Sakhalin is a very enjoyable place to live with many glorious days in summer, and a winter wonderland with lots of snow and bright sunshine. The Island has a lot to offer to those who like the outdoor life, but it also has the added bonus of a fantastic location in the Far East, close to Japan, China, Seoul etc. There are lots of opportunities for exciting breaks from the island.
Sakhalin is GMT +11 hours. The local language is Russian.
The Sakhalin region or Oblast includes the island of Moneron and the Kuril chain of islands. Sakhalin Island is separated from the Far East Russian mainland by the Tartar Strait and from the Japanese Island of Hokkaido by the Perouse Strait. The island is approximately the same area as Scotland and has a population of about 600,000, the majority of whom live on the southern half of the island centered around Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The Sakhalin Energy offices and the Zima camp are also located in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
The Capital of Sakhalin is a compact city with almost 200,000 inhabitants, which was founded in 1881. It is a typical Russian city with mainly 3-6 storey apartment buildings and has quite a few nice parks. Gagarin park is the big city park where people come to relax during the weekend. There is a Zoo located in the Gagarin Park.
There are four seasons in Sakhalin. Winter usually lasts from the beginning of November to the end of April. Snow may fall as early as October and as late as the middle of June but is usually settled on the ground from the beginning of December to the end of April. It is normal for blizzards to occur during those months, and temperatures in the Yuzhno region may fall to as low as -30 degrees Celsius during the day and even lower at night. Nevertheless, there are many days of blue skies and sunshine and you can spend a lot of time outside playing in the snow or practicing winter sports.
The summer weather is variable. There may be a good deal of rain, sometimes even mist. It usually clears by mid-morning, but if it has not cleared by then, it can hang around all day. Despite this, it usually stays warm and temperatures into the high twenties are common. At other times, the weather can be very hot and humid. This is the growing season and there is abundant growth of all vegetation.
Autumn, which is usually quite short, has many glorious days with clear blue skies. Many people consider this one of the most beautiful seasons. It is not yet very cold, and nature displays the most amazing variety of colours in the forests and countryside.
The level of humidity between summer and winter varies considerably. While humidity can be as high as 65% in summer, it will easily fall to around 20% in winter. The dryness in winter and the cold temperatures mean that your whole body dries out and you need to use lot of moisturiser. Most people buy humidifiers which improve the dry atmosphere inside the houses and also counteract the static resulting from the very dry air. Cold air humidifiers are preferable than hot air models, which create a lot of condensation and can be dangerous for children. Air-o-Swiss produce an air washer which acts as a humidifier and purifier, it can increase humidity up to 55% in winter.
It is an accompanied posting for those employees who work in the Sakhalin Energy office, with spouses and children up to 12 years old living on a camp. Nationalities on camp are predominantly British, Dutch, Australian, New Zealand and Asian. Currently there are over 20 different nationalities in the camp.
Most people on Sakhalin speak Russian, and only a few locals have a grasp of English, so it is good to have a Russian phrase book with you when you arrive, and if you can appraise yourself of some of the most commonly used sayings, you will find life more comfortable when you venture outside Zima (Sakhalin Energy housing). Even within Zima there will be times you will find it helpful to know some Russian - bus and taxi drivers are all Russian speaking, as are the maintenance workers on camp for example. Here are some Russian words you will hear and some you may need to use (written phonetically):
|Zdrasvootye||Hello (a very common greeting)|
|Pazhalsta||With pleasure / please|
|Dobroy Ootra||Good morning|
|Dobre Dien||Good day|
|Dobre Vyecher||Good evening|
|Eezveneetchye||Excuse me / sorry|
|Ya nay panemayoo||I don’t understand you|
|Ya nay gavaryoo po Rooskee||
I don’t speak Russian
Russian lessons are available to Sakhalin Energy employees and their spouses, and this can be arranged on arrival. It is also important to note that many people live happily in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk with only a very limited grasp of the Russian language.
There are two map books of Sakhalin that can be bought from the Government tourist shop. These contain a very small amount of information on sightseeing. There is also a chapter on Sakhalin in the Lonely Planet Guide to Russia and Belarus. Sightseeing generally focuses on outdoor activities and, because of this, is done mainly in the summer months. Furthermore, on this webpage, under the tab 'library / other outpost Sakhalin publications' you can find a booklet 'exploring Sakhalin by car'.
The main routes to and from the Island are via Sapporo, Moscow and Seoul. Whichever route you take, be prepared for a long journey. Especially during the winter months, delays in Korea, Japan or mainland Russia are not uncommon and you should bear this is mind, particularly when travelling with small children.
Sakhalin Island is well situated for travel to Japan via Hakodate, Sapporo and Tokyo and from there onwards to the other main Japanese cities and islands and to Hawaii and New Caledonia. Western USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand are about a ten hour flight from Tokyo. The other possibility is to fly via Seoul (South Korea) and from there to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. To be able to fully enjoy the holiday breaks from Sakhalin, There are plenty travel guides available at outpost office and at the library to be able to fully enjoy the holiday breaks from Sakhalin.