The Ushkany Islands is a small archipelago in the middle part of Lake Baikal. Totally four islands – Large, Long, Thin and Round. The Islands are part of the Zabaikalsky National Park. Visitsto the archipelago are limited, a landing permit and a recreational fee are required.
The nature of the Ushkany Islands is amazing – this area is isolated from the "big earth" for hundreds of years; a special ecosystem has been formedthere.
The Baikal is famous for a large number of endemics. The Ushkany Islands are inhabited by the species of plants and living organisms that are neither in the world, nor even in other parts of Lake Baikal can be met.
There are trees older than 300 years; there is a unique dwarf birch with black bark and sharp-toothed leaves, pines with an interesting shape of the trunk and larches with a bottle-shaped thickening at their roots. The Ushkany Islands are a real Kingdom of ants! More than 5 thousand anthills, their height reaches 170 cm, diameter – 3 m.
The map of 1701 showed "Hare Islands", and hares were often called "ushkany" in Siberia. The fact is hares never lived on the islands. First Russian settlers in Siberia calledlocal seals as sea hares. The famous Ushkany Islands are the largest natural rookery of the Baikal seal. The islands are mostly visited to see Baikal seals. There are dozens of them here. They can be metany time of year, but especially lots of seals come to the Ushkany in May-June. The largest rookery is located on the western bank of Thin Island.
The nerpa (Baikal seal) is endemic to Lake Baikal, one of the three species of freshwater seals in the world. Scientists still argue how the seal appeared in the lake. The most common version: the nerpa penetrated into the lake through rivers from the Arctic Ocean. The nerpa lives 55-56 years, the average body length – 165 cm, and weight from 50 to 150 kg. The nerpa can reach up to 25 km/h in water! In comparison, the speed of most ships on Lake Baikal does not exceed 18 km/h. However, on the shore the nerpa looks quite clumsy and cute. The nerpa feeds mainly on golomyanka fish.
How to get:
In summer – only by private boat or motor ship, in winter – on ice by car or “Khivus”. The Ushkany Islands are located 60 km from Chivyrkuisky Bay and 120 km from Olkhon.
The Ushkany Islands - a must visit on our Baikal cruises. Our ships come to the Islands early in the morning, when the chances to see the seal are very high.
Of course, first, people come here to see the Baikal nerpa in its natural habitat. Even in the high season in summer, there are not many tourists. The Ushkany Islands – protected area and visits are limited. A forester meets tourists and escorts small groups along the equipped trail to the slope, where tourists can see the rookery. The observation place is disguised as a rock from the water, so if you follow the rules and do not make noise, the seal will not even notice your presence.