Submerged Sentinels - Kazakhstan's Underwater Forest
Kaindy lake in south-east of Kazakhstan. The mountain lakes like this form after the landslide blocks the mountain river. The trunks are dead Picea schrenkiana trees – Jonas Satkauskas, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

In the serene and picturesque landscape of Kazakhstan’s Tian Shan Mountains lies a surreal and hauntingly beautiful spectacle – Kazakhstan’s Underwater Forest, the sunken forest of Lake Kaindy. This lake, with its clear, cold water, is like a window to a different world, revealing a forest of spruce trees that stand tall and ghostly beneath the surface. The trees, submerged in the lake’s depths, create an otherworldly scene that feels both serene and eerie, a testament to the transformative power of nature.

Lake Kaindy, which means “the birch tree lake” in Kazakh, was formed quite recently in geological terms, the result of a natural catastrophe. In 1911, a powerful earthquake triggered a massive limestone landslide, effectively damming the gorge and creating a natural reservoir. Over time, the valley below filled with rainwater, submerging the spruce forest that once flourished there. The cold water of the lake, which can be near freezing even in summer, has preserved the trees remarkably well, leaving them hauntingly intact beneath the water’s surface.

Visiting Lake Kaindy is an experience that transcends mere sightseeing. The journey to the lake itself is a trek through the stunning landscapes of the Tian Shan Mountains, with their lush valleys and snow-capped peaks. Upon reaching the lake, the first sight of the submerged forest is something that captivates and stays with you. The crystal-clear water offers a vivid view of the trees beneath, their trunks rising like eerie pillars from the depths, and their branches creating a ghostly canopy under the water.

The scene is particularly striking in the winter when the lake freezes over, and the trees are encased in ice. Visitors can walk over the frozen surface, an experience that feels like traversing a frozen kingdom, with the ghostly shapes of the trees visible below the ice. In the warmer months, the lake is a popular spot for divers who brave the chilly waters to explore this underwater forest, gliding between the trunks and branches in a surreal underwater landscape.

The sunken forest of Lake Kaindy is a living testament to the dynamic nature of our planet. It’s a place where the destructive force of an earthquake has given birth to a new, unexpected beauty. The trees, with their leaves long gone, have become the home to a variety of fish that now swim through what used to be treetops. It’s a vivid example of how ecosystems adapt and transform, a place where destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin.

The underwater forest is not just a natural wonder but also a cultural and historical symbol for the people of Kazakhstan. It’s a reminder of the ever-present power of the natural world and the resilience of life in the face of change. For the local communities, the lake and its submerged forest have become a source of pride and a unique attraction that draws visitors from around the world.

As a haven of tranquility and a spectacle of natural beauty, Lake Kaindy and its underwater forest stand as a unique and enchanting feature in Kazakhstan’s landscape. It’s a place that invites contemplation and wonder, a serene reminder of nature’s capacity to awe and inspire, and a symbol of the ever-changing face of our natural world.