Arrive in Mongolia through Chinggis Khaan international airport. Upon arrival, meeting with the local guide and transfer to Shangri-la hotel. After a short city tour, orientation meeting, followed by a welcome dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Mongolia - Tsaatan and Kazakh Eagle Hunters
Based on 6 participants: $23,350 per person
What country on this planet has the ability to conjure up more mystery than Mongolia? In what other country do horses and camels outnumber people? On this very unique expedition, you will ride horses to reach remote camps to live side by side nomadic reindeer herders known as the Tsaatan and you will have a chance to ride along with descendants of Chinggis and Khubilai Khaan on their home turf as they hunt with their eagles.
Sleep in traditional Mongolian tents known as gers, made of a circular latticed wood structure covered with layers of thick felt. Experience a Golden Eagle festival in the far-western province of Bayan Olgii. Golden Eagle Festivals are one of the most anticipated cultural events of local Kazakhs. All year long, both the eagle and the hunter prepare for not only the hunting season but to compete in festivals showing their eagle hunting skills as well as the close bond developed with their eagle. Winning these games is a prestigious event in the life of an eagle hunter.
Originally from across the border in what is now the Tuva Republic of Russia, the Dukha or Tsaatan are one of the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world. When the Soviet Union closed the border to Mongolia in 1944 , the Tsaatan fled from Tuva to settle in Mongolia. They had good trade relationships with Mongolian herders in the Mongolian steppes and they were afraid of losing their animals due to Soviet collectivization.
The Tsaatan live very differently from the rest of the world. Their entire sense of community is structured around their reindeer. The reindeer and the Tsaatan are dependent on one another. They say that if the reindeer disappear, so will their people.
Come with us as we live amongst their nomadic communities on the taiga (boreal / snow forest) which are a group of tents from two to seven households that move camp to find optimum grazing for the reindeer. The men live in the open air with the herds in the winter months protecting them from wolves - their ultimate predator and enemy of the Tsaatan/Dukhas. Join us as we hopefully meet a traditional shaman and learn about their mystic practices.
In the far west province of Mongolia called Bayan Ulgii live the Kazakhs. In the 13th Century under Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, this nomadic culture started hunting with eagles - namely golden eagles. Today there are an estimated 250 eagle hunters in Bayan Ulgii which is located in the Altai Mountains. This custom involves hunting with golden eagles on horseback. They primarily hunt red fox, hares, marmots and rabbits. On occasion, and depending on the particular eagle, they may hunt wolves, the sworn enemy of the Kazakhs and most Mongols. Wolves predate precious livestock (yak calves, reindeer and goats) of the Mongolians.
To obtain their eagles, the eagle hunters either climb treacherously steep cliffs to capture their eagles as fledglings still in the nest or trap them when they are less than a year old. They only use female golden eagles who are larger than the males and more ferocious hunters. The eagle hunters create a unique, special and very close bond with their eagles. They work together as a team while hunting, and the eagles often times live in the home of the hunter and family.
When the eagle grows to about 7 years of age, the hunter releases her back into the wild. This is a very emotional time for each hunter after spending so many years together as friends and hunting partners. We will meet perhaps the most famous eagle hunter, Dalaikhan, who is well known in Mongolia for his eagle hunting skills and who was also featured in the first scene of the movie called ‘The Eagle Huntress’.
This is a special trip to Mongolia specifically designed to learn about two very unique Mongolian cultures. We will fly in our private Cessna to avoid long drives and commercial airports. Private runways for our plane will allow us to land as closely as possible to the nomads to shorten our travel time and allow us maximum time with these gentle, kind hearted people.
This will be a unique experience not offered by any other company.
Please read the physical requirements (see below) for this trip and let us know if you have any questions.
Letters correspond to points on the map in the map tab.
Letters correspond to points on the map in the map tab.
Day 1, July 12(Overnight Shangri-La Hotel, D)
Day 2, July 13
We will spend this day exploring sights and sounds of Mongolia’s capital. Begin this morning with a private blessing of a Buddhist monk at Gandan, the country’s largest monastery. An imposing 90-foot-tall statue of Megjid Janraisag (Avalokites-vara in Sanskrit) stands in the largest temple in the monastery. This statue is considered the religious symbol of Mongolia’s independence and democracy after the country’s democratic transition in 1990. When a Mongolian student in the mid-1990s discovered fragments of the original statue (which was destroyed by Soviet authorities in the 1930s) in St. Petersburg, a nationwide campaign began to collect money for rebuilding the Buddha. After years of hard work, this magnificent Buddha was resurrected and is now standing proud, making all Mongolian Buddhists happy.
