The heart of the Baikal - the Ushkanin Archipel
At lake Baikal, there are many holy places, whom an unusual power and mysterious history is assigned by the Buryatical inhabitants. Such a place are the Ushkanin islands which are situated at important place in the middle of the lake and which are a place of pilgrimage of biologists of all the world. The cause for that is the nerpa, or phoca sibirica, or Baikal seal - one kind of the family of seals that lives in fresh water. Until today scientists puzzle about the question how these creatures were coming into the lake Baikal. One presumption is that they were coming along the rivers in the north, up the river Jenissej to the spring of the Angara river and from there straight into the lake Baikal.
One thing is clear - the seals are here, in the lake Baikal. Their population consists of about 60,000 - 100,000 specimen. Neither an epidemic which was observed in the year 1987 nor the prohibited but practised hunt for the young seals in spring could make the seals die out. Until now.
Fortunality, but it should not be a thing of luck, should it?
Do possibilities exist for men to contribute to preserve the species of seals? They do, for tourists who are environmentally conscious in any case !!! Caused by strict protection provisions defined by the authority of the national park the stream of tourists at the three islands is reduced. A maximum of six people at the same time are allowed to sneak to the sunny reef and to observe the beautiful wet-black-shining creatures through a large camouflage net. Because the seals notice men by hearing rather than by seeing this net is rather a technical trick, a warning signal to the visitor to be very, very quiet - ticha like the Russian say.
You can book day trips on a boat of the Zabaikalskiy national park agency for up to 12 persons to the island Swyaty Nos, including a stay at the Ushkanin islands. It costs 1161 roubles for renting the boat, additional about 450 roubles per person (calculation depends on duration of the trip) plus 1000 roubles per person entrance fee for the most strict protected area of the Zabaikalskiy national park and visit of the seals. Even if it doesn't seem to be a bargain you should keep in mind that you support the administration of the national park and the rangers with this obulus. Facing the fact of increasing number of tourists and nonofficial boat trips to the islands where the seals live let's hope that the rangers dont quit their job. As long as the rangers camp at the islands in summer and regulate the traffic of visitors and boats the nerpas may feed on fat for the icecold winter almost undisturbed and remain as a natural wonder and not solved miracle ot this world.