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Rafting the Sayan Oka River in Siberia

Irkutskaya Oblast', Russia

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Book this tour through our partner: MT Sobek

Venture across Siberia's vast wilderness for a rafting adventure on the spectacular Sayan Oka River. Raft mighty rapids such as Okinskiy and Buryatskiy, which boast giant water waves up to 11 feet high. Witness the quirky Rafter's Museum, where adventurers dispose of bizarre possessions, and visit the Old Believers, a self-sufficient religious community that braves Siberia's severe climate. After long days out in the wild, enjoy leisure time at riverside camps — head for easy hikes, have a swim, go out fishing, or delight in a real Russian banya. This is your chance to raft with the founders of Sobek, Richard Bangs and John Yost, on this one special, commemorative 50th anniversary departure in August 2019.


Arrive in Irkutsk

Arrive in Irkutsk, a history-rich city and the unofficial capital of eastern Siberia. Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.

Drive to the Sayan Oka River

Head out for today's long drive to our put-in on the Sayan Oka River. Along the way, pass the southern corner of Lake Baikal, head south towards the Mongolian border via vast spaces of the stunning Tunka Valley. Stop for lunch, then hit a gravel road into the Sayan Mountains, following a rocky deep canyon onto a gorgeous plateau with a lake. If the weather is clear, see the north face of Munku-Sardik (11,3458'), eastern Siberia's highest peak. Drive down past the town of Orlikand and on to the riverbank of Sayan Oka, to set up camp.

Venture Down the Sayan Oka River

Rig the boats, get a safety talk, have a hot lunch and then suit up and start the rafting adventure. Pass the first Class III rapid not far from the starting point and test the team's skills and coordination. With no more major rapids for the rest of the day, take in the Sayan Oka River plateau, through the vastness of the steppes and into a rocky canyon with walls made of black volcanic stones. Camp by the mouth of the fast-roaring Jom-Bolok River. Try your fishing luck at the confluence of the two rivers.

Raft the Sayan Oka Plateau

Not far from camp, stop at a side stream to see the Sailag waterfall, to see the water free-falling into the middle of a rock cirque. Head downriver for some Class II action and the last of the valley's settlements before we get to completely uninhabited areas. While on the plateau, the river meanders through islands and down channels but the speed stays fast. When the channels join this afternoon, see the impressive entrance to the Orkha-Bom canyon. This evening, camp at the bottom of steep mountain slopes near a creek.

Take In the Orkha-Bom Canyon

At its entrance, the Orkha-Bom canyon is narrow and curved, with deep, dark water, spectacular rocky pillars sticking out of the taiga-covered mountain slopes, and the river silent and smooth. Shortly hear the sound of the first serious Class III rapids, first Three Geologists, then God Save Us, with majestic vertical cliffs. After lunch, run the two mightiest rapids of the Sayan Oka — Okinskiy and Buryatskiy rapids (Class IV). Next stop is the Rafter's Museum, a collection of bizarre items left behind by rafting groups in the middle of this wilderness.

Enjoy a Layover Day by the River

Today is your time to relax at the lovely camp and head out for an activity of your choice. Pick between hiking, fishing, swimming, or just unwinding in the wild. Cap the day's pleasures with a real Russian sauna (banya), right on the riverbank.

Exit the Orkha-Bom Canyon

Today's first rapids appear quickly and continue with only short breaks. Take in tall rocky cliffs reflected in sparkling blue-green lagoons, often festooned by long gentle waterfalls. At their foot, see a series of gorgeous deep grottos, with great grayling fishing. The afternoon brings more excellent whitewater; with Haragol 1 & 2 (Class IV), Centrifuge and Mill, you won't leave dry.

Reach the Three Oka’s Confluence

The landscape changes today, as the river valley opens up to a panoramic view of taiga-covered mountains. The speed stays fast, and you run a few Class II-III rapids. At midday, reach the Three Oka's, where the mainstream Sayan Oka makes a sharp turn and joins two major tributaries, the Hoito and Urdo Okas. Stop here for a hike, then continue rafting down the meandering river through the dark forest, until you reach tonight's camp, in a picturesque spot on a sandy beach.

Visit the Old Believers Community

Today start early; there are many river miles to cover. See signs of human activity again, passing small log cabins of local fisherman and hunters. The day's highlight is a visit to a small religious community called Old Believers, who live in the severe conditions of the Siberian wilderness, completely isolated other than rafting expeditions and a few local fishermen in summertime. This afternoon, take in stunning river landscapes with high cliffs and rocky islands and set up camp on an island with good fishing; with luck, enjoy grilled fish for dinner.

Final Raft & Head to Listvyanka Village

After breakfast, raft to the take-out near the Verkhne-Okinsky village. Today the river is very wide and divided into numerous small branches flowing between islands. In many places you can see different marks of beavers; there's a healthy population here. Say goodbye to the Sayan Oka River and drive five hours back to Irkutsk, then another 1.5 hours on to Listvyanka village.

Explore Lake Baikal

This morning, take a ferry from Listvyanka to Sennaya Bay. Hike along the shoreline, visit a cave and a prehistoric site, and possibly a village and a biological station. In the afternoon, ferry back to the road and drive to Irkutsk, to freshen up at the hotel before the final dinner together with the group, celebrating the journey through the Siberian wilderness.

Depart from Irkutsk

This morning after breakfast, take a transfer to the Irkutsk airport for your homebound flight.

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Starting From


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12 Days


Irkutsk, Russia


Irkutsk, Russia

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