Shiretoko Five Lakes National Park (July 2015)

It was a pity that our time in Shiretoko was very short (1 night & 1 morning). We could only choose 1 attraction to cover – which was visiting the Five Lakes National Park, hoping to spot a brown bear since it was the high season.

After bidding farewell to the awesome ryokan at Hotel Club Kifu Shiretoko, we took a short drive to the Five Lakes National Park. Thankfully, the skies were slowly clearing up from the rain yesterday.

As you can see, there’s still a bit of snow on the mountain top..

If you haven’t done your research, Summer is the High Season for Bears (aka Bear Aware Season) which means that to trek along the 3-hour trail and see all 5 lakes, you will have to pay (5,000Y) and engage a private guide. You can read more about it here. (For other seasons, guided tours are not necessary.) It is encouraged to pre-book your guide prior to your trip as there is limited capacity. Each guide can only host 10 people per session.

Alternatively, if you don’t wish to pay for the guided tour, you can walk the free 900m elevated wooden pathway which will bring you to see one lake. (Can consider this option if you are in a rush.)

Initially, I thought that the 5,000Y was on a high side but after going through the guided walk, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (though we didn’t manage to spot any bears) and our guide was not only knowledgeable, but very enthusiastic and eager to share and point out things which would not have otherwise noticed. Furthermore, after looking at the huge efforts that they have put in to conserve the nature environment, please take my money.

After a short video and safety briefing (whereby they show all possibilities on how your life can be in danger), we were ready to set off. Each of us was also given a choice between two binoculars – the lighter one with lower zoom or the heavier one with better zoom. All of us took the latter.

Do bear with me as I try to remember all the information from that morning.

Budding Grapes – favourite food for young bears.

Japanese Tree Frog if I’m not wrong.

Bear Paw alert! Guide said that this paw print was fresh and it was a female bear (due to its large size).

Every natural habitat is open to the weather conditions and fallen trees due to heavy winds and rain is not uncommon. For this nature reserve, they do not remove anything from the forest. They will try to push the tree away, such that it doesn’t block the walking trail.

This is how the walking trail looks like; with the guide’s infinity zoom binoculars. Despite the long walk, he carried his huge binoculars throughout, often pausing to show us various footages.

When necessary, wooden planks with wooden dowels are used to create an elevated path – especially useful for muddy areas.

The trail starts off with Lake 5.

Family of ducks spotted with his ultra-zoom binoculars!

Another image of fallen tree. They just let them fall gracefully, with minimal human intervention.

If it is really necessary (i.e. Fallen tree blocks the trail directly), they will cut off the fallen tree trunk into smaller pieces and place them at the side of their fallen position.

Take nothing but photos, Leave nothing but Footsteps.

Lake #4

Along the way, there are steps (without railings) too; might not be too suitable for elderly with weak knees.

Some kind of orange fungi.

Lake no.3; Getting prettier.

We had full view of the mountains and he even used his zoom lens to spot the people snowboarding down the few patches of snow.

Summary of where we have walked – we started from the “P” sign and walked southwards, passing Lake 5 (smallest lake), Lake 4 and Lake 3.

White lilies can be spotted!

Lake 2 – the biggest lake of this national park.

Best photo spot according to him.

Lake 1

After which, we were ready to step up the elevated wooden pathway.

Beautiful mountain view of the Shiretoko mountain range – includes Mt Rausu (highest elevation).

I took out my duffy and paddington bear, hoping that it will be a lucky charm to attract the brown bears; sadly, this trick did not work out and we still didn’t chance upon a single bear =(

Do note that the elevated walkway is free and there’s a possibility that bears can be spotted too!

Food Chain.. it’s been a while since I last understood such diagrams.

You can also spot the sea in the vicinity.

Can you spot the bird?

The guided tour (including the briefing) took 3 hours and we had 0 luck in bears or deer. It was a little disappointing as I really wanted to see one walking likeaboss in front of me.. Oh well, this one at the visitor centre shall suffice..

Don’t forget to visit the souvenir shop too!

Along the way out of Shiretoko, we stopped by this interesting turtle-like landscape.

There were also two waterfalls along the road out.

Lunch was from a convenience shop in Shari Town as we couldn’t find anything to eat. There was a JR Station and Bus Terminal in this town. If you’re taking public transport, you’ll probably have to alight here before proceeding to Shiretoko.

Satisfying the stomach with a delicious Cheese Pork Don with Melon Milk on a random bench outside the JR station.

It’s gonna be another long car ride to our next destination – Asahidake.

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