Next, we will visit the National History Museum located in downtown Ulaanbaatar. This museum offers an excellent introduction to Mongolia’s history from pre-historic times through the 13thcentury Mongolian Empire, and on to the democratic movement of the early 1990s, which overthrew the Communist regime.
After lunch, an optional visit to the Fine Arts Museum of Zanabazar or relax at your hotel before dinner. In the evening, we will enjoy a wonderful performance of traditional Mongolian music and dance, featuring Khoomii or “throat” singing, followed by dinner at a fine local restaurant.
(Overnight Shangri-La Hotel, B, L, D)
Day 2, July 13
Day 3, July 14
After breakfast, charter flight to Hovsgol province. After a quick refueling stop in Murun city we transfer to the Darkhad valley. Historically hard to access, this land is rich with coniferous taiga forests of Ulaan Taiga, high mountains of Horidal Saridag, and crisscrossed with hundreds of small streams, dozens of rivers and lakes. Upon arrival, transfer to your campsite in vehicles. Prepare for riding to Western taiga region. Overnight in Bell tents.
Overnight in Bell tents (B, L, D)
Day 4 , July 15
Today we use horses to go over a mountain pass to visit some of the reindeer herder families and explore the famous Darkhad valley.
The Darkhad valley of Mongolia is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The summers are never warm enough to thaw the land, so permafrost limits the growing season. The nomads living in the valley can predict the carrying capacity of the land. They migrate south for the winter to avoid over- exhaustion of the land. Southern slopes of mountains thaw during the day turning the ground into mud, so the best way to get through these stretches is to use horses both for riding as well as carrying gear. Arrive at the reindeer herder’s camp.
Dinner and overnight (Bell tents; B, L, D)
Day 4 , July 15
Day 5-7, July 16-18
Spend the next three days exploring the culture and daily routine of Dukha Tsaatan people of Darkhad Valley. Originally from Siberia, Tsaatan, which means “those who have reindeer” have settled in northern Mongolia less than 100 years ago. Tsaatan raise their reindeer primarily for milk. Reindeer milk, reindeer yoghurt and reindeer cheese are the staples of local diet. The reindeer also provide transportation. Because the taiga area is typically hilly and covered with forest, reindeer are not used for pulling sledges, but for riding and as pack animals. They take the Dukha Tsaatan for daily grazing, hunting, the collection of firewood, seasonal migrations, visiting relatives and friends, and traveling to the sum for shopping and trade.
Shamans of Dukha are well known and feared throughout the country. We will learn about peculiarities of the shaman trade and history of this ancient religion which survived the perils of persecution from the Buddhist government in the 16-17th centuries and later by the communist regime in the 20th century. Spiritual traditions of the Mongolian nomads are powerfully defined by shamanist beliefs. In shamanist traditions, ancestors and natural features are held sacred, and serve as a source of strength or insight for individuals identified as shamans in the community. Herders rely on shamans for advice and healing, and for communicating with spirits, ancestors, or nature, which occurs through ritual and the calling of spirits, or ongots. Each shaman has distinct abilities and characteristics, and may be male or female, old or young.
Overnight in Bell tents (B, L, D)
Day 8, July 19
We make our way back to Ulaan Uul soum center to meet our chartered plane and transfer to Murun, provincial capital of Hovsgol province.
Overnight at a Ger camp on outskirts of the city (B, L, D)
Day 8, July 19
Day 9, July 20
Today we fly to Ulgii city in western Mongolia, capital of Bayan-Ulgii, Mongolia’s westernmost province. Upon arrival, drive through spectacular mountain valleys, following the Sagsai River to our campsite at Altai Soum. This is a popular summer camp for local nomads and was a movie set location used in ‘The Eagle Huntress’. Your Wild Focus leader Jami, has close friendships with the hunters in Altai Soum which will make our time there very special. We stay in a camp set up for our group.
Ger Camp (B, L, D)
Day 10-11, July 21-22
Spend these two days with Kazakh eagle hunters. You will have an opportunity to meet a group of eagle trainers, who hunt with their eagles for fox and hare during winter months. Passed down from their Turkic ancestors, many Kazakhs still hunt with trained Golden Eagles. As mentioned above, female eagles are preferred since they are believed to be more aggressive and weigh as much as fifteen pounds (nearly one-third more than the males). Spend a day learning from the hunters, visiting their homes and riding along to watch them train their beautiful eagles and help document this centuries-old tradition. There is an ongoing research project supported by the local Eagle Hunters Association and Mongolian Bird Conservation Center. Participants who are interested will be able to help collect more data, including photos of birds and record interviews with hunters. If you would like, you will have a chance to learn how the traditional dish of Bisbarmak is made.
