An unforgettable journey through the vast steppes, fantastic Gobi-desert, scenic Altai-mountains, Terelj and the Khurkh valley. Birdwatching in one of the most unspoilt nature, on this epic road trip. Experience Mongolia as a nomad from traditional yurt tents!
Six reasons why you want to experience this journey:
- a very complete program, fine-tuned on demand: plains, steppes, mountains, sand dunes, lakes and taiga forests are covered. We combine the best of Mongolia, without exagerating on driving, with on top of the 'classic' tour to Gobi and Altai, also the Terelj NP and the Khukh valley included.
- We optimise the time spent birding, by taking the domestic flight to Dalandagzad (if the flight schedule permits)
- We go local: we drive around in the plains with charismatische Ural minivans and sleep in Ger-camps or yurts. These are spacious, round traditional tents with all you need (beds, stove, bathroom). When there are no Ger-camps available, we camp and choose our campsites strategically, often in the middle of very birdy areas.
- We can rely on a dedicated local crew of five who drive, set up the camps and prepare outstanding meals.
- Probably the best and most enthousiastic local birdguide in Mongolia at present with an increadible passion for his country and a drive to organise the trip perfectly, both logistically as birdwise!
A peek in the itinerary
Mongolia is a unique destination that will charm any adventurous nature enthousiast. The diversity in birds and habitats is surpising. Our route runs grosso modo from the captial Ulaanbaatar south, warming up at the riverine forests of the Tuul river, and then down to Dalanzadgad (domestic flight, if available), in the Gobi-desert. From here we loop back on the western side crossing the Altai and Khangai mountains, back in the direction of the capital. We ignore the capital and drive straight past it, for a couple of days in the taiga forests of Terelj NP to continue east towards the magnific Khurkh Valley. Along the way, we cross the all the major ecoregions of Mongolia.
Days on an end we travel through almost inhabited breathtaking scenery. No wonder if you know that Mongolia is the least populated country in the world, and most of the inhabitants live in the captial. Away from the capital, we cross only herders and nomads.
Mountains and cliffs
We get a first impression of the fauna of Mongolia along the Tuul river. We fly south and the first days are spent in the ZuunSaikhin-range. This mountain range is rich in valleys, ridges and cliffss. We have a good chance to see some of the typical mountain species, such as Himalaya vulture, Siberian ibex en Altai Snowcock.
Then we continue to the famous Flaming Cliffs in Bayzang. These are not only famous for the fossil finds, they also host a colony of Lesser kestrel and are very photogenic. Along the way, we try to find Oriental plover. The male of this rare and highly wanted plover performs his spectacular arching display flights, almost like a petrel above the steppe!
We dive into the Gobi and drive to the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els. The views are scenic. A variation of vast dry plains with the Altai mountains as a backdrop. Around the sand dunes we will search some of the most mindblowing specis of the Gobi: Saxaul Sparrow and Hendersons Ground Jay.
Time for an even more remote area: the 'valley of the lakes'. This valley contains severel different salt lakes at the foothills of the Gobi-Altai. These lakes are crucial for migrating waterbirds. From the shores of the Boon Tsagaan we will try to find Pallas Sea eagle, Swan goose and Pallas's sandgrouse. Slowly, we reach the Gobi-steppes, and the road to Baga Bogd brings us to the endless, grassy plains where in june the Mongolian gazelles get their young. The granite rocks of Erdenesant are very good for getting better looks and pictures of the raptors around. A couple of lakes at the foot of the Khangaii mountains offer a chance to see the very rare Relict Gull. In this area we will also look for Hodgson’s bushchat, Asian rosy finch and Altai accentor. On the loop back to Ulaanbaatar we will also visit the lakes Takhilt, Orii and Bayan. There we have a chance to see Asian dowitcher, Chinese spotted duck, White-naped crane and much more.
