The world‘s finest diving

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CUTENESS OVERLOAD
6 days of ice diving & exploration
April 1 – 12, 2022 … land-based expedition


In the heart of Siberia is the deepest & oldest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Baikal.  Baikal offers ethereal scenery created by its geologic history … along with the ever-shifting & massive ice formations, plus the underwater light & colors permeating through the ice.  Then, there are the Nerpas !


A BIT OF BACKGROUND …


Very few divers have dived here but each person who has had the opportunity has returned from their voyage raving about the crystal clear waters and the strange-looking creatures within. It was truly a pioneering work to open up this destination to western European divers and nature lovers and since the first diving expeditions we suported in 2014, our guides have brought guests here every year. Join us on this breathtaking adventure and let Siberia entertain you ….


THE LAKE & THE WEATHER


In the winter, the lake freezes slowly and the ice sheet will finally form a thickness of up to 1.5 meters and the wind whips up ice sculptures which have to be seen to be believed.  The shores are largely deserted. There is no tourism, just a few adventurous visitors.   But, you’ll be there when things are “warming up”!  You may even have blue skies and you can expect the lake to be calm and the weather stable.

Baikal Nerpas 2 Special Exp opt


PHOTO OPS EXTRAORDINAIRE


This extraordinarily unique adventure is escorted by Gerald Nowak ….. award-winning underwater photographer & tour leader, who will be happy to give you help & hints about your own photography.

You’ll dive in canyons & grottoes, along vertical walls & slopes, in under, around and over rocks & boulders, rifts and sandy bottoms.  Your exploration will lead you into remarkably clear water where you’ll encounter lots of endemic species, including sponges in unbelievable numbers & varieties; the trademark Omul salmon, plus a type of sculpin and other endemic fish; simply zillions & zillions of gammarus (a type of shrimp); and, everyone’s favorite … the endemic freshwater seals, the “Nerpa”, one of the only three known freshwater seals on the planet and the species for which the lake is most renowned.

The expedition’s end destination resembles an ice palace from a fairy tale and the creatures you will visit are other-worldly.

Nerpa mothers keep a breathing hole next to their grotto and that’s what you will be looking for. The most successful expeditions reward divers with photos of the Baikal baby seals under water. These are amongst the least photographed animals in the world. The pups are typically sunning themselves on the ice but will follow divers into the water to play. It’s just NOT your everyday dive !

We feel certain that you will be captivated by spectacular Lake Baikal.


ACCOMMODATION


It is the Nerpas who ultimately determine your accommodation, as the ice caves are located in slightly different areas each year, dependent upon the ice thickness & formations.

Your specific accommodation will, therefore, be determined at the last moment after scouts have done reconnaissance for the seal caves.   We guarantee that you will be accommodated in the best possible choice while still being close to the action !

Your first two nights … and the last night of the expedition, will be spent at the Courtyard by Marriott in Irkutsk, a 4-star hotel.  

The remaining nights will be at the lake in typical hotels for the region … generally comparable to a 2-star guesthouse. Whenever possible, we choose the Bargudjin Tokum Hotel in Ust-Barguzin in a twin or double room with en-suite bathroom.

BAIKAL 1050

There is also a traditional sauna, the “banya”, the original form of the Russian bathroom. The hot water of the sauna heater is mixed in a bucket with ice-cold Baikal water to arrive at a tolerable temperature before pouring the whole thing over your head !

Each year, we also try to plan a night on the Ushkany Islands, located in the lake itself. The accommodation there is with the national park rangers in a quaint twin room, warm and clean but with an outhouse. This evening spent in a rustic Russian hut has been, on previous expeditions, one of the finest highlights of the adventure!


ITINERARY, RATES, WHAT’S INCLUDED, WHAT’S EXTRA, MISCELLANEOUS DETAILS


Below is the tentative itinerary, which, as always, is subject to change based on weather conditions plus the dates, rates & what’s included

{slider Your best option is to international flights will take you to Moscow where you will travel with the group on a flight from Moscow to Irkutsk.  You’ll be met and transferred to your hotel for the first night of your package … click to continue reading for more details|dest|closed}

DATES:

April 2 – 12, 2021

RATES:

4990 € (euros)
5490 €
(euros)

The first nights in Russia will be spent at the Marriott in Irkurks.  On day 2, you may join the half-day tour of this fascinating Siberian city … or explore on your own.  Ice diving requires special ice diving certification as well as experience in ice diving. But, please note, that it is usually possible to experience the nerpas above water, also. 

YOUR PACKAGE INCLUDES :

NOT INCLUDED :

ITINERARY :

April 4 … travel
The start of the expedition route is in Irkutsk.  From there it is about 1000 km by car along the southeastern shore to Ust-Bargusin.After breakfast, the transfer to the Sabaikalski National Park takes place around 8:00 a.m.

It’s a pleasant journey in a modern minibus through breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and seemingly forgotten villages and cities along the south and southeastern banks of the Baikal.

The travel time is around 12 hours (including breaks and lunch on the route) before you reach Ust-Bargusin in the evening after dark.

April 5 -10 … ice diving with Nerpas
If all goes as planned, you be at the Hotel Bargudjin Tokum and can expect a 120 km journey each day into the park to find the ice where the Nerpas hang out.

As on the first day, you’ll enjoy the scenery and myriad villages en route and each day you will explore the frozen lake and participate in the search with the park rangers for the well-disguised snow caves of the Nerpas.

Day 1 involves check dives for all participants. If luck is with you, the curious baby seals will approach you. With a maximum of 2 – 3 divers in the water at a time, you won’t overwhelm the seals.  Please keep in mind that there is only one annual permit per year (maximum 6 people) and it stipulates strict adherence to rules that protect these unique animals.

The mothers are shy but the pups are interested in everything that they see. In order not to disturb or scare these amazing creatures, you’ll approach them quietly, preferably lying down and at eye level. This is often rewarded with a wet Nerpa nose kiss!

An ice diving certification and experience in ice diving are prerequisites for being able to dive. In order to optimize the experience of Nerpa for each participant, a maximum of two to three divers per dive are in the water with the pups.

April 11 and 12 … transfer days

On the last day, the long transfer takes place along Lake Baikal back to Irkutsk, where you should arrive around 5:00 p.m. and check in at the Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk City Center. After a restful night, you can take a return flight home or extend your trip in Moscow. {/sliders}


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