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December, 01

Winter Diving on Baikal

Ice diving on Baikal is quite a special activity. The ice diving season lasts until early spring, so any winter month is a good time to come, but the perfect time for ice diving is late February and early March.

The weather is dry and sunny, so it is easier to see underwater. However, the most remarkable thing about ice diving on Baikal is, of course, the clear ice of the lake. You will never see ice as clear as the Baikal ice. It will make for an unforgettable experience both for the diver and for those who stay out of the water. 

On a sunny day, divers can see people and cars from as deep as 30 metres, and the companions can easily track divers' movements from above.

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You will see an underwater winter wonderland: the frozen water creates whimsical passages and labyrinths. Ice caves and caverns, black abyss beneath and sun shining brightly above–anybody who has ever experienced ice diving on Baikal will agree that this is truly unforgettable. Going underwater on Baikal with a scuba unit in winter, you will see diving ducks and schools of Arctic grayling. Many people think that there is nothing to see at the bottom of Baikal, but this is only a misconception.
Divers have found railcars and 19th-century sailing ships, and many still believe that the great lake keeps the treasure of Admiral Kolchak.

A diving session usually lasts for about 45 minutes, but it takes much longer to prepare for it. First, you will need an ice opening. It takes about two hours to make one, because Baikal ice is very, very thick. After an opening is made, all the ice from it is taken out to the surface–it is strictly forbidden to put ice underwater. Sharp edges of the hole are cleaned and polished, and a wooden floor is made around it. When diving on Baikal, don't forget about special winter equipment–otherwise, you won't last a second underwater. Even in summer, the water in Baikal doesn't get any warmer than 15°C, and it will be much colder below the surface. 

The most popular place for diving is the village of Listvyanka.

It is easy to travel to (from Irkutsk by bus or by car), and it is remarkable for the beautiful landscape, including the underwater one. There is a large underwater cave near the village; it is 30 metres long and is located 36 metres deep, so you should only dive there together with an instructor.

You can find great diving locations along the Circum-Baikal Railway, too.

Another good choice is Angara headwater area, because it does not freeze in winter. Many people come here the denting that leads straight into a black abyss. The only way to experience the beauty of this place is to go under the ice with a scuba!

The Olkhon Island is beautiful as is, but its eastern cost is popular among divers from all over the world.

Diving here, you can see Baikal's underwater world at its best: fish, algae, and the incredible natural ice passages.

The Ushkan Islands is another place in the very heart of Baikal that is growing ever more popular among divers.

It is remarkable for its wildlife–this is the largest rookery of Baikal seal endemic to the lake. Moreover, this is the only sub-lava emersion on Baikal. The bottom of the lake is covered by ancient magma that used to flow from cracks in the earth core.

Probably the most well-known winter diving spot on Baikal is Maloe More strait. 

It is only 20 metres deep, but there are many bays easily accessible on a motor boat. Lake Baikal's northwestern coast located in the Republic of Buryatia cannot boast many exciting diving places, but there are some worth visiting. Ayaa Bay, as well as Chivyrkuysky and Barguzinsky Bay, are popular among divers. These places are good for fishing, too–an activity both locals and tourists enjoy a lot, so you can do both! 

Of course, the main drawback of winter diving on Lake Baikal is how dangerous it can be. This activity belongs to extreme sports, and it is very important to dive with experienced instructors or with one of the area's many diving schools. In winter, these schools offer car rides on the ice or real under-ice safari.
By the way, it was in winter when Jacques-Yves Cousteau's team dived at Baikal.
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