|World > Eurasia > Lake Baikal > The Great Baikal Trail - a 1,000 mile hike around the biggest lake in the world|
General info on the GBTLake Baikal is the world's oldest and largest lake. It is mostly undeveloped, quite diverse in nature, with few roads on its shores, and only a handful of towns & villages. What it does have is plenty of wildlife: bears, elk, sable, and the famous Baikal seal.
There are 3 national parks and 3 wilderness reserves surrounding Baikal, each with its own set of trails, campsites and visitor centers. Until recently, there has been little to connect these protected areas. That is why these parks have joined together, and with the aid of local environmental groups, they have begun building the "Great Baikal Trail". This trail will loop around the entire lake, and will offer hikers, bikers, or the average nature-lover many more opportunities to see and enjoy the lake. This trail will also give local people added chances to promote tourism at Baikal, and allow them to say NO to the oil pipelines and other industrial developments that are inching ever closer to the shores of this pristine Russian lake.
How do you attract tourists to Baikal , especially when there are so few roads and accommodations around the lake?.......... Build trails and campsites!
Quick Facts about the Great Baikal Trail (GBT)
This last summer, some 60 additional miles (or 100 kilometers) of trail were built at Baikal under this program. Plans are for the GBT to open up a 1000+mile hiking path around Baikal, ultimately connecting Russia and Mongolia. (By the way, after this last summer, only 250 trail-miles are in place around Baikal. So there's plenty of work left to do!)
The GBT will have hundreds of designated campsites, picnic tables, and waste-collection sites en route. Along the many cliffs and other inaccessible shorelines, the GBT will offer special water routes for kayakers and boaters (and for the tri-athletes.....plenty of swimming!) It will also offer special trails and outdoors opportunities for the handicapped. And with a number of interpretive trails, the GBT will provide educational opportunities for locals & visitors alike, to help them learn more about the environment and native cultures here. What's more, it will take 1000s of volunteers many summers to finish this trail. But in the meantime, many parts of the trail will be open for use.
Who stands to gain? Well, everyone, including the:
National Parks & Reserves, home-stay hosts and local bed & breakfasts, local artists/performers/artisans, tour agencies, operators, & service providers, local museums & culture centers. Plus all the volunteers who will be working on the international teams to build the trail, and all the visitors and eco-tourists who will be using the Great Baikal Trail for years to come!
What kind of ecotourists would use this trail?:
Well, there will be: Hikers, Bikers, Divers, Horseback riders, Kayakers, Sailing crews, Photographers, Videographers, Birdwatchers, Seal-lovers, Cold-winter lovers, Ski-bums, Naturalists, Botanists, Flower-lovers, Tree huggers, Buddhist Pilgrims, New-age tourists, Shaman followers, Genghis Khan buffs, Banya (sauna) lovers, Hot spring lollabouts, Off-the-beaten pathfinders, People seeking Tibetan healing cures, People seeking the magic of Baikal, Trans-Siberian Train buffs, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Americans, and Russians all trying to flee the urbanized crowds.
Proposed Route for the Trail The GBT will have 15 distinct sections, starting with:
Who's Building the Trail --- the "Partners"
The group at Baikal that is spearheading the construction of the GBT is the "Federation for Sport Tourism and Mountaineering at Baikal", which itself has recently founded the Great Baikal Trail Association. With technical support from its chief international partners, both Earth Island Institute and Earth Corps, and with financial assistance from the Foundation for Russian-American Economic Cooperation, US AID, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and others, the GBTA is organizing a far-reaching coalition of partners from around Baikal and beyond, a coalition that includes:
In addition, the Federation and the new GBTA relies heavily on some 250 active members around Baikal, not to mention the many volunteers from schools, universities, and other professional organizations located around Baikal, throughout Russia, and from around the world.
Volunteer opportunities for this coming summer (... and for many summers to come!)
How do you attract tourists to Baikal when there are so few roads and accommodations around the lake? Build trails and campsites!
The Great Baikal Trail can only be built and maintained by teams of volunteers, working every summer for probably the next decade at least. If we consider that the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail took some 20 years to be built, one can easily envision how a project like this could become a fine, long-term meeting place for schoolchildren, college students, and other youngsters alike (i.e., those who are young in age, or just young at heart). In the summer of the 2005, there were 32 teams that had some 740 local and international volunteers working at various trail sites around the lake, for time periods ranging from 2-4 weeks. In 2006, there were 28 new projects with another 700 volunteers. (Note: this last summer we had representatives from some 18 different countries and from most regions of Russia helping out on the GBT!)
For more information on how YOU can volunteer, and join in on one of these international teams, please contact either Earth Island Institute (at baikal(at)earthisland.org)or the Federation at Baikal (gbt.international(at)gmail.com). We look forward to digging some dirt with you soon!
Keep Baikal Green and Clean!
Join our Baikal partners, for an experience of a lifetime, on the shores of life-giving Lake Baikal!
For more general information on the Great Baikal Trail, please visit our web site:
Ecotourism is a project of Earth Island Institute.