16 April 2017

Mongolia's Khustain Nuruu National Park

Khustai National Park is one of three locations chosen for the re-introduction of the endemic Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii)– the only wild horse to survive in modern times and known as Takhi in Mongolian. Here's my brief guide:

What's the motivation behind this blog post?

Between April 14th and 21st, the Blue Moon Art Gallery in Ulaanbaatar is hosting a photography exhibition on behalf of the International Takhi Group - celebrating 25 years of the reintroduction of the takhi into the  Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. 

There are three locations where the Takhi have been re-introduced:

  • Khustain Nuruu National Park in Tov Aimag
  • Takhiin Tal - in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area
  • Khomiin Tal in the buffer zone of the Khar Us National Park

Roughly 17% of Mongolia's landmass has some form of national environmental protection. A further 10% has local protected area status. Khustain National Park is one of the success stories of environmental protection in Mongolia with a population of 300 Takhi - although it does face frequent challenges. 

Khustain is actually managed by a dedicated NGO - the Hustai National Park Trust (HNPT)*  - established in 2003 and specializing in nature and environmental conservationTakhi’s stay in harem groups with a strict hierarchy, dependent on the age and relationship of the individual horses. Each group has its own range within the NP.

* You will see Khustain written as Hustai and Hustain

Time for some statistics

Part of Khustain's appeal is its accessability  - located approximately 100km from Ulaanbaatar. 

The reserve covers an area of 50, 600 hectares and is located on the southern fringes of the forest-steppe zone. It has a diverse ecology and habitats include  sand dunes, open steppe, a river valley, birch forest and mountains.

It has an elevation of between 1100 - 1840m - which leads to some incredible look- out points  over the distant Moltsog Sands as well as the partly forested Khustai Mountains. 

Read a guidebook and you will see it recommends visiting Khustain at sunrise and sunset. Why? This is the key time to see the wild horses. However, it’s also peak visiting time and you compete with large tour groups and vehicle dust. So. I recommend approaching things a little differently. 

How To Visit? Hike and Bike

This is how we prefer to do it. I believe it helps to provide you with a better understanding of the biodiversity of Khustain - its people, landscapes and wildlife.

You'll use the bikes on the tracks and explore the ridges on foot. 

Drive to the NP and then having visited the information centre, hop on your EL mountain bikes and explore. 

The stars of the show are obviously the Takhi which are free ranging through the hills and mountains of the national park. As with all wildlife, there is no guarantee of catching a sighting but we try - whilst keeping within the strict rules and regulations of the NP. However, there is also a reasonable chance to see red deer, corsac foxes, Siberian marmots, black vultures and other numerous raptors such as eagles and falcons. Not to mention the wild flowers.

You can also explore the  archaeology  in the southern region of the park - close to the Tuul River including Neolithic graves (roughly from the 6th or 7th century A.D).

For those that want to stay overnight to extend the biking exploration, the herders in the buffer zone of the protected area are part of a community based tourism project where they open their homes to visitors.  Alternatively, we are permitted to camp in the buffer zone and I dearly love the view from our campsite.

Whoever you choose to visit with, make it a responsible visit
  • View all wildlife from a safe distance and remember that if the animal interrupts its behaviour then you are too close. Use binoculars and a long lens
  • Take all rubbish with you and do not leave any trace - including toilet paper
  • Yes, you will want to document your visit but remember that the welfare of the Takhi and the other wildlife are far more important than your photograph

Interested? Curious? Not too sure? Why not have a look through the Mongolia conservation tours that we offer at Eternal Landscapes. Alternatively, just email me (jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk) - I'm always happy to be of help and all advice is free with no sales pitch. 

Unless I have mentioned otherwise, all images used throughout this post were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia you will also experience if you chose to travel with us.

Pack your bags and come to Mongolia and do something a little out of the ordinary. We look forward to welcoming you.


No comments:

Post a Comment