Ushkany Islands, Baikal Seal, Holy Nose Peninsula, Chivyrkuiski and Barguzinski Bay.
The islands’ rocky shores serve as a popular resting place for Baikal seals and constitute the largest rookery (seal colony) of Lake Baikal. At sunset the sealshead to shore. The seal population on the Ushkany Islands is estimated to be around 2,000 , without major fluctuations since 1934.
– The Baikal seals (nerpa) occupy the top end of the food chain in Lake
Baikal, the deepest and one of the most beautiful lakes on earth. The
Baikal nerpa are the pearl of Baikal and serve as an indicator for problems
related the lake’s ecosystem. Millions of years of isolation have
led to significant adaptation and evolution. The Baikal seal is the only
freshwater pinniped species on earth (predatory mammal with fins), and
it inhabits only the deep waters of Lake Baikal. All in all, the nerpa
population amounts to 40,000-80,000.
From July until September the Baikal seals can be spotted on the surface of the lake. Although they spend most of the time in the abyssal zones of Baikal, you can observe them near the shores, often in great numbers--sometimes even in groups of several hundreds. Nowadays, the only places where you can easily observe the Baikal seals are the rookeries on the Ushkany Islands. The Baikal seals climb up on the boulders, trying to occupy the best resting places. During their clumsy attempts to reach their favorite spot, they often roll down over the rocks and flop into the water. However, after a short period of time they repeat their clumsy attempt again. Once the seals have managed to find their place, they stretch out, shake off the water and enjoy the summer sun. After these relaxing summer days, the Baikal seals prepare themselves for the approaching winter. In late autumn, they migrate to the bay and river delta, where the water starts to freeze.
The nerpa stay there around two or three weeks, intensively preying upon fish before finally migrating to the open waters, where they will live during winter. In winter, the seals spend most of the time in the depth of Baikal. During the period when the lake is entirely covered by ice, the nerpa usually live alone and maintain a system of ice holes in order to draw breath. They use their claws, flippers, head and teeth to clear the ice hole, thus preventing it from completely freezing up. Young seals commonly maintain only one ice hole, whereas adults use several holes to guarantee access to the surface.
The Holy Nose Peninsula is the only peninsula in Lake Baikal. It is 53 km long and 20 km wide, with the highest elevation at 1877 meters. The territory of the peninsula is home to about 80 bears. From the plateau located on top of the Holy Nose Peninsula, one can enjoy a great panoramic view of the isthmus, the Chivyrkuisky and Barguzinsky Bays, and the Ushkany Islands. Ascending to the summit and returning to the camp at the shore of Baikal will take you a whole day.
Chivyrkuisky Bay is considered to be the most picturesque and
beautiful bay of Lake Baikal. It is part of the Zabaikalsky National Park
and stretches across 26 km between the peninsula and the mainland. Its
width ranges from 6 to 12 km. The bay is lined by mostly flat watersides
which are densely vegetated with coniferous forest. Maximum water depths
in the Chivyrkuisky Bay do not exceed 10 meters; therefore the water quickly
warms up, reaching temperatures of up to 19-22 C at the beginning of August.
Furthermore, it is renowned for its beautiful and numerous sandy beaches.
Barguzinsky Bay is the largest and deepest bay of Lake Baikal. It stretches across 30 km along the mainland and occupies an area of 700 square km. In the Barguzinsky Bay dragnet fishery mainly focuses on omul fish. The beautiful sandy beaches along the shores of the isthmus attract many tourists during summer. The footpath to the Holy Nose plateau starts in a place called Glinka. In winter, you can observe the Baikal seals on the ice of the Barguzinsky Bay.
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