MONGOLIA 2020

Altai Expedition with Sagsai Eagle Festival

Dates: August 30 - 15 September, 2020

Rates: USD 3,750 per person (domestic fights included) 

This is an adventurous 17-day trek in Mongolia that includes a local eagle festival.
The daily plan can be tailored during planning, and remains flexible during the trip. This is an expedition and logistics/weather conditions will have to be considered each day.

This trek takes us to a remote part of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. This area sees no tourism (apart from us!). Officially the area is closed to foreigners, but the outfitter has developed a good relationship with local officials, which allows us access. There will be the opportunity to meet the local nomadic people, whilst riding through a mix of open valleys, thick forest and high mountains.
High quality meals will be provided by our camp cooks. Extra blankets and hot water bottles will be provided. There are no ger camps or guesthouses in this area, so camping is the only option.

ITINERARY
Flexibility of the itinerary : Within the start and end dates of the trip there is a high degree of flexibility, partly by necessity, but also because that is  the usual 'trip style'. This is a’ non-itinerised’, trip which means we can be open to whatever adventure comes our way, rather than being constrained by a rigid schedule. We are of course at the mercy of the weather (and domestic flight schedules) in Mongolia, so we will need to adjust our plans as necessary. The weather can change suddenly in the Altai Mountains. We will change the route as required.

A typical day on the trip: Expect six to eight hours of riding per day, but be prepared for longer days when necessary. There will also be shorter days, and rest days as required. For those who would like more riding, it is often possible to ride out in the evening, or to take a longer ‘scenic’ route. The terrain is generally not good for fast riding, but for those who are keen for a gallop, there are some opportunities. 

Suitable clients for this trek: This trek is suited to more adventurous riders, who do not mind ‘roughing it’ to a certain extent. The area of the Altai Mountains where we ride is remote and involves some days with packhorses. Riders are expected to minimize their personal gear when using packhorses.The terrain can be tough, and does involve some leading over rough, steep ground (typically less than an hour at a time). A good level of general fitness is essential to enjoy this trek. By September the weather is generally sunny during the day, but can be below zero at night, and can snow at any time. Riders need to be aware of the possibility, and be prepared for, cold weather. We will discuss the gear they need to bring.

Cultural Interaction : Mongolia has seen relatively little tourism, so offers a uniquely authentic chance to experience one of the last truly nomadic cultures. There are no children begging for sweets, or people trying to sell souvenirs. In order to avoid these problems occurring in future we will explain the dos and don'ts. The guides have good contacts amongst the local people, so will be invited in to their gers for a glimpse of local life and offered various 'delicacies' to try. They will explain how to navigate the cultural minefield, such as always giving and receiving with the right hand whilst your left hand supports your right elbow...you will remember how it goes. Luckily the culture is quite 'relaxed' and transgressions are more a source of amusement than offence!There are wonderful opportunities for immersion in the local people's' lives. The women will be more than happy to give hands-on lessons in yak-milking and how to process the milk into a range of obscure dairy products. Herding the livestock is the men's realm, but there is no problem for 'honorary men' from foreign lands to get involved. Mongolians are very proud of their culture and like to share it with outsiders.The majority of people in the area where we ride, and our team, are ethnically Kazakh. and they live the same nomadic lifestyle as elsewhere in the country. They have the same amazing hospitality. The Eagle Festival :The trip will finish with the  Eagle Festival. The first day, including the opening ceremony and we will fly back to UB on the second day. During the ride we will stage our own small Eagle Festival, meeting local hunters and trying our hand at horse games. There will be the opportunity to discover what it feels like to sit on your horse with a giant eagle on your arm.

Accommodation
  1. In UB :Before and after the trek (Days 1 and 14), we include accommodation in a suitable hotel in UB. For guests arriving before the trip, or staying on after, we can help arrange extra accommodation.
  2. In the countryside : During the trek the only option is to camp in tents. We provide good quality hiking-style tents, and riders do not need to share. Our staff will have tents ready at the end of each day, and will take them down after you ride away in the morning.
We will have our own ger set up in the national park as a base camp for some nights during the trek. We also have a more mobile communal tent, with heating stove, for other nights. A communal shelter is essential in the evening at this time of year.
  1. At the Eagle Festival :We will camp near the festival on September 12 and 13.

ITINERARY:

Day 01: ( August 30) Arrive in Ulaanbaatar. We meet you at the airport/train station and take you to our hotel. You are free to explore this fascinating city before we gather for an evening meal and meet your fellow riders.

Day 02: Fly to Ulgii, the main town of Bayan-Ulgii aimag (province). From here we drive south to Altai sum(village), on the edge of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (4-5hrs), and meet the horses. We start with a safety briefing and pointers about the local riding style, and then begin matching you to your ideal horse. A ride around the local area in the evening will allow you to decide if this is the horse for you.

Day 03-05: We start off by riding across open plains, up and over a high mountain pass, and into a hidden world of alpine meadows, forests and fast flowing streams in the National Park. By Day 5 we pass through the Mongolian border post and in to uninhabited 'no-man’s land' along the Chinese border; we set up our own ger as a base camp and from here we make our preparations for exploring deeper in to the mountain wilderness.

Day 06-11: Optional rest day at base camp, or day ride in to the surrounding mountains. A good area to spot ibex.

Day 12-14: We load up the pack-horses and ride down-river toward the Chinese border, establishing a remote camp for two nights. This part of the trip is definitely non-itinerised – where we go will be dictated by the terrain, the weather, and your own sense of adventure. The scenery in this border area is absolutely incredible, and very rarely seen by outsiders. We make our way back toward Altai sum, over the spectacular 3000m 'Pass of Death', and down to our camp beside Twin Lakes.

Day 15 : Kazakh games! Our wranglers and their friends and family will demonstrate traditional tests of horsemanship, such as tug-of-war on horseback. The bravest amongst you will be able to participate. Feel what it’s like to ride with a giant hunting eagle on your arm.
In the afternoon we head to the site of the Sagsai Eