Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island

Erik linked to a piece about Russia’s Lake Baikal
a few months back, noting the environmental
problems that challenge the region. I had to mention this fascinating place again because the
article I read in today’s Baltimore Sun (first printed in the
LA Times)
praised the wonders of this “Galapagos of Siberia” and sent me searching for more.

The article does not directly address environmental issues, but does describe a place rich with ecological wonders.
The deepest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Biakal is known for nerpa seals, epischura and the unique omul fish. It
appears that management of the massive watershed may lie at the heart of environmental concerns, but there are groups
like Baikal Environmental Wave,
Greenpeace Russia and the
Tahoe-Baikal Institute working to protect the habitat, while still allowing
room for growth in the region.

In the Sun article, author Neil Woodburn shares the story of his trip to the
Lake Baikal region, and specifically to
Olkhon Island, located almost smack in the middle of this
395-mile stretch of water. The island is a sacred spiritual center for the Buryats, a large ethnic minority in Siberia
that lives in the areas surrounding the lake. Woodburn visits the main city of Khuzhir, and the holy Shaman Rock. The
island has no phone service or restaurants, so tour guides work with local bed and breakfasts for food and lodging. Two
tour groups based out of Irkutsk are Green Express and
Baikal Explorer.