Wildlife observation and citizen science in the Gobi Desert

~ adventure for 12 days ~

Dates

From June 11 to 22, 2023

Day 1 - Arrival in Mongolia - City tour in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar (UB) is home to roughly 45% of Mongolia’s population and our free city walking tour will give you a more local introduction to this vibrant frontier style city with a strong Mongolian identity of its own. It is the beating heart of Mongolia and the hub of contemporary Mongolian urban life. The reality for many Mongolians takes place in this urban context, in a city they are striving to develop and improve. Ulaanbaatar deserves to be appreciated and explored as the urban centre that it is. Today's informal and relaxed city walking tour will give you a contrasting insight into a way of life, compared to that of the rural population as you spend the day in the company of one of our partner agency's female Mongolian trip assistants exploring the city through the eyes of a local. 

 

Accommodation: Your own choice

Meals: Local lunch and welcome drink

Travel: Free transfer

Day 2 - Khustain Nuruu National Park

Transfer to Khustain  – one of Mongolia’s conservation success stories  – noted for its successful reintroduction of the endemic Przewalski horse– the only wild horse to survive in modern times and known as Takhi in Mongolian. 

 

Khustain Nuruu National Park is part of UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere’ reserves. The Khustain National Park Trust was established in 2003 and deals with the management of the national park contracting with Mongolia’s Ministry of Nature and Environment. Khustain is now run as a dedicated NGO specialising in nature and environmental research and conservation. As the Przewalski horse (known as takhi in Mongolian) is a flagship species, its protection also helps to increase environmental awareness in Mongolia. 

 

Having arrived, visit the (recently updated) information centre located at the entrance to the park. Then, depending on your arrival time,  explore the ridges with views over the distant Moltsog Sands as well as the partly forested Khustai Mountains. Trek to look-out points, while having a reasonable chance to see red deer, corsac foxes, Siberian marmots, black vultures and other numerous raptors such as eagles and falcons. 

 

The stars of the show are obviously the Takhi which are free-ranging through the hills and mountains of the national park. The Takhi have a number of ranges which include the ridge tops of the national park. As with all wildlife, there is no guarantee of catching a sighting but we will try – whilst keeping within the strict rules and regulations of the NP.

 

Accommodation: of your own choice in Ulaanbaatar

Meals: Lunch

Travel: Roughly 110km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 2 hours diving time ONE WAY not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions

Day 3 and 4 - Ikh Nart Nature Reserve / Gobi Desert

As you travel south through steppe to desert terrain, you will start to get an understanding of the diversity of Mongolia’s natural habitats. You could observe wildlife native to the Gobi – especially herds of White Tailed Gazelle. 

 

Your destination is Ikh Nart – a wildlife region of rocky terrain and canyons. Located in Dornogobi Aimag, this reserve harbours a wide diversity of flora and fauna and is a long-term study site between Denver Zoo and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. The studies aim to understand the ecology of the region, the behaviour of the resident species and to improve conservation management in the region.  Three projects are on-going – the Argali Sheep / Siberian Ibex Project, the Carnivore Project and the Cinereous Vulture Project. Although small (66,000 hectares), Ikh Nart represents a strong-hold for the globally threatened Argali Sheep – the largest mountain sheep in the world. It is also one of the most significant breeding sites for the Cinereous Vulture (European Black Vulture).

 

You will spend the second day discovering the wildlife and biodiversity of the region together with your Association Goviin Khulan guide. If one of the reserve's local protected area ranger is available, he will also join you. 

 

Accommodation: Tent Camp. UK VANGO tents. We also provide a kitchen tent  and a toilet tent (well, a tent to cover the hole in the ground. I call it a ‘loo with a view!”). Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required.

Meals: L/D and B/L/D

Travel: Day Three – Roughly 320km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 7 hours diving time  not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions

Day 5 - Khamariin khiid monastery / Gobi Desert

Khamariin Khiid is a monastery that is considered  an energy centre known as Shambala created around the cult of a Mongolian monk – Danzan Ravjaa. The monastery was destroyed during the 1930s political purges but has been reconstructed and is a major pilgrimage site for Mongolians. It also gives spectacular view points out over the Gobi.  We include a visit because the monastery plays an important part in the history and culture of the Gobi. In addition, Buddhist monks are traditionally taught to love and protect wildlife and use their environment in an appropriate manner. Buddhist communities in Mongolia often work within the local community to help protect the local environment. 

 

Accommodation: Tent Camp. UK VANGO tents. We also provide a kitchen tent  and a toilet tent (well, a tent to cover the hole in the ground. I call it a ‘loo with a view!”). Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required.

Meals: B/L/D

Travel: Roughly 310km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 7 hours diving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.

Day 6 to 11 - Goviin Khulan's research area

This is the start of six days spent in the Goviin Khulan research area. Examples of the activities that could be conducted in the research area are: 

  • Observation of wildlife species including recording GPS positions for each species observed
  • Recording of the presence of each species observed including animal tracks, dung and scats.
  • Settlement of camera traps at strategic locations
  • Sampling of plants in specific areas
  • Record of carcasses found
  • Meeting with rangers and families involved in the project
  • Cleaning of specific sites

 

Areas you will visit include: 

 

Golden Mountain: this is a protected natural reserve where dinosaur fossils were discovered in the 1920s by Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions. Gobi fossils tend to be well-preserved, revealing minute details of life during the Late Cretaceous Period – 80 million years ago. You may also observe black-tailed gazelles, Mongolian (white-tailed) gazelles, Mongolian khulan and birds of prey. Part of the day will be spend meeting a local family who work as ‘citizen conservationists for Association Goviin Khulan. 

 

Native Mountain: this area is home to a Buddhist monastery. In Mongolia, many mountains, rivers and other natural spaces are revered as sacred – either because they are the residing place of a deity or because they are viewed as a deity in themselves. Often, monasteries were built on such sites as was the one built at Native Mountain.  The monastery of the site of the ‘Native Mountain’  was destroyed during the 1930s political purges but since then re-introduction of Buddhism in the 1990s some of Mongolia’s ruined monasteries and temples have become operational again.  At ‘Native Mountain’ you will meet with the community of monks and you will have the opportunity to discuss with the monks about their involvement in the Association Goviin Khulan conservation program and their actions and motivations towards the protection of the Gobi ecosystem.

 

During part of your visit, you will be specifically focusing on the observation of wildlife to collect additional data for AGK. This will include visiting a site of petrified wood (it has been protected since 1996 but is threatened because of illegal robbery of the artefacts) as well as meeting community members such as Gansukh and Otgon and families who are now involved in the khulan project as Citizen Conservationists. 

 

Queen’s Spring / Located just 150km from the Chinese border, this region is a natural habitat for the khulan. It is an area where you can expect to find water holes created by the khulan. Water sources are an important factor in the distribution of Khulan populations including natural springs such as the one at Queen’s Spring. In the summer months the species occurs within 10-15 km of standing water, and this range increases in the winter when it is not restricted by water availability as there is typically snow fall. In fact, the Association Goviin Khulan have observed Khulan digging holes in a dry river bed to access water.

 

Khanbogd / Just 10 years ago, the district of Khanbogd, in southern Mongolia’s Omnogovi province, was barely visited – just home to a community of local herders. That changed with the discovery of gold and copper deposits and the creation of  the Oyu Tolgoi mine – Mongolia’s largest copper mine. Khulan waterpoints are clustered along the edges of the Khanbogd massif in the mining infrastructure corridor. Hence Khanbogd is an important research area especially as OT offsets have included the protection of 80,000㎢ of khulan habitat.

 

Accommodation: Day Six – Ten – Tent Camp. UK VANGO tents. We also provide a kitchen tent  and a toilet tent (well, a tent to cover the hole in the ground. I call it a ‘loo with a view!”). Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required. It might be that at Native Mountain you can stay in simple shared accommodation provided by the monks but this is not guaranteed or confirmed. No showers apart from if en-route the local town shower house is open (your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life).

Day Eleven – Provincial Hotel in Sainshand. The Khar Gobi Hotel is unexpected in the provincial dustiness of Sainshand. You’ll be surprised!

Meals: B/L/D

Travel: Driving will be between sites. Most days will be 4-5 hours driving time on dirt roads (not including stops) although some may be shorter or longer depending on the route and / or the activities. Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions

Day 12 - Return to Ulaanbaatar

Following the route of the Trans-Mongolian train line you will head back to UB. On the drive today you will travel through a diversity of Mongolia’s natural habitats – everything from the wide gravel plains to the gentle rolling steppe. On arrival into UB, we’ll transfer you to your accommodation and the rest of the day will be yours to create your own experience. You’ll meet for a farewell dinner.  We will transfer you to the airport or train station on your departure date. 

 

Accommodation: of your own choice

Meals: B/L/D

Travel: Roughly 550km on asphalt road to (approx 8-9 hours diving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usually depending on road/weather conditions

Receive a report after participating to our expedition

After participating to one of our citizen science expedition you will receive a report about all activities and observations conducted during the expedition, as well as a selection of photos captured by the camera traps we did set up during the expedition. 

2 guests : 3560 euros pp *

3-4 guests : 3040 euros pp *

5 guests : 2630 euros pp *

6 guests : 2360 euros pp *

 

* international flight tickets not included in the price. Organized with the local travel agency Eternal Landscapes

For more information and book your trip:

Note : veuillez remplir les champs marqués d'un *.