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Diving And Discovering in Mongolia's Lakes
Written by William Kennedy | Monday, March 02, 2009.
Unless you are Czech Entrepreneur Lubomir Svoboda, Mongolia probably doesn’t spring to mind along with the phrase: ‘mysteries of the deep’. The European-born business man, however, knew he wanted to explore Mongolia’s pristine waters as soon as he saw them, and now he is one of the few people to scuba dive in the giant Lake Khovsgol. His expeditions to the 2,760-square kilometer, north-western lake have revealed collectives of fish, the ruins of a ship, and even a scan of a five-meter creature beneath its surface.
While Svoboda and his party only saw the life form on a computer from a boat above water—a local suggested the animal was an underwater deer—he knows that many remarkable and unknown things lie beneath the surfaces of Mongolia’s lakes.
“It’s a very interesting different world,” Svoboda said. “70 percent of our earth is under the water, and everything is different there. I love to watch the fish for example, how they live in their natural place—I love to see the wrecks.”
Svoboda estimates there are dozens of cars submerged in Khovsgol, a tanker truck, and possibly numerous Buddhist relics, rumored to be hidden during the socialist purges of monasteries last century. While the area surrounding Khovsgol, and even its surface are famous for their beauty, the lake’s depths, which reach 262 meters, remain largely unknown. Svoboda has already breached its surface dozens of times, but the size, splendor and mystery of the lake keep him coming back.
“It’s very exciting because I’m diving in places where people have never dived before. For example in Khovsgol, I think some Russian divers did dive there, but definitely not where I was. The lake’s so big and there is so much to discover.”
He may not have been the first to dive in Khovsgol, but Svoboda is certain he was the first to dive in the smaller Ugii and Terkhiin Tsagaan lakes, found almost directly west of Ulaanbaatar. Very few people in Mongolia dive, and while the government has a diving corps, they primarily search for drowned bodies and see minimal action. Ultimately, finding equipment is difficult, and the cost of importing it makes it prohibitive to many.
Svoboda brought his supplies from the Czech Republic. He first learned to dive in 2005 in his native country, with the ultimate goal, however, of plunging into Khovsgol. A member of the Adventurer’s Club and a “Master” amateur diver, Svoboda has led expeditions to Mongolia’s lakes with other intrepid explorers, but he only takes experienced divers, as the cold water requires special equipment and some skill.
Having explored other places, including the Philippines, Svoboda still seems enamored of the clear water and lonely beauty of Mongolia’s lakes. Isolation on the lake is not something he expects to change as Mongolia does not have the tourism, or the capacity, to make Khovsgol a crowded place.
Neither does he expect his love of diving to waver, as Svoboda, despite running three businesses, still finds time to make the long treks to the lake, carrying all his equipment. While he’s embarked on other adventures as well, and even brought a hot air balloon to Mongolia, he still prefers the water to the air. “It’s enough to scuba dive,” Svoboda said. “It can keep me busy until the end of my life—in Mongolia, there are so many lakes.”
Down the road, he plans to travel to and explore more of the countries waters, especially in the west where there are several large salt water lakes. “It will be difficult,” Svoboda admits, “But it doesn’t stop me.”
Scuba diving in Khuvsguls lake, summer 2007