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Sakhalin Oblast

Kunashir Island

Black Island is the ancient name of this piece of land. It's black because of the dark green forest, the gloomy shade of the famous volcano Tyatya and the deep black color of the local soils. The dark impression from the island influenced its name.

In Kunashir, as well as in other islands of the Kuriles, the Ainu have long lived. The discoverers of the island met them and failed to understand whether the local residents are part of Japan or they are free. One way or another, the Japanese were getting to the island, building their fishing factories and were fishing. They colonized it and obtained all rights to the island in exchange for the recognition of Sakhalin as a completely Russian territory in 1875. The island became a part of Russia after the end of the Great Patriotic War, in 1945. Then the Japanese left the island, and the military units of the USSR permanently settled on its territory. The whole Kunashir is considered a border area, one needs to have a special pass to visit it.

This is one of the most beautiful islands of the Kuril chain. The place that attracts extreme travelers and fans of untouched nature.

Евгений Касперский / www.flickr.com

Kunashir is also a state nature reserve. A base for studying unique flora and fauna, unique volcanic landscapes, as well as marine and coastal ecosystems. It's the favorite wintering place for coastal and sea birds. Here, the cries of the seagulls and the sound of the surf merge into a single rumble that sticks to the travelers even after they leave the island.

There are four high volcanoes here. The volcano Tyatya is the landmark of the island. It has classical regular form with a smoothly rising muzzle and a wide round crater. The Mendeleev volcano, as well as the Golovin and the Rurui, attracts no less interest with its hot springs.The Golovin volcano is of interest because there are two lakes in its vicinity, that are so unique and unusual that they are famous all around the world, Lake Goryachee and Lake Kipyaschee. In the water area and on the coast of Goryachee, there are many active fumaroles. They are so densely located that the water temperature in the lake reaches 80 degrees Celsius in some places, and it's dangerous to swim in it because of the risk of being cooked alive.

At the foot of the Mendeleyev volcano, there is the Hot Beach, the only land of its kind where volcanic rocks are covered with a thin layer of sea sand. Its temperature is so high that you can easily bake, for example, a crab or fry an omelette without much trouble in a short period of time. The breakfast cooked this way is the best of delicacies. The springs in the area of the Mendeleev volcano are organized in a sanatorium. Through bamboo pipes, the water runs from here to the baths for those who wish to improve their health and restore their strength. These baths have a rich mineral composition, each treats various ailments.

The island is dominated by monsoons, the humid climate guarantees frequent rains. Precipitation fill small short island rivers that cover the island with a dense network. The island has protected areas with rare species and landscapes located within them. You need to take a pass in Yuzhno-Kurilsk to get here. This will give you a chance to admire the rare basalts of the mountainous parts of the island.

Kunashir lies at the same latitude as the Crimean peninsula, but it is not as hot here. The summer is cool, it's colder than in the midland. Spring begins slowly and for a long time struggles with the winter, even in May, frosts are not uncommon here. The warm current Soya reduces the influence of the cold Okhotsk coast. It's warmer than on Sakhalin. In winter, there is a lot of snow at shallow subzero temperatures. Golden time for tourists is the autumn: bright colors and warm, dry weather.

The nature of the island is much richer than in the rest of the archipelago. A variety of representatives of coniferous and deciduous trees, a rare species of magnolia, kuril bamboo, yew, viburnum, cherry and cedar procumbent shrub, lianas and mushrooms; completely different species that never live on the mainland in one area of growth are neighbors here. The most ancient plant of the Russian Far East deserves special attention, its age is more than 1,000 years! This is a yew with diameter of the trunk of 130 centimeters. Visiting such a place gives an idea of the great variety of life forms on the planet, so many things here and they are combined in an interesting way: the unusual landscape, the climate, the flora and fauna of Kunashir.

You can get to the island by air. In the village of Mendeleevo, there is an airport that provides communication with Sakhalin. Due to difficult weather conditions, flights are very variable, so most travelers prefer to go to the island by boat. For all non-residents, it's necessary to remember to receive a pass, which is possible at the border office of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. It can be done quickly, within one day. The tourists wishing to visit the protected area, the southern and northern extremities of the island, first need to get a pass in Yuzhno-Kurilsk, applying to the administration of the reserve.

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