Summer Safari Season 2019 Started with Testing
This year it took the Baikal long to get free of the ice, so the conditions for Chasing the Ice safari were perfect. However, we did not schedule the programme for this season, so we observed the satellite data for the ice situation with regret - one could easily see the ice and nerpas (lake Baikal seals) sitting on it in the neighbourhood of Listvyanka. We planned to finish mounting a new engine and generator on our safari boat Valeriya. The testing was complete, State Ship Register seriously examined all equipment and approved of its operation, so in the third decade of May we started our first safari.
This safari was only for BaikalTek members, as no matter how State Ship Register is strict, our BaikalTek testing is still more important. During the safari all systems proved to work smooth and by the numbers - the new generator, safari boat compressor, anchoring at dive sites, diver rescue means (a crane mechanism with a rescue platform) and the engine, of course. The boat can run at the speed of 20 km (!) - just unbelievable for such a boat as Valeriya, which was designed as a slow moving vessel. Testing of all systems implied, of course, safari diving too - we enjoyed perfect diving at the dive sites of Bolshiye Koty and Khomuty dive areas. The visibility was great, which is absolutely not characteristic of the Baikal, just recently having freed itself from the ice cover. Right after the ice is gone there usually are some sort of flakes floating in the clean and transparent waters - the bits and remnants of the substances that accumulated on ice during the winter season. We engaged ourselves into our favourite pastime - examination and mapping of the best dive sites. Stone Garden requires additional exploration. A very complex, grand and beautiful dive site. Exploration is to be continued in our dive safaris to follow.
The work of our boat cook was also tested and proved to be quality and the food - tasty.
The second safari on Valeriya was a scheduled one. A group of divers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland spent a safari week diving in the Baikal. This group is a perfect example of the fact that people come back to dive in the Baikal. Two divers from Austria (Married couple) came to Lake Baikal safari for the first time in 2014. This year was their second trip and in a year they plan to come for an Ice Safari. Karsten Wiche is an instructor from Dresden who brought 10 people with him. Karsten himself is for the second time on Lake Baikal dive safari. His first visit was in 2005. Nostalgia called him to the Baikal. He is planning to come again, but not in 14 years, sooner.
During this safari we followed the magnificent standard 7-days route: Listvyanka - Bolshiye Koty - East Olkhon - Ushkan Islands - Maloye Morye (the Small Sea) - Birkhin - Khomuty - Bolshiye Koty - Circum Baikal Railway - Listvyanka. These all are the names of dive areas. We distinguish 10 dive areas in the Baikal - those where one can find many interesting dive sites with beautiful landscapes, lots of sponges, lots of opportunities for filming/taking photos in macro mode. Diving outside these areas is uninteresting - the bottom of sand or stones with a different slope angle and that is it. The dive areas we mentioned are very different from each other and have their own attraction. Circum Baikal Railway - bits and pieces of railway tools and mechanisms. Bolshiye Koty - vertical walls and canyons (all in all, landscapes) in the rock of the Perm period. Khomuty are famous for their shallow water areas that are sandy and deep with huge sponges on the stones and so on. There certainly are grand walls, canyons and beautiful landscapes in all areas.
During our Lake Baikal dive safaris we regularly land the shores of the lake apart from diving. The Baikal shores usually belong to reserved territories and national parks and we surely have permits for our boat to approach them and let the people land. Trekking the beautiful coast line is a wonderful supplement to the great diving in the lake. We can say for sure that such well-packed safari programmes are nowhere to be found in the world - a long cruise, trekking, walks, excursions on the way and great diving, of course.
The third safari on Valeriya was to follow the Around Lake Baikal route. The musts of the June programme for Around Lake Baikal voyage are: a long tour (around all the Baikal), jeep safari of Olkhon Island, a long walking tour to the protected lake Frolikha; bear, Siberian stag, nerpa watching. Plus to that, of course, all sorts of trekking tours, excursions, great diving - everything we have mentioned above. During this safari we made a visit to the Buryat shore - travelled to Ulan-Ude and Ivolginsky Datsan. The members of the third safari are also divers from Austria and Germany. The fourth safari will be for a group from Switzerland - also German-speaking. It can be said that German is our core language in the beginning of the summer season.
The two weeklong “coronavirus” diving safaris in June were technical ones. So, technical diving is always there. BaikalTek is a technical dive center, with Trimix facility TDI & IANTD. However, it does not mean that there is no place for recreation, photography, filming and other kinds of divers. The other way round: we pay attention to everyone’s need and interests, and are ready to accompany you in your diving any time.
The BaikalTek instructors often meet the seals under the ice because they dive often. A ‘normal’ diver is rarely so lucky. Jean from Switzerland is one of the lucky guys. Though it was his first Olkhon Ice Safari at Lake Baikal, he saw a lot: huge ice shapes, moving ice mass, dancing planaria… and finally, a seal!
And I was really lucky. One teacher is good, two is even better. And two best teachers make it precious. Gennady Misan and Tatiana Oparina, thank you for your making all the long way and coming to share your knowledge, experience and wisdom! You did not only answer all our questions, but you also analyzed the situations, and you gave solution options and practical examples. Thank you for your high-grade professionalism, objective evaluation, thorough debriefing and promptly encouragement that was inspiring and empowering. Thanks for the interesting and useful communication. Living on the shore of Teletskoye Lake feels like living on another planet. When you came, it felt like the guests from a similar neighbor planet visited us, the same kind of people, and that was great! A return visit is ours!