Private camp (B, L, D)
Day 10-11, July 21-22
Day 13, July 24
Spend the day relaxing after your time in the north and west or exploring the capital of Mongolia, shopping at local producers of cashmere and other Mongolian items. The Shangri-La is connected to one of the nicest malls in the city. This is a perfect day to reflect on all that you have seen and to once again enjoy the creature comforts that you have missed during your adventure.
Shangri-la Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 14, July 25
This morning we say “goodbye” to the warmth and hospitality of the Mongols and their beautiful and culturally rich country. After breakfast transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
End of services
Day 14, July 25
- Accommodations in hotels based on double occupancy;
- Private gers and bell tent camps while traveling in the countryside;
- Private chartered Cessna Caravan used for entire trip
- Airport arrival and departure transfers;
- Land transportation as indicated in the itinerary using Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps seating 3 passengers each;
- All meals (indicated as B, L or D);
- All entrance fees as indicated;
- Team of horses used for riding and transporting our gear and camp to the Tsaatan camp
- English speaking national guide and translator
- One Wild Focus guide
- International airfare
- Any expenses of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry
- Drinks not mentioned in the itinerary;
- Excess baggage charges
- Meals not listed on included list
- Tip and gratuities to drivers and national guide
- Travel Insurance (strongly recommended - https://wildfocusexpeditions.com/travel-insurance/)
- Photography and video fees and any other item not mentioned as included.
- Medical evacuation costs
Participants on this trip should be very fit and capable of hiking up mountain trails that are rocky and uneven. We will take our time, and our guide and drivers will be available to carry camera gear and/or daypack if required. Horseback riding will be a part of this journey as we will used horses to transport us to the Tsaatan camp. We will only need to ride for one day to locate the camp. If unable to ride, walking along the horse caravan is an option. Vehicles will be completely unable to go to the remote location of the Tsaatan in their summer camp.
Mongolia’s tourist infrastructure is far from being developed. Do not expect western standards while on this trip, except for our hotel in Ulaanbaatar or you will come away being disappointed. You can be assured that you will be one of very few people who have travelled to Mongolia. Tourism is new and just now burgeoning and so you will benefit in many ways to be among the first to travel here. Mongolians are extremely friendly and they welcome foreigners. They are proud of their country, their history and are happy to share their culture with you.
The accommodations in the Mongolian countryside are extremely basic, even rustic due to the extreme remote locations that we will visit and will be the equivalent of camping. Please do not expect African safari-type of camping which is considerably less remote than Mongolia. We will be staying in gers (yurt is the Turkish word) or bell tents (with the Tsaatan) that will be set up by our support staff. Gers are portable, round tents covered with felt. Please do not expect the permanent ger camps that you may see on the internet. These permanent ger camps are located only in the Gobi Desert which is within driving distance to Ulaanbaatur. Our ger camps will be mobile and the portable gers in our camps are the same ones used by the nomadic peoples throughout the steppes of Mongolia. While using gers, there is no indoor plumbing, indoor toilet or shower. Our wonderful staff will set up toilets outside of our gers and we will have them prepared for us prior to our arrival to make them as comfortable and convenient as possible. We will also supply showers upon request. We will accommodate our clients' needs the best that we can and will answer any specific questions via email.
Please know that this is a very special customized trip. You are going to be among the first to have the most unique experiences while spending time with the descendants of the great warrior and leader, Chinggis Khaan.
We will have a private chef accompany us while in our camps. We will fly in foods and ingredients to prepare meals of our choice and liking. We will be able to accommodate most dietary needs. Trying and eating local foods will only be by request of our trip participants.
For our participants who have an appreciation for beautiful landscapes, wildlife, traditional culture, history, possess a sense of humor, flexibility and spirit of adventure, your expedition to Mongolia will be a trip of a lifetime for you and will be remembered always. Traveling in Mongolia cannot be compared with any other country. The creature comforts that are temporarily missing from this trip will be long forgotten after the trip is over. When we arrive back to our luxury hotel in Ulaanbaatar, you will be in awe of the things you have seen and experienced over the past few weeks. The land of Chinggis Khaan, its wildlife, its pristine beauty and its beautiful proud people will be with you forever. We look forward to seeing you in Mongolia.
Mongolia is one of the most exciting countries that I have ever visited. I fell in love with it after my first trip. The culture is intensely rich, the landscapes are stunning and the powerful history of warriors like Chinggis Khaan have shaped Mongolia into a proud, warm, lively and fascinating nomadic people. Mongolia is three times the size of France, there are more horses than people, and a third of the population is still nomadic: I have yet to find another country as fascinating as Mongolia.
Wild Focus Expeditions provides specialized, small group photography tours. Our photography expeditions are designed to get participants into distinctive, engaging locations around the world at the optimum times for photography. Our photo tours are created by our team of photographers who want to experience and photograph the world's top wildlife, nature and traditional cultures locations.
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