A former restricted zone in Russia's far east has seen a surge in tourism in recent months and years, thanks to a colony of wild bears.

The Kamchatka Peninsula was, until the 1980s, off limits to most people, due to the presence of a number of military facilities, but was later opened up to tourism and designated a special economic zone in 2015.

In 2016, 17,000 foreign tourists visited the area, with 1,655 of these coming from Japan, many especially to see the region's brown bears, as well as its mountain plants and natural hot springs.

More than 20,000 brown bears live on the peninsula, with around 500 residing around Kurile lake, which has become a hotspot for campers.

The lake has been dubbed "bears' paradise," and tourists often can spot more than 20 creatures each day, separated from them by a simple electric fence.

Despite the bears being able to run as fast as 50 kilometers per hour, and being easily able to cross the fence, there have been no serious incidents of bears attacking humans in recent years.

It takes two hours to reach the lake by car and helicopter from the nearest urban area, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, but for people who want to see 3-meter high bears swimming, wandering around with their cubs and playing with each other, there is perhaps no better place.

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