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Lake Baikal Ice Diving

Discussion in 'Central and Eastern Europe' started by judyo1, Feb 16, 2019.

  1. judyo1

    judyo1 Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    I’ve just done an ice diving trip to Lake Baikal and thought I’d share my experience. I’d wanted to dive in Baikal for a while but had struggled to find information on it… so here is my story to share my (awesome!) experience.

    I’m not even sure whether to post this in the Eastern Europe or Asia sections of scubaboard but figure moderators can help out?!

    I booked through Northern Explorers who are a Norwegian company (and were the only hit I got in my google search!). They answered my questions efficiently and helpfully. They in turn used Waterworld who are Austrian and booking agents for Baikal Tek. Waterworld’s website is in German only but Werner was again efficient at answering questions and organizing logistics. Baikal Tek are based in Irkutsk & ran the trip. (It all became rather confusing pre-trip but worked out fine and the logistics including Russian visa, accommodation, transfers all happened seamlessly).

    I flew to Irkutsk via Beijing. I think the other usual route of getting there is via Moscow. travelling from NZ Beijing was the better option.

    I’d never done any ice diving before. I’d done some cold water / Arctic diving in Greenland but I found this a challenge a step further…! You need to have ice diver certification to do this trip. I didn’t have that so arrived a few days early and did my ice diving course first. I definitely needed the 2 training / orientation dives prior to the start of the ice-diving trip proper. For me it included a refresher on diving with so many layers under my drysuit, setting up my first stages with Y valve configuration, working out how to cope when my mask froze over.. The ice dive (for me) took a bit of mentally ‘adjusting’ to the immediate overhead environment which I found a bit claustrophobic initially. All good. These dives were done at Listvyanka. This part of the trip I did on my own.

    Logistics: I was picked up at Irkutsk airport and driven to my accommodation in Listvyanka (U Ozera Hotel). This was all arranged by Waterworld & Baikal Tek. The hotel was basic but fine.. breakfast included. There was a restaurant onsite.. while I went for a walk for lunch one day I tended to eat at the hotel restaurant as it was so cold to go anywhere. Ice dive was done in front of the hotel.. there was a room for setting up of gear. Following 3 nights in Listvyanka back to Irkutsk for a night then started the “Black Ice” trip to Olkhon Island.

    There were 4 punters on the trip.. one had a lot of ice diving experience, 2 hadn’t done ice diving but had a fair bit of technical diving experience.. and me J. Transfer to Olkhon via mini bus then a “UAZ” van across the ice road. Pretty spectacular with some stops to admire & photograph the ice formations, ice patterns and general winter wonderland. Accommodation in Olkhon was at Nikita’s Homestead.. The accommodation was rustic.. relatively basic but perfectly adequate. A good drying room for all of our gear and space to spread out. It was not a great culinary experience… but there was plenty of food and it was warm.. and I suspect it pretty difficult to get fresh fruit and veges in Olkhon in winter.

    The diving… we had five days of diving with one dive per day.. The convoy of 2 4WDs and an UAZ towing a ‘hut’ would be driven out toward a selected spot.. The ‘hut’ (also can be used as a sauna) had a fire / stove inside and was lit each morning. We used this to prepare our gear / get changed. A chainsaw was used to cut a hole in the ice (it was about 70cm thick) .. there were 2 punters plus guide per rope / dive. Dive times were as desired.. I usually lasted 45 minutes.. one of the guys stayed down for 2 hours once taking photos. The diving is about the ice formations and they were spectacular… the ice made mournful groaning and cracking noises… you could see through the ice so I have some great footage of me diving below the ice taken from above.. and also a photo of me lying on the ice taken from below. For a couple of the dives the water was shallow and we saw sponges and many shrimps (Gammarus).

    We also had sightseeing trips post-dive to see ice formations / caves, sunset over the ice and a tour of Olkhon Island on the last day. This all added to the experience.

    This was a fantastic trip. Tatiana & Gennady at Baikal Tek were great. The logistics were impressively arranged. English is obviously second language but more than sufficient for required communication. It was an opportunity to do a sort of diving I’ve never done previously and thanks to Tatiana & Gennady and their team.

    Siberia in winter is COLD. This may sound obvious.. I’ve spent a bit of time in the mountains including at high altitude.. I’ve been to the Arctic.. but this was a whole different level of cold. Temperatures were around -30 degrees and it was bitter. My drysuit would stick to the ice when wet.. the cold was bitter.

  2. vovanx

    vovanx Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: pl. Earth
    АлександрД likes this.
  3. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
  4. Saboteur

    Saboteur Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Earth
    I did the PADI ice dive course many, many years ago. I remember looking up at people walking about and skating from below.... it is a very cool experience. Please post some photos and videos.
  5. judyo1

    judyo1 Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
  6. mattherat

    mattherat Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: everywhere
    I visited Baikal a couple of winters ago when i did a holiday on the Trans Siberian train from Vladivostok to Moscow, it was amazing, but sadly i did not get to try ice diving, but i would love to go back and do some. But i know what you mean about the cold, the slightest wind there was th bitterest i have ever encountered
    judyo1 likes this.

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