Mongolia is the land of two of Nature’s most iconic predators – the Golden Eagle and the Snow Leopard. Snow Leopards – called Altai Irves by the Mongols - are one of the most elusive of all the big cats in the world. While most people associate it with Asia’s highest mountains such as the Himalaya, Tien Shan and Pamir, the Mongolian Altai and Govi-Altai mountains harbor strong populations with some the highest recorded densities in the world. Critical to their survival are the strong populations of prey, such as Mongolian Argali sheep and Siberian Ibex, as well as abundant Marmots. Here in the Mongol Altai this journey will take you into the heart of Snow Leopard habitat, where an abundance of wild prey ensures that the Irves lives unmolested from persecution. Ongoing scientific research associated with this exclusive itinerary means there is an opportunity to spend time in study areas, intimately experiencing the Snow Leopard’s mountain home, with an exciting possibility of even encountering this magnificent elusive cat.
Soaring over the Altai’s cliffs and slopes are the legendary Golden Eagles – known as the Berkut, which are renowned for their hunting prowess and revered by the Altai Kazakh people. As we go deep into the mountains to encounter the wild Golden Eagles that inspire such Kazakh “berkutchi” hunters, this journey will also give us the opportunity to directly experience the Kazakh Eagle hunting tradition that has been practiced uninterrupted by hunters for over 1000 years. While this Eagle-hunting culture has been recently rediscovered, there remain very few traditional, authentic berkutchi left. Fortunately, we will be able to visit some of these renowned hunters to experience their age-old working relationship with their magnificent eagles at first hand. Larger, more aggressive female eagles are favored by the Kazakh hunters, given the bird’s capacity to bring down large prey, such as foxes, ibex and even wolves. In the old tradition they are taken as eaglets, raised to work with the hunter for many years until fully mature, and then released as experienced hunters back into the wild to join their wild kin.
This itinerary will take us into the heart of the Altai Mountains where Golden Eagles, Eagle hunter and the mysterious Snow Leopard coexist in a truly mythic landscape and culture.
Day 1. Arrive in UB and visit Chinggis Khan’s statue
Meet by our team on your arrival at UB airport.
Today, we drive to east and reach Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which is located near Ulaanbaatar, about 60 km. The Park is a great getaway destination for short and long time visitors. Among local attractions are famous “Turtle" Rock, man-made park with dinosaur statues, "Arraybal" buddhist temple, "Khagiin Khar" Glacier Lake, and relaxing views of Tuul River valley. Visit “Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex” and “XIII Century National Camp”
Chinggis khan statue complex is located among beautiful natural scenery on the bank of river Tuul, in the place called “Tsonjin Boldog”, memorial place connected with historic events. Evening drive back to UB. Overnight at 4/5* hotel. (L)
Day 2. Fly to Olgii and Drive to Khukh Serkhiyn Nuruu (Blue Goat) National Park
After early breakfast, transfer to UB airport. Arrive Olgii airport to be met by the team. We will then drive 160kms (4-5hrs) to the south and come to a traditional Kazakh Eagle hunter’s winter home.
The place is a mountain range renowned for its Snow Leopards, with abundant populations of Argali and Ibex. Our visit will be benefiting from an ongoing Snow Leopard research project that is being undertaken here, giving us considerable insight into the movements and habits of these elusive cats. We will meet Eagle Hunter and his magnificent Golden Eagle, and learn from a true master about the traditions and skills of hunting with Eagles in the Altai. Overnight in wooden house with inside bathroom. (BLD)
Days 3-6. Classic Hunting with Golden Eagle
The Mongolian Kazakhs use for hunting female eagles as far they are bigger mail ones and more aggressive. These eagles are trained to hunt fox, rabbit and wild cat. Every day going side by side on horseback with eagle-hunters to hunt mostly fox we learn and enjoy this unique customs of the Mongolian Kazakhs.
We will spend our days in the wild and remote fastness of the Khukh Serkhiyn range. We will take our time to watch carefully for all aspects of wildlife here: Argalis, Ibexes and Red Deer, always entertaining the hope for a possible and rare Snow Leopard sighting. We will enjoy all that these mountains have to show, from the many raptors such as Golden Eagle, Steppe Eagle, the awe-inspiring bone-eating Lammergeyer (Bearded Vulture), the great Black Vulture and the swift Sacker Falcon (the Altai race of which is considered by many ornithologists to be a separate species). We will give ourselves the opportunity to observe these mountains in all their intricate grandeur, and appreciate their great silences, in the mountain heart of Asia.
Overnights in wooden house with inside bathroom. (BLD)
Last day, we will take an evening drive to Olgii, the through a dramatic landscape with Sairiyn Nuruu towering above us and the rugged Altai uplands beyond Lake Tolbo (Nuur). After 4-5hrs we arrive Olgii. Overnight at local hotel. (BLD)
Day 7. Fly out
After breakfast, transfer to Olgii airport and fly to Ulaanbaatar. (B)
Day 8. Depart Ulaanbaatar
Early breakfast and transfer to UB airport. (B)
Eagle hunting season in Mongolia are from late August to end of April. The western Mongolian winters are cold and dry with occasional snow, but most days have clean blue sky and strong sun. The temperature can fluctuate as much 5-10 degrees centigrade between day and night. /-10°-20° during a days and -15°-25° of Celsius during a nights/
Therefore travelers should be prepared for both moderately warm and cold conditions, with dramatic fluctuations in temperature.
We use mostly land-cruisers. The services of some herdsmen will be hired by the expedition, and they will provide us with their animals.
A local guide who speaks English and Mongolian will accompany the group at all times. A cook will follow, with an assistant. In addition, the services of the local herdsmen will be hired along with their animals. The horsemen follow a traditional lifestyle in the areas where we will be riding.
Our cook will prepare the meals. We pride ourselves in having cooks adapt to both western and Mongolian cooking on our trips. There are always vegetables available, and we have no problem accommodating vegetarians on our trips. For breakfast we can usually buy fresh yogurt from the herdsmen in the local area.
For a confirmed booking, a deposit of (10%) is required. Deposit is paid by credit card (secure payment via Stripe, no credit card fees). The remaining balance can be paid in cash upon start of the trip - unless Host & Traveler agree on different payment methods.
Cancellations can be made free of charge up to 30 days prior to the beginning of the booked service. The deposit (10%) is only refundable if the booking is canceled at least 30 days in advance.