Ecotourism in Kamchatka
People spend the major part of their lives in cities with their stifling atmosphere and smog, in offices and traffic jams, at home computers at the end of the day or in crowded bars. Typical vacations involve the same activities, which cannot improve your health, such as a crowded beach during the daytime and restaurant or dancing at night. We tend to follow this vicious cycle every year, and there seems to be no way out. Fortunately, more and more people turn their attention to active recreation such as ecotourism.
Ecotourism actually gives an opportunity to go to wilderness areas, get a lungful of fresh air, stay side by side with the nature for a while, relax your soul and give your body, which is overloaded with all kinds of stresses associated with the urban way of life, a portion of pleasant and easy exercises in the form of hiking, riding, skiing or other activities you might like. A trip to Kamchatka, a wonderful, mysterious and amazing nook of our planet, is one of the ecotourism destinations worthily favored by so many travelers, even the most sophisticated ones.
There is no other place in the world with so many opportunities for active and, which is most important, environmentally friendly recreation like in this splendid area. It can offer nearly everything: snowboarding and heli-skiing (from September to June!), rafting, angling, hunting and diving, trips to conservation areas and boating in the sea, snowmobiling, dog sledding, bathing in hot springs capable of curing nearly any disease, unforgettable encounters with the world’s largest bears and rare protected animals. And, of course, there is something that attracts travelers from all over the world: pristine nature, clean alpine air, transparent rivers with millions of species of valuable fish (and this is not an overestimation!), incomparable landscapes including smoking volcanoes, glaciers, ebbing springs, hot lakes and, to be sure, hoary and enticing Pacific Ocean.
What is the best time of year for visiting Kamchatka? There is only one answer to this question: Kamchatka is beautiful in any season, and you can have a rest in Kamchatka all year round. In spring, when the nature is awakening, you can go angling. It is a spawning season for salmons, and about one third of the global population of Pacific salmons (including chinook, silver salmon, sockeye, chum, humpback salmon and salmon trout) spawn here in Kamchatka. The population of Kamchatka steelhead (Salmo mykiss), which is registered in the Red Book, lives here as well as such species of arctic salmons as Dolly Varden trout and East Siberian char. Angling in Kamchatka is just as popular as volcanoes. Tourists from different countries come here to taste local fish and caviar as well as other dainties such as king crab. Bear hunting in Kamchatka is extremely interesting in spring. These shaggy giants awake from their winter sleep shortly before the salmon spawning and grow as tall as 2,5 meters due to such high-protein food. In summer, Kamchatka is available for all sorts of hiking, angling and rifting on warm and good summer days. It is very beautiful here in autumn when the mountains are ablaze with all colors and tints of vegetation getting ready for winter, and you can hear a delicate chime in the forest in the morning while ice- glazed leaves are falling down the trees. Photographers prefer coming to Kamchatka in autumn. Winter is full-fledged here with lots of snow, and you can indulge yourself in truly winter sports such as snowmobiling, sledging, skiing and dog sledding. Of course, there is one more unusual entertainment – bathing in hot springs in the plain air musing upon the majestic Kamchatka volcanoes, which are so beautiful and smoky. The volcanic activity prevails in winter. Therefore, ecotourists come here in winter to watch the eruptions, which are an amazing combination of two elements – primeval fire and ice.
The Kamchatka fauna and flora are unique and inimitable. To protect the unique ecosystem, the Kronotsky Nature Reserve was established in 1934 instead of the Sobol Reserve organized in 1882. Its area is 1.142.134 hectares including 135.000 hectares of the offshore zone. A grandiose natural formation comprising 16 volcanoes around Kronotskoye Lake, both active and inactive, as well as Valley of Geysers, waterfalls and hot springs are located in its territory. There are up to 33 species of mammals living in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve. They include: ermine and wolverine, otter, Kamchatka red fox and the largest protected wild population of Kamchatka brown bears in Russia (over 700 bears). Wild reindeers can be found nowadays only in the territory of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve. There are 69 colonies of seabirds (slaty-backed gull, tufted puffin, gannet and pigeon guillemot) in the Reserve. Common seal, eared seal and ringed seal (rare species registered in the Red Book) inhibit the offshore zones near the Kozlova Cape.
Kronotsky Lake (with its depth of 148 meters and area of 242 square meters) lies between two volcanoes – Kronotsky and Krasheninnikov Volcanoes, 30 kilometers to the north from the Valley of Geysers. Its age is about 10 thousand years. The eruption of the Kizimen Volcano in 2009 heated the water in the lake from 5 to 13 degrees Centigrade. Kronotsky Lake belongs to one of the deepest lakes in Russia and has an air of mystery and legends. Mysterious flying objects rising from the depth and getting lost in the endless Kamchatka sky are often observed here.
The Valley of Geysers is another site full of mysteries, which attracts with its unbridled primeval beauty and boggles the mind by the force of its pristine power. The Valley is considered to be one of the seven wonders in Russia. It is located in a crater of an ancient lake, close to the confluence of the Geysernaya and Shumnaya Rivers. The 2007 torrent inflicted an enormous damage on the valley: many famous geysers as well as helicopter pad were destroyed. A year later, the situation began improving, and now the valley is ready for tourists again opening up all of its unique features.
There is one more unusual point of interest in the reserve – the caldera of the Uzon Volcano. There is everything Kamchatka is famous for: hot springs and ice-cold mountain rivers, crystal lakes and mud pools, birch forest, tundra, mountains and swamps as well as numerous animals and birds. There are over one thousand hot springs of different shapes and sizes with the water temperature ranging from 45 to 98°C. There are also mineral springs as well as hot Bannoye Lake discharging radon with a reservoir of melted sulphur at the depth of 28 meters under the water layer. In 2008, the geyser near the Uzon Volcano began discharging water again after a long-term sleep, which attracts more ecotourists to Kamchatka.
We can describe the wonders found all over the Kamchatka Peninsula endlessly. However, one thing goes without a shadow of doubt: Kamchatka, the land of volcanoes and geysers, is a rich and generous, ecological and hospitable area, which is always ready to welcome its guests. If you happen to visit Kamchatka at least once, you will fall in love with this land for ever, and you will seek for opportunities to come here again and again for new impressions and discoveries.
© Photo: Y. Kalinin, I. Shpilenok