Here is a unique chance for you to visit the heart of Siberia, and spend quality time on the warm shores of Lake Baikal. It’s also a fine opportunity for you to invest in our collective future, and share in our efforts to protect our environment through the construction of a system of eco-trails around this, the biggest lake in the world.
What usually happens on a Great Baikal Trail project?
Our GBT trail-building projects can happen at any number of spots around our enormous lake—either right on the shoreline, or rather far away,well into the mountains and forests of Siberia. Most of our work-sites are quite remote, and many are in untrammelled lands where everyday tourists are rarely seen. But we at the GBT think that they all are worth visiting (and protecting!). That’s why we want to invite you to see for yourself: come to places like the jungle forests of Khamar-Daban, or to some of the giant cliffs and granite columns that jut out of the Siberian taiga forest. Or you could plan to get acquainted with our uniquely pristine Barguzin Valley, or take a plunge into the enchanted waters of the River Ina. Rest assured, you will never see anything rivalling the night sky in the beautiful north of Baikal, at places like Balan Tamur!
Every one of our projects is identical only in the fact that they all last 2 weeks. At each camp our mix of international and local Siberian volunteers sleep in tents, waking up each morning to prepare meals together over a central campfire. During the workday, our volunteers are asked to tackle different tasks: they might clear the way for a new trail, or improve an existent trail that is not up to our standards. Or our volunteers might be out building a campground or other trail structures, while making sure that each trail is ship-shape and free of trash. In each of our project descriptions you will find the specific chores listed out in detail.
During the interim weekend and other free days of a project, we might take our groups out on hikes, or on trips to local sites and museums—or simply out into nature for the fresh air and the peace and quite of our lakeside forests. These hikes (and the trail projects themselves) are led by our crew leaders, each of whom has been specially trained, both in the design and construction of trails, as well as in how to organize a back-country camp. Each group also will have a translator on board, a GBT staff person who not only ensures that the Russian and international volunteers can enjoy each other’s conversations, but who is also responsible for the project’s cultural and entertainment programs after hours. (Please note that the two official languages on our projects are English and Russian.)
What can I expect for each project?
• To begin with, each participant should be prepared for some serious physical exertion. For example, most projects involve our volunteers carrying their own large backpacks a distance of several miles at a time, to the work sites where they will be wielding some rather weighty trail-building tools. This is why we generally require that our volunteers fall between the ages of 18 and 60 years old.
• We ask that you bring certain personal belongings: a large BACKPACK, a sleeping bag and ground cover to sleep on, a warmish coat, and sturdy but comfortable shoes (for several projects you will be asked to bring waterproof shoes or boots); also please bring a drinking cup or bowl and a spoon.
• To get to the site we ask that participants fly or take the train, at their own expense, to the meeting place set for each project around Baikal (you will be informed about this meeting place long before the project starts).
Project fees: International volunteers are asked to pay a fee of 16,900 rubles, (which at the present exchange rate comes to some 375 Euros or 510 US dollars). Participants may bring this fee with them and pay on site. This payment goes to defray the costs of your meals while on the project. You will also be asked to pay for any travel from the original meeting place (usually in Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude) out to the trail-building site, and back.
For our part we will supply our volunteer groups with all the necessary tools and equipment (i.e., tents, construction tools, campfire utensils such as dishes, pots and other gear, first aid kits, etc.). We also organize each project for you, provide each group with fully-trained crew leaders and language interpreters, recruit all local and international volunteers, and purchase all food stuffs for meals on the project.
Finally, for all international volunteers, we compose official invitations that can be used to apply for Russian travel visas at your local Russian embassy. You can read more about the visa application process here. We will also meet every volunteer at the train station or airport of arrival here at Lake Baikal.
Please note: There may be circumstances beyond our control under which we may need to change the timing or place of a specific project—circumstances such as inclement weather conditions or other natural adversities, etc. If changes need to be made, or projects postponed, each volunteer will be alerted well in advance.