Eagle Hunting in Mongolia
Eagle Hunting in Mongolia
Kazakh Tribes in the Mountains of Western Mongolia – Hunting with Eagles, Riding like Ancient Heroes
The empty valley around us stretches for miles to blue, purple, brown and white mountains that blur into sky, and the sky goes on forever. There are no fences, roads, property lines or houses. Near us and on the mountainsides, thousands of camels, yaks, cows, goats, horses and sheep move like children running on a playground, stopping here and there to nibble, sometimes running until they get tired. The herds run free. Every now and then we see a Kazakh on horseback herding some animals towards a ger (yurt).
We westerners can barely comprehend the remoteness. Here we drive so far off-road that there are only faint tracks across high, isolated mountain valleys. We stay in cozy white felt gers in empty valleys where the only sounds are the sweep of the wind and the occasional bleating of the goats. We fly from Ulaan Baatar west to the city of Ulgii and then ride in land cruisers out to ger camps set up just for our group. We drive through shallow rivers, hike to glaciers and visit local landmarks such as ancient petroglyphs. We hear a Tuvan throat singer.
At our camps, a cook prepares our meals, and we also get to sample local delicacies such as yak’s milk and meat pies called “khooshoor.” We stay in three ger camps, hiking, riding horses, and finally visiting the home of one of the famous Kazakh eagle hunters. The hunters capture young female golden eagles and train them to hunt foxes, wolves, marmots and beech martens. We spend a day out on the mountainside hunting with the Kazakh hunters, then we return to Ulgii for the annual Eagle Hunters’ Festival. This past year, seventy men and two girls competed in traditional events such as calling their eagles from a nearby mountainside. The Kazakhs are amazing horsemen. In another traditional contest, horsemen have a tug of war over a sheep’s carcass, and they sometimes end up hanging perpendicular to their horses for more than five minutes while they tussle.
We harvest dream images on this trip: stunning purple and mauve mountains, yaks covered in snow, horses galloping for miles, dark warm gers, elaborate costumes of red fox fur and the kind eyes and high cheekbones of the Kazakh people. The 2015 Eagle Hunters’ Festival will be October 1st and 2nd. We look forward to escaping again into the high, empty valleys of the nomads.
Day 1 Get picked up from Ulaanbaatar airport and get transferred to hotel. Spend the evening getting some rest and dealing with jetlag.
Day 2 City Tour on Foot US with guide, Meet local tour guide in the evening and welcome dinner.
Day 3 After the breakfast at hotel we’ll drive out of UB heading the great Chinggis Khan’s statue. It is a beautiful 2 hour drive to get there, after visiting the statue and learning about Mongolian history inside the museum we’ll drive to Terelj National Park and have lunch there. In the afternoon we’ll drive to Turtle rock and Aryabal temple and explore these areas and by late afternoon we’ll drive back to the hotel.
Day 4 Today we’ll arrive in Ulgii city by airplane drive to our first camp by a glacier on the Russian/Mongolian border. In the far western corner of Mongolia lie the Altai Mountains, a stunningly beautiful region of snow capped peaks, immense glaciers and large alpine lakes. We will start our trip heading west in 4×4 Land Cruisers. On the way you’ll have the splendor of seeing the remote mountain country as we cross big passes. Along the way we’ll stop and marvel at some petroglyphs, a recently uncovered site in the remote terrain featuring more than 10 thousand images of hunting and combat scenes, mythological figures and symbolic sacred art. By the end of the day we will get to our Ger camp which we’ll set up close to an eagle hunters house. (Ger is the Mongolian word for nomad tents)
Day 5 Today we’ll head to a glacier at 10,000 ft above sea level near Russian border and weather permitting, we’ll explore and enjoy the views. We’ll have lunch at 10,000 ft enjoying the views of the valley below.
Day 6 After breakfast, we’ll hop in our Land Cruisers and drive to the second Gher camp in Mogoit Valley.
Day 7 After a big western style breakfast we’re going to saddle up on our horses and explore Mogoit Valley. We’ll ride to the stone men and learn about this ancient battle site as we discover artifacts of past battles.
Day 8 After breakfast, we’ll pack our bags and drive to the Eagle Hunters family Gher camp today as we head out of Mogoit Valley and enjoy the surrounding terrain.
Day 9 After breakfast, we’ll visit the eagle hunter’s family and experience the local hospitality and the nomadic way of life. Our guide will give us a brief overview about the Kazakh culture and about eagle hunting. Then the Eagle hunter will show us how he trains his eagle. Training an eagle usually takes at least 6 months. With the help of our guide you will get to learn and understand the start of eagle hunting.
Day 10 It is going to be a really exciting day today. After breakfast we’re going to head out into the valley to hunt with the Eagle Hunters. Mongolian Kazakhs use female eagles for hunting, as they are far bigger than the males and more aggressive. These eagles are trained to hunt foxes, wolves, rabbit and wildcat. We’ll venture into the surrounding wilderness with eagle hunters and trek across mountain tops by foot and jeep as we learn the skills and customs of the Mongolian Kazakhs and hunt with them.
Day 11 We’ll say goodbye to our new friends and head back to Ulgii and settle into our hotel as we prepare to attend the Eagle Festival.
Day 12 Eagle Hunting Festival Day 1, Today at the Eagle Festival we’ll enjoy the opening ceremonies and get to watch some exciting events including wrestling, horse racing, bow & arrow competitions, coin pickup, eagle calling races and more.
Day 13 Eagle Hunting Festival Day 2, Today we’ll enjoy the Eagle Festival again with additional races and activities and see who’s announced winners of the competitions with a final awards ceremony.
Day 14 Today we’ll fly back to Ulan Batar as we say our goodbye’s to western Mongolia. After we settle into our hotel, we’ll have some free time and enjoy farewell dinner as we share stories and memories of our incredible journey.
Day 15 Today you’ll have free time to explore Ulan Batar until your drive to the airport and your flight home.
Chris Bandy With more than 25 years of expert wilderness paddling experience, co-owner Chris Bandy is a master guide who knows both wilderness and safety. He has been trained and certified by the American Canoe Association and specializes in teaching open water rescues techniques and navigation. Chris’s experience includes extensive paddling on Lake Superior-with its’ special challenges- and also paddling on most of the oceans on earth. He has been guiding our sea kayak adventures to Greenland, Lake Superior, the Bahamas and Vietnam for the past 15 years. Chris’s clients feel safe and well cared for. He’s well known for his ear to ear smile and adventure travel stories. You can’t travel with Chris without catching his adventurous spirit.
Kim McCluskey first started paddling in the 1970s. As a young man, he was a hippie with a long blonde pony tail and a Volkswagen bus. In his thirties, he raised three children and became a chiropractor. In his fifties, responding to his passion for nature, adventure and paddling, he sold his chiropractic practice and began to guide paddling trips to remote places all over the world. Kim has led kayaking trips in Mongolia, Vietnam, India, Argentina, Greenland, France, China, Tibet, Iceland, Greece, Costa Rica, Chile, Bahamas and Brazil and trekking trips in Ladakh and Bhutan.