Terelj National Park & Khurkh Valley
We drive passed UB to the Terelj National Park and the Khentii-mountains. Here we stay for two nights and in this National Park with mainly taiga forest we search for species like White-backed woodpecker, Siberian jay, Taigagaai, Siberian tit, Hazel grouse, Red-flanked bluetail and with some luck also the Black-billed Capercaille. Also for the Chinese Bush Warbler we make a good chance.
Further east we visit a last area, the phenomenal Khurkh valley. The dynamic river system here creates gigantic floodplains, swamps, with several lakes and surrounding agricultural fields. Few visitors venture out here, but it is a prime birding area, not only for the five crane species, but also many reed and meadow specialists. Several Siberian cranes oversummer in this area, we can also encounter Hooded cranes. We can expect to see singing Pallas Reed Warbler, Falcated Duck, Japanese Quail, Asian Dowitcher, Chestnut bunting and Japanese sparrowhawk...
Local bird guide
Our local guide is probably the best and most enthousiast guide in Mongolia at the moment. He knows his country very well, and likes to share his lover for his home country with everyone. For birds, he has good up-to-date information and knowledge where to find what, and he regularly goes on prospection in his own country to search for better spots. He works for a Mongolian nature protection NGO.Facts about bird research and conservation will be shared for sure. He is very joyful and brings atmosphere in the group! A four-headed crew will travel with us to set up camp (if needed) cook for us.
We will keep you posted
01 Jun 2018
Gorkhi Terelj Nationaal park
Nature- and birding trip to Mongolia: practical information
Accommodation, meals and transport
During this birding trip to Mongolia we will stay in Ger-camps (also called yurts). These are typical temporary tent camps where the Mongols live in for years on the steppes. Don't panic: the yurts are spacious and cosy, and can be warmed with a stove. They are almost portable hotels, with seperate speces for dining, sleeping and sanitary facilities. In all Ger camps we will have electricity.
Where no yurt-camps are available, we camp in regular trekking tents. Tents, sleeping bags and a large dining tent will be provided by the local team, we will help putting them up if needed. This way, we will have the flexibility we need for our itinerary, and will be able to camp in the best spots, right where the birds are. For everyone there will be a seperate personal tent, including a decent sleeping bag and matrass. During the entire trip, a dedicated team of cooks, drivers and a translater will be there for us. In the capital we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
We get around with two typical 'Russisan vans'. These indestructable Ural-vans are perfect for this terrain, we have one available for passenger transport, and one for our luggage, the crew and our camping gear.
International flights are not included in the price. As soon as they come available, we will search together for the most comfortable flight schedule that fits the trip, and we propose a price. Let us know which airport you want to leave from and fly home to. You are also free to book your own flights, as you like.
The domestic flight to Dalandagzad is included in the price. But it is early in the touristic season, and depending on the weather the flight will be available or not. If the flight is not available, the price of the flight (130 euro) will be paid back, and the itinerary will change a little (with a long drive to Dalandagzad on the second day).
Is this trip something for you?
Do you like birdwatching? Does it sound appealing to go on an adventurous trip in a special destination? Are you in normal physical condition? Then this trip is just for you.
The trip is relatively easy. Only a few hikes require a short physical effort. Most walks are at hight altutude and in a remote area, so caution is advised. In Terelj NP we foresee a couple of longer walks, especially when searching for the Black-billed Capercaille. A good condition is required.
Birdwatching will be the main theme on this trip, but the trip is open for aspiring birders. Also other fauna and flora will get some attention. There will be plenty of opportunities for photography.
Climate in Mongolië in may en june
We cross during this trip a wide range of landscapes, often at high altitude. Usually in early summer we can expect a diverse array of weather conditions in Mongolia. The temperatures can vary between 15-20 degrees in the desert (but chilly during the night) down to cold temperatures (sometimes below zero) in the mountains. You will need cloathing both for warm conditions, as good, warm and rainproof clothes. In the evenings and mornings, a pair of gloves and a hat might come handy.
Nature photography in Mongolia
During this trip there are a lot of opportunities for photographing fauna, landscapes and 'couleur locale'.