Olkhon and Barguzin Jeep Ice Diving Safaris.
In 2017 the season of ice diving started with Ice Diver and Dry Suit Diver courses for numerous Russian and foreign divers. The courses took place in Listvyanka and by now some of Taiwan, Japan, China and the USA citizens can show off by demonstrating their Ice Diver certificates issued by BaikalTek divecentre, which guarantees high level of training.
The first Jeep Diving Safari 2017 started on February, 16. To be noticed, ICE JEEP DIVING SAFARY – is one of the best ice diving programmes in the world. MARES and SSI teams took part in the first safari.
MARES team performed a very important task - testing of their equipment in the severe conditions of lake Baikal ice diving.
It is not for the first time that we are testing the equipment of the world leading producers. For example, it was us who approved the use of Aqualung Legend series for cold water diving during our ice diving safaris and deep trimix dives. Waterproof made a wide-scale testing of their suits by making a showroom during one of our ice diving safari seasons.
Now it is MARES’s turn. They issued a new series of equipment for technical diving under the brand XR. They are now aspiring to prove the quality of this series by making a safari by a team of people (headed by MARES presidents themselves) equipped completely with MARES XR. The gear they used was: regulators 25XR + DR, BACKPLATE STEEL, WING BLADDER TWIN TANK, dry suits XR KEVLAR, fins POWER PLANA. All the equipment (regulators especially) worked perfectly well in lake Baikal cold water and MARES team were happy with their testing. They also made a lot of visual materials, that can be viewed on different sites, blogs and social networks by Mares, for example: http://www.mares.com/en/news-detail-mares/title/catch-up-with-the-mares-ssi-revo-dive-expedition-tea... or https://www.facebook.com/MARESjustaddwater/ and some other.
Within the framework of February, 16 - Аpril, 15 we made several Jeep Ice Diving Safaris, in which dive clubs and groups from Europe, China and Russia, free divers from Russia and Japan, underwater photographers from Russia, Austria, Germany, India and China, as well as single divers from Russia, Japan, China, the USA and Thailand took part.
In February and March the safaris were called “Olkhon safaris”, because they were made in the area of Olkhon Island and the Small Sea (Maloye Morye). In April the safaris were called “Barguzin safaris”, because we were in the area of Barguzin Reserve, Chevirkuy Bay, the Ushkan Islands. The ice is still thick there in April, that allows us to safely enjoy Jeep Ice Diving Safaris. Besides, April is a good time for animal watching. During the safari we have an opportunity to watch many bird species and, of course, the Baikal seal (nerpa). Plus to that we made a safari crossing the Baikal. It becomes sort of a tradition, so next year we plan to make it a separate programme - when we switch from Olkhon to Barguzin safari we are going to do it by crossing the Baikal.
This year proved to be rich in the frequency of visiting by some divers.
In Waterworld team there was a diver from Germany Corina Welke-Kirsten. This was her 6th visit to lake Baikal - 2 times she went on a Jeep Ice Diving Safari and 4 times she took part in diving safaris aboard Valeria. The head of Waterworld himself - Werner Thiele - took part in four programmes around lake Baikal. We are glad when people like the Baikal and our programmes and come again and again.
Indian underwater photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee from National Geographic was with us 2 times within one season. First he came for the Olkhon safari (he made shots of nerpa in Cape Khoboy) and then he came to be on our Barguzin safari. Thus, he made 2 visits to Russia with a gap of 2 weeks between them. By the by, it should be mentioned about Russian Federation visa issuing policy - no problem. Dhritiman plans to came again in February next year for the programme The Baikal Black Ice. Gao Ya from China also took part both in Olkhon and Barguzin safaris with a month gap between visits to Russia. Sandy You Ling,– a famous Chinese diver and underwater photographer, fascinated by the beauty of Brguzin safari, cancelled her flight back and stayed for the second term. Keep it in mind this is not her first visit to lake Baikal, thus, the decision is suggestive of how much impressed she was.
It should be separately mentioned one more safari that was very much important for us and that is why we gave it a long and informative name - A Jubilee Jeep Ice Diving Safari to Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Olga Kamenskaya and Dmitriy Melamed First Visit to Lake Baikal. How do you like it? Olga Kamenskaya is a well-known underwater photographer and the main photo promoter of the Baikal, the underwater Baikal. 10 years, 30 trips, thousands of photos, personal exhibitions in dozens of cities in Russia and abroad, a photo album. In the nearest future - the revival of underwater photography competition The Baikal Cup. All of this is about Olga Kamenskaya.
A Chinese club members from Shanghai, who came to take part in a safari, demonstrated perfect training. They enjoyed great diving and returned back home with many great photos. The photographer who was in their group, turned out to be a famous person in China and his model, whom he took shots of and who also was sort of a guide for him, chose perfect panoramas and compositions in the background of lake Baikal ice formations.
There were not so many freedivers this time, but those who came are worth mentioning! Ryuzo Shinomiya from Japan – a world record holder in freediving with monofin. Yulia Petrik - a famous Russian freediver and instructor. She had visited lake Baikal several times and this time she brought German Free and Ryuzo with her.
Rusextreme Club is widely known in Russia and we are attracted by the fact that hey are a club of sidemounters. In our opinion sidemount is the best lake Baikal ice diving configuration. The club members are not for the first time with us and we hope that Sergey Baikov will bring his groups again and again, as, judging by what we see, they like it here in the Baikal.
Divers from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany headed by Werner Thiele represented our European colleagues. For all of them this was not the first visit to lake Baikal. Their love and devotion to lake Baikal and Russia deserves respect. They are planning to come again.
Olkhon part of Jeep Ice Diving Safaris we finished on March, 29. The visibility in the ice cracks was quite good all the time. The ice was stable. The luxurious divesites which we had discovered in February did not change much, which allowed us to make predictable dives.
Barguzin part of Jeep Ice Diving Safaris started on April, 3. It should be noted, that this is a purely expedition programme as well as Crossing The Baikal. The northern part of lake Baikal greeted us with grand ice formations in thick, absolutely non-spring ice. There were a lot of seals on the ice, sunbathing; on the way to the dive area we saw a lot of ducks, bald eagles, blackcocks, partridges, grouses. The weather held some surprises in store for us: travelling by melting ice and snow that turned into water, the sun rays, rain, snow and strong wind - everything was at our disposal. Plus to all of the above mentioned there surely was great diving to see the cracks in the middle of lake Baikal, the Ushkan Islands diving. To make it all become true we had to travel 160-180 km on the ice of the lake daily.
It is high time to draw the season summary. Our safaris programme becomes longer in time. Divers are interested in different aspects of lake Baikal ice. Taking these facts into account we are planning to launch the below programmes for the next season:
1. «The Baikal Black Ice» – designed for those who wish to see transparent ice both underwater and on the surface.
2. « The Baikal Rock Ice» – diving to see wonderful ice formations.
3. «Going to the North» – moving from the Small Sea (Maloye Morye) to the northern part of lake Baikal to dive in Olkhon area, the Ushkan Islands and Cape Sviatoy Nos (Holy Nose).
4. «Barguzin Safari» – ice diving in April in the northern part of lake Baikal. This is a programme for diving in ice formations, as well as time for bird and animal watching.
Booking for the seasons to come is open. We are waiting for brave individual travellers and organised groups.
Gennady Misan set a personal record having reached the depth of 160 metres (his previous record depth was 155 metres). Tatiana Oparina also beat her previous record of 156 metres, which was, moreover, Lake Baikal record deep dive and, possibly, world record of diving deep in very cold water. Thus, her new dive to 170 metres, which Tatiana made, is a new Lake Baikal record and, possibly, a new world record of diving deep in very cold water.
Apart from the private safaris on "Myth" there surely were safaris for big groups of divers. We welcomed divers from Russia, Poland and China. For the first time in our career we hosted a Chinese group on a diving safari and it was new experience for us, which will hopefully have its continuation, because the Chinese divers liked lake Baikal diving safari. The Poles are traditional guests at our lake Baikal safaris, as they come in different groups almost every year.
On June 21-25, 2017 Listvyanka settlement (Irkutsk region, Lake Baikal) hosted Open Championship of Underwater Photography Lake Baikal Cup. Suchlike competitions were last held in the Baikal in 1980th (1985, 1987 and 1989), so the event served as a sort of revival of a forgotten tradition.