossing the canyon. The canyon is explored to the depth of 95 meters. To the right from the canyon (in the direction of Cape Tolstiy) there is an interesting sandy drop off, with cliffs of different sizes scattered on its surface, the deeper and further to the right we go (towards and round the cape) the drop off becomes stony. Scarce colonies of sponges, lots of Lake Baikal shrimps (acanto gammaridae), at nighttime - schools of graylings.
14. TOLSTY CAPE THE SHELF
A dive boat is anchored in the offshore area, on the edge of the drop off. Cliffy inclination, scarce long vertical stones (fingers), sponges, bullheads.
15. ULANOVO Point
It is a spacious dive site which starts from the railway tourist base in Ulanovo and runs about 1,000 meters to the south to the next dive site Beryozovka. The former dive site is a long offshore area running along the shore. We can anchor a dive boat at any point of this dive site and have a nice dive to see a beautiful drop off, huge colonies of sponges. In the northern part of the dive site the drop off is steep, almost vertical. In the southern part it is a benchy inclination to the depth. The tourist base pier is in the middle of the site, in the proximity of it one can find cartriges dating back to the October Revolution in Russia of 1917. We can also tie up the boat to the pier.
16. Berezovka Point
A truly picturesque place both underwater and on the surface. If we are lucky and there is no wind at all, we can make 2 dives to explore the area completely, but if the weather is windy, it is better to plan just one dive, as is it difficult to keep the boat anchored here in rough weather conditions.
Very beautiful rocks and the old railway landscape are in perfect harmony with the magnificent underwater views. The small harbour looks like a huge canyon underwater. The drop off, smooth rocks, standing side by side to each other. Remnants of metallic constructions (when constructing Circum-Baikal railway they tried to make a bridge over the harbour, but due to the depth the plan did not work out, so the engineers came up with the idea of a tunnel in the rock instead of the bridge).
Schools of graylings. Sponges in abundance. Diving from a drifting boat. The group should preferably move from the harbour to the north.
The next dive can be started from the place where the first one finished. The rocks on the surface indicate a steep inclination underwater. There is practically no offshore shallow water area. We finish the dive in a canyon, its northern part runs at a 90 degree angle to the shore.
17. KIRKIREY, A SPRING
We usually dive from a drifting boat, as it is possible to anchor the boat only on the condition of a windless weather.
The dive begins in the drop off with rough walls, which turns into a huge amphitheater northbound. After it - a huge «finger» - a single 5-meter-high rock starting at the depth of 23 meters. Further at the depth of 21 meter is the entrance to the underwater tunnel, formed by a pile of stones, the exit from it is at the depth of 15 meters. Further we can see a huge rock, which is attached to the drop off and overlooks the sea. There is a crack in the rock with an exit at the top of it at the depth of 18 meters. The entrance to the crack is at the depth of 25 meters. Numerous small grottos, rough stones covered in sponges make this place look like a coral garden. Moving further the group notices the drop off turn into a steep stone inclination. If we move stones on this inclination, we can see lots of blue Lake Baikal shrimps (acanto gammaridae). Safety stop is not a dull procedure if we are enjoying the views of a stone-and-sand offshore area, covered in sponges.
A very narrow offshore area (from 1,5 to 10 meters deep on the edge of the drop off) lets only the most skillful captains anchor their boats here on the condition of calm weather. A terrific drop off. Explored to the depth of 60 meters. Then it goes vertically down to the depth of minimum of 85 meters, but, probably, much deeper.
19. POLOVINKA, BRIDGE
A huge horse-shoe-shaped offshore area going into the sea lets to anchor the dive boat in any weather. The drop off is benchy, more vertical to the south and with some sandy canyons to the north. A beautiful dive in a beautiful place.
20. KOLOKOLNY CAPE
Only perfectly calm weather allows to anchor the boat in the narrow offshore area. Usually dives are made from a drifting boat. A rough drop off, a great amphitheater, single finger-rocks, small grottos, an underwater tunnel at the depth of 13 meters, large colonies of sponges. Schools of graylings are not rare here. A place to meet the most different requirements.
21. KOLOKOLNY THE PIER - the pier in not there anymore.
The pier is not there anymore, so dives are made from a drifting boat, because there is no offshore area or shallow water, so it is impossible to anchor the boat. Sand-and-stone inclination, turning into a benchy drop off closer to the cape. Sponges, bullheads.
22. GANNET SPRING (BAKLANY)
Diving from a drifting boat. We used to arrange the dives in such a way that the dive boat is tied to Kolokolniy pier and the group is transported to Gannet springs by boat, but the pier does not exist anymore, so dives are made from a drifting boat, as there is no shallow offshore area. The group moves to the north, in the direction of the former pier. At the beginning of the dive we can see railway carriage wheels, which is suggestive of possible railway crashes during the early history of the road (100 years ago), however, we have not found any railway carriages so far. Steep inclination is sometimes sandy, sometimes stony. There are many vertically standing rocks - fingers, scarce sponges, many bullheads, possible encounters with schools of graylings.
23. RAILWAY CARRIAGE
A vast and typical of Circum-Baikal railway dive site: an interesting stone-and-sand drop off with sponges colonies, and numerous railway items - nails, rails, unidentified railway mechanisms. In the middle of the site, at the depth from 24 to 34 meters is an old-type railway carriage - it looks perfectly intact, which is suggestive of the possibility of interesting discoveries here.
Diving from a drifting boat, as there is no shallow water offshore area here (like in many other places along Circum-Baikal railway).
24. ANGASOLKA, 1-ST TUNNEL
The site looks very much like site Beryozovka and is also located in the proximity of a tunnel. A great amphitheater with a stone inclination in the middle. The left hand side is a stone benchy drop off, the right hand side is a wall, not a big one, but still a wall. Sponges, graylings, blue Lake Baikal shrimps (acanto gammaridae) under stones - so typical of Circum-Baikal dive sites.
25. ANGASOLKA, BRIDGE
A dive boat is anchored in the shallow waters of the offshore area (6-8 meters deep) opposite the bridge. A big underwater canyon is right opposite the river over which the bridge is built. The right hand side of the canyon is of clay and sand, the left hand side is rocky. When moving southbound along the left hand side we can see a benchy rock drop off covered in sponges The right hand canyon side is opposite a banya on the shore, at the depth of 13 meters there is a big fishing boat.