From the book by V.V. Lamakin “A tour around the shores and islands of Lake Baikal”, Moscow: Nauka. 1965.
“Chivyrkuy Bay is an isolated corner of Lake Baikal which differs in many aspects from other areas of the lake. Whereas the Baikal nature is very severe, Chivyrkuy Bay strikes a traveler with its tender scene. Its relatively gently sloping shores with soft contours are almost completely covered with thick forests. High mountains, which are topped in the middle of the Svyatoy Nos (Sacred Nose) Peninsular, and mountain peaks without vegetation on the southern end of the Barguzin Ridge draw back from the bay. Narrow cosy lagoons run deep inland.
Chivyrkuy Bay is not deep, and the southern end of the bay is the shallowest. Here the Chivyrkuy Isthmus separates Chivyrkuy Bay form Barguzin Bay. Due to its shallowness, the water in Chivyrkuy Bay is warmed up well in summer; the water is in blossom for a long period of time, i.e. numerous fine algae fill in the bay. Strong storms do not enter the bay from the open Lake Baikal.
Geography and origin
Chivyrkuy Bay, another largest bay of Lake Baikal, is situated in the north-east of the lake. It is the second in area (270 km2) after Barguzin Bay. Chivyrkuy Bay is surrounded from the west by mountain peaks of Svyatoy Nos Peninsular (Buryat name “Khilmen-Khushun”, it means “Sturgeon’s Muzzle”), from the east – by branches of the Barguzin Ridge. High eastern and western shores composed of ancient granites are partitioned and abound in numerous picturesque lagoons and capes with wild sandy beaches surrounded by woody slopes. From the south, the bay is separated by Svyatoy Nos (or Chivyrkuy) Isthmus, the shore here is low and boggy.
The mountainous Svyatoy Nos Peninsular used to be an island separated from the shore by a narrow strait. About 7-8 thousand years ago, it was connected with the mainland: the Rivers Maly Chivurkuy and Barguzin and Baikal storms filled the strait with silt and sand. As a result, the alluvial, lake-boggy Svyatoy Nos Isthmus (its local name is Myagkaya Karga – in English Gentle Hag) turned the island into the only large peninsular at Lake Baikal – Svyatoy Nos, and the strait – into Chivyrkuy Bay of 26 km long and 6-12 km wide.
The entire territory of the bay is included in the protected zone of Zabaikal National Park. There are seven islands in Chivyrkuy Bay, the four being natural monuments: Bolshoy Baklaniy, Bolshoy Kyltygey, Maly Kyltygey, Bely Kamen (White Stone), Sacred Elena, Dead Stone, and Kovrizhka (Gingerbread). All of them are protected zones with limited access.
They say that the modern name of the bay comes from the Bolshoy Chivyrkuy Bay River entering the bay from the north. “Chivir” in the Evenk language means to twist, to move, to stir. According to another version, the name “Chivyrkuy” originates from the Buryat “sheber” – thicket, thick forest, bush – it means overgrown with thick forest.
Chivyrkuy Bay is sparsely populated. There are only three small settlements on the shores of the bay: Monakhovo, Katun and Kurbulik. The total number of homesteads in Katun and Kurbulik is 40-50, and in Monakhovo – about ten. In Kurbulik, there is a cordon of Zabaikal National Park and a shop. The majority of tourists stay in Monakhovo.
The interior part of the bay is shallow. The depth being 600 m at the entrance of the bay decreases to the south – 10-20 m, and in lagoons – 5 m. The waters of Chivyrkuy Bay are warmed up well due to a great number of sunny days. In summer by early August, the water temperature reaches 20-22ºC, and in the southern part of the bay it can be even higher. The nature of this unique corner created conditions necessary for summer holiday: cosy wind-sheltered lagoons, clean sandy beaches and warm transparent water.
The combination of the most diverse Baikal landscapes on such a small area striking the imagination is another factor which makes Chivyrkuy Bay very attractive for tourists. Here you can see sandy bars alternating with small lakes and goosefoot marshes, thermal springs neighbouring with cedar forests, alpine meadows and thick wild taiga, snow-covered peaks of mountains, sandy beaches and blue mirror-like surface of Lake Baikal.
