"Real grassroots Eco-Tourism, into deep Mongolia and explore rich culture and the history of Mongolia that the travel books can't cover!"
Travel deep into the heart of Mongolia and discover its hidden fragility as you take part in this conservation and research expedition. As it enters into the 21st century, modern life brings its own challenges and threats to the country’s diverse environments and wildlife. Traditionally preserving its natural treasures through cultural customs and beliefs, the fight to protect Mongolia’s environment and wildlife is now being taken on at grassroots level. Specifically, you’ll be helping to conserve and protect the threatened Mongolian Khulan (or Asian Wild Ass) as you experience conservation at a local level in Mongolia.
This unique animal is under threat from hunting, habitat degradation and competition for resources from domestic livestock, and its numbers have dropped dramatically. Mongolia has the world’s most dense distribution of the wild ass, making it a crucial location for its conservation. This expedition is run in partnership with the ‘Association Goviin Khulan’, a Non-Government Organisation that aims to provide ‘people-centred’ conservation. You’ll be trained in the use of technologies including trail cameras, and will meet engaging and friendly people along the way including nomadic herders, market gardeners and Buddhist monks. You’ll travel lesser-known regions, gaining a rare insight into the wildlife of the Gobi wilderness and helping protect Mongolia’s natural treasures for future generations to appreciate.
The Mongolian Khulan is one of the five sub-species of the Asiatic Wild Ass. Mongolia has the densest distribution of the animal in the world, making it a vitally important location for its conservation. Facing threats from hunting, destruction of habitat and competition for natural resources, the Khulan’s numbers have dropped by significant levels and the animal is listed as ‘Endangered’ by the ‘International Union for the Conservation of Nature’. This conservation and research expedition has been designed by Anne-Camille Souris, the president and research manager of the Associaion Goviin Khulan with which Eternal Landscapes partners to provide this tour. In 2006 Anne-Camille began conservation work on populations of Mongolian Khulan that live in the south/south-east Gobi, where there was formerly less research and conservation work done.
In order to support the conservation of the Mongolian Khulan and its habitats, Eternal Lanscapes make a financial donation for each tourist taking part in the expedition to support Association Goviin Khulan. This will help them to carry out further field-trips, purchase technical equipment and create educational materials. During the expedition, any data collected is used to further enhance the protection of wildlife in the Gobi region. The expedition also considers the needs of local people who live alongside the Khulan and aims to involve them as much as possible rather than displace them for the sake of conservation. Taking this ‘people-centred’ approach helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of the programme.
Ulaan Baatar (City Walking Tour): Don’t be put off by the tough dusty exterior – delve beneath the surface to discover the true character of this polluted, cosmopolitan and vibrant city. You’ll find a curious blend of ‘East meets West’ in this former nomadic city, which has a strong sense of its Mongolian identity. Explore by foot on an informal walking tour and get to know the city’s true character.
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve: Meet your drivers after taking the Trans-Mongolian train from Ulaan Baatar to Shiveegobi. Along the way lean your head against the window and enjoy the ever-changing landscapes of steppe and desert terrain. Continue to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve where you’ll find grasslands and semi-desert steppe, home to the world’s largest mountain sheep. The area is also a natural habitat for Siberian Ibex and a breeding ground for the Cinereous Vulture. Explore the rugged rocky terrain of the reserve on foot, and spend the night camping in this protected area.
Khamryn Khiid Monastery: This ‘energy spot’ at the road to Shambala was built around the cult of Danzan Ravjaa, a charismatic Mongolian monk. Founded in 1820, it was a notable monastic, education and cultural centre for the ‘Red Hat’ Buddhist sect until it was destroyed during the political purges of the 1930s. Since then, it has been reconstructed and is now an important pilgrimage site. Spend a night at the monastery, either camping in tents or in monastery-provided ‘ger’ accommodation.
White Canyon - Research and Conservation Area: Move deeper into the vast Gobi Desert as you travel south. Visit a watermelon-production area and learn about the local struggle to protect a water source and the surrounding environment, including a type of endangered Gobi shrub. You’ll stay as a guest and get more of an insight about grassroots conservation in Mongolia.
Native Mountain – Research and Conservation Area: Drive through desert and semi-desert steppe and try to spot gazelles and Khulan as you make your way to ‘Native Mountain’ and its Buddhist monastery. Again, this monastery was destroyed in the 1930s but has been restored to operational level. Meet the monastery’s monks and find out about their involvement in the Association Goviin Khulan’s conservation efforts. Hike the surrounding area and discover beautiful landscapes and wildlife, and later you may have the opportunity to eat dinner either with the monks or with local community members.
Queen’s Spring – Research and Conservation Area: Set up trail cameras in the morning in the areas around the monastery, which you’ll collect later. In the afternoon, continue your journey southwards to the Queen’s Spring, 150 kilometres from the China-Mongolia border. On the way stop at a small community and meet some of the protected area rangers who work alongside the Association Goviin Khulan (if they are available). Camp and enjoy the animal and birdlife sharing the area.
Golden Mountain - Research and Conservation Area: Return to the Queen’s Spring to eat lunch before journeying on to Golden Mountain, or ‘Ergeliin Zuu’. In the 1920s, dinosaur fossils were found here and now the area is a protected natural reserve. Some of the fossils in the Gobi are as old as 80 million years, revealing fascinating details of life in the Late Cretaceous Period. There are also black-tailed gazelles, Mongolian (or white-tailed) gazelles, birds of prey and Khulan to observe. You’ll also meet some members of a local family who act as ‘citizen conservationists’ for Association Goviin Khulan.
Native Mountain - Research and Conservation Area: Return to the Native Mountain to collect the trail cameras you previously left, along with any other extra data. Dine in the evening in the monastery at Native Mountain, and early the next morning join the Buddhist monks in their prayers. This is a truly unique and enlightening way to end your time in this serene area.
Sainshand: Visit the capital of Mongolia’s eastern Gobi province, which as an important stop on the Trans-Mongolian railway. Again, watch as the desert landscapes gradually alter and try to spot some Gobi wildlife. Enjoy a well-deserved hot shower and eat dinner at a local restaurant.
Ulaan Baatar: Transfer back to Ulaan Baatar, reaching the city by early afternoon. Make the most of your day, experiencing a different type of life in Mongolia in a modern cosmopolitan city. You’ll dine with Anne-Camille (the president of Association Goviin Khulan) or your expedition’s research associate and discuss the data and photographs you’ve gathered during the expedition. An excellent way to debrief and reflect on the successes of your conservation and research trip.
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