ACCORDING TO STATISTICS FROM LAST YEAR’S summer season, the list of the most popular Sakhalin sights for tourists included Aniva Lighthouse, Giant Cape, Pacific Bay, the Devil’s Bridge, Frog Butte, Busse Lake, and Eustace Cape.
One of the most exciting excursions on Sakhalin is to the Aniva Lighthouse, located in the Aniva Bay on the southern edge of the island. The lighthouse was built in 1939 by the Japanese on the small Sivuchya Cliff, beside the rugged, inaccessible Aniva Cape. The area is beset with rip tides, frequent fog, and rocky underwater sandbanks. The lighthouse tower is 31m high, while the light itself reaches 40m above sea level. The tower consists of nine storeys. The lighthouse itself is no longer in use. Weather permitting, tour groups arrive at the lighthouse and are given a tour inside, with time for photos.
On the southern shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, there is a genuine natural open-air museum. Giant Cape is home to stone leviathans, and an emerald-green wall that cuts through the surface of the sea with its rocky sides. The “exhibits” at this museum are the lagoons and caves standing right in the sea, and arches and columns of stone, carved out by the wind and the waves. At the heart of the exhibition is the visitor himself and his sense of being as insignificant as a grain of sand before these stone giants. From July to August here you can see one of the most extraordinary phenomena nature has to offer—the spawning run of the Pacific salmon.
At a distance of 130km from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk lies Pacific Bay, is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of coastline sheltered from the cold winds. Located on the west coast of Sakhalin in the Gulf of Patience, “Pacific” Bay was given its name by the great Russian explorer Adam Johann von Krusenstern.
It is home to rare plants including sea roses, golden banners, spikenards, and mertensia. Sand can only be found along the shoreline of the bay, which for the most part consists of dark brown cliffs and large rocks jutting out of the sandstone. Another sight of interest is Zametniy Island, with its flat peak and broad base. There is no way for people to reach the rock, so instead it is always covered with a crowd of noisy gulls.
The Devil’s Bridge
This mysteriously named bridge is a unique piece of railway engineering that attracts thousands of tourists from all over the globe. It was originally built in the 1920s by the Japanese. Trains first travelled through a tunnel before emerging at the top of the hill to cross the bridge at a height of 38m above sea level. From the bridge, visitors get spectacular panoramic views of the island scenery. The tunnel that the Japanese carved into the cliff is almost 900m long, and makes a complete circle inside the rock. The upper part of the tunnel exits the cliff directly above the entrance. This unique feat of engineering was achieved long before the introduction of GPS or other modern position-finding technologies.
The Vestochka district is considered Sakhalin’s energetic centre. Frog Butte is a wonder of nature over 20 million years old, and a place with an extraordinary energy. The massif is located 3km to the north-east of the village of Vestochka on the southern slope of Mount Gorbunov, and covers a total area of 12ha. The outline of the battered cliffs resembles a frog sitting on a hillock. Locals say that this is the exact energetic centre of Sakhalin. Whether that is true or not, according to Aynu legend the cliff was considered a temple of wisdom. It is also said that if you touch the Frog Butte and make a wish, it is guaranteed to come true.
On the east coast of the island, almost at its furthest tip, stands one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places, the Cape of St. Eustace. This rocky cape, surrounded by crystal-clear water, is only 51m high, but from it, spectacular panoramic views stretch out to the south, reaching Pavlovich Cape and Aniva Cape. Standing on the cape and breathing the delicious sea air, you have the real sensation of flight.
Busse is a lagoon-like lake, where the focus of interest is a small island of oysters— the whole mass consists of nothing but oyster shells. Here you can feast on these seafood delicacies at the very best “nature restaurant”.