Lake Kaindy, meaning birch tree lake in Kazakh, is a 400 metres long lake located in Kolsai National Park in the Kazakhstan side of the Tian Shan mountain range, it lies 300km south east the city of Almaty, Kazaksthan. The sunken forest of Lake Kaindy with its’ bright turquoise waters is a little known natural phenomenon in Central Asia formed after the 1911 Kebin earthquake.
Sunken forest of Lake Kaindy
The centre of the earthquake was in Almaty but stretched out for 200 km to the Tian Shan mountains which triggered limestone landslides in the region. This caused a natural dam and over time the rain water formed Lake Kaindy where the submerged Schrenk’s spruce (PiceaSchrenkiana), native to the Tian Shan mountains rise above the lake. The limestone deposits in the water give us the vibrant blues, the dream for every travel photographer and nature lover.
Lake Kaindy is around 1,667 metres above sea level and reaches depths of 20m. The water rarely reaches above 6 degrees, colder than that of Kolsai Lakes. The submerged forest has survived and remain intact mainly due to the temperature and the rich mineral waters. Divers have discovered the wondrous trees underneath remain intact, a stark contrast the dead trunks above the water.
The natural eco-system of the area means you can meet a real mix of wildlife including foxes, hares, bears, wolves and snow leopards. Having visited in June and July, I could see a distinct growth of the alpine flora from the previous month, bringing many butterflies of varying colours fluttering around from flower to flower.
What you need to know about Lake Kaindy
Getting to Almaty – We flew to Almaty with Fly Dubai from Dubai but many other airlines fly to this airport such as KLM, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines.
Our trip was organised by Trekkup Dubai with all flights and transport included to Kolsai Lakes and Charyn Canyon, our local guide helped me with some of the information below so this is current info at the time of writing this blog.
Getting from Almaty to Saty – Take the metro to Raimbek Batyr metro station,
Go to the corner of Pushkin Street and Raimbek Batyr Avenue where there will be a shared taxi to Kegan (look for cars in the back right corner of the first lot (not the lot where the marshrutkas are leaving from). A shared taxi to Saty should take around 4 hours from Almaty and cost around 1000-1500 tenge per person. It will be quicker if you take another taxi from Kegan to Saty village.
Getting from Saty Village to Lake Kaindy – From Saty village where we stayed, you will hire taxis from there at around 2000 tenge. The road starts off fairly smooth until you turn onto the track towards Lake Kaindy. Whilst it has numerous scenic views to the Saty Gorge, the Chilik Valley, and the Kaindy Gorge, you may find yourself a little preoccupied with the very bumpy journey. We headed there in the old taxi vans, ten of us piled into the back, it takes around 25-30 minutes to get to the first point. I tried a few methods to prevent me from being air-borne at certain parts of the journey, I just couldn’t get the hang of it but then I’ve never been great at the Bucking Broncho!
Getting around Lake Kaindy – Kasakh men are waiting on horseback to give you a ride to the lake, expect to pay between 1500-2000 tenge (Kazakh currency) for the pleasure of a oneway trip to the yurts. The horses look in good health with glossy coats which is comforting but I chose to go by foot. You will walk up a gentle incline to another horse point where there is a place to eat local Kazakh food cooked in the yurts. The next part of the walk is a steep decline towards the breath-taking Lake Kaindy. The walk is around 45 minutes, you can marvel at the spectacular Tian Shan mountains.
So, you’ve come this far, you must not miss out on viewing Lake Kaindy from the platform above, it takes around 15 minutes further to walk but totally with it. There’s benches at the top, perfect spot for a picnic!
Entrance free to Lake Kaindy – You will pay 550 tenge per person and 500 tenge for the bus, there are varying prices according to the vehicle you’re in. There used to be one fee for the whole of the Kolsai National Park but the government sold the land around Lake Kaindy to a respected Kazakh business man for the rental, the cost has in turn been transferred to tourists. Worth every tenge!
Insurance for your trip – Always make travel insurance a priority for any adventure! World Nomads is my go-to guys, I’ve learnt this from experience. You can buy and claim online even when you’ve left home. I love that they give a little back too and support community development projects in various countries.