Usually tourists coming to Chivyrkuy Bay cannot but visit Snake Bay (8 km off settlement Kurbulik) where there is a thermal natural spring bearing the same name. A lot of grass snakes used to inhabit this bay. However nowadays, they come across more rarely because of the anthropogenic impact. The flow rate of the spring is 20 m3/day with water temperature from +39 to +42ºC. Two log cabins were built here for bathing. The water, which is rich in hydrocarbon and sulphate-sodium, is used for treatment of musculoskeletal diseases.
There are a lot landscape, geological, water, and botanical monuments of nature on this territory: Cape Ongonsky, Island Bolshoy Baklany, Malocheremshanskaya Cave, singing sands, Islands Bolshoy and Maly Kyltygey, Snake Spring, Nechevsky Spring, Lake Arangatuy, Cheremshanskaya grove and others. A great number of archeological findings have been preserved (Neolithic settlements, plate graves of the 2nd century BC, graves of late nomads of XIV-XV centuries, traces of ancient irrigation system, and over 30 settlements of the Bronze and Early Iron Ages).
Special protected regime in Chivyrkuy Bay helped preserve diverse animal world. The fauna of this area is represented by brown bear (a lot of bears come across the eastern shore), fox, wolf, sable, hare, squirrel, elk, Manchurian deer, roe and others. In water bodies, there are otters and muskrats. Black-capped marmot and reindeer are typical representatives of the mountain-taiga complex. In autumn during the storm season, it is possible to see here seal, an endemic mammal of Lake Baikal. Pinnipeds migrate from Ushkanyi Islands to Chivyrkuy Bay where they stay till the ice covers the lake and then migrate to the open waters of the lake.
There are a lot of birds in the nature conservation zone of Zabaikal National Park: 241 species of birds recorded in the Red Book (whooper swan, white-tailed eagle, Pallas' sea eagle, hooded crane, black stork, and peregrine). Waterfowl is one of the most abundant groups of birds in Chivyrkuy Bay. Rookeries of herring and common gulls are located on Islands Bolshoy and Maly Kyltygey. The bogs of Svyatoy Nos Isthmus are the largest place for nesting Baikal waterfowl: wild duck, European teal, pintail, dunbird, and goldeneye. The order Anseriformes is represented by 25 species. At present, the abundance of whooper swan has been restored. Great cormorant sometimes can be seen in Chivyrkuy Bay. It is easy to imagine what a bird hubbub in spring occurs in this area during nesting.
Zabaikal National Park is rich in fish; omul, whitefish, grayling, burbot, pike, perch, dace, ide, roach and others. Chivyrkuy Bay is one of the main sites of spawning for lacustrine whitefish. Omul of larger sizes comes from Lake Baikal to the Bolshoy Chivyrkuy River for spawning.
Flora of this National Park is unique making up over 20% of the flora of Zabaikalye. The mountainous relief divided vertically the cover structure into belts. There are a lot of endemic, rare and relict plants. Pine, cedar, larch, and fir prevail among trees, as well as birch, aspen and alder. In the mountainous-taiga area of Svyatoy Nos Peninsular bushes of rhododendron and cedar elfin wood are usual vegetation, whereas at the foot of the mountains there are raspberry canes, in particular. On the eastern shore of the bay, tourists can find abundance of cranberries and bilberries.
The flora of the Svyatoy Nos Isthmus is striking: on the small patch, high-altitude elfin wood cedar and various bushes can grow together with steppe or desert locoweed and Popov’s poppy. Pine and bird cherry tree creep on the ground, it is possible to pick cedar cones from the ground. Taller pines and cedars are of a flag-like form.
Chivyrkuy Bay is famous for its abundance of fishes. It is considered to be a paradise for fishermen. In summer, fishermen catch perch (average weight of 0.5-1 kg), roach, and pike (average weight of 4-8 kg). In June and from late August till late September, fishermen can catch very large specimens – if they are lucky, they catch pikes of up to 15 kg and over 1 kg perch. In lagoons, ide hides in algae which cover the bottom. Lenok and grayling inhabit the rivers.
The commercial fishing is banned in this area. Fishermen come to the bay by water or by car along the cross-country road.
Where to stay
Holidaymakers, tourists and fishermen usually stay in tents or on board the yachts.
It is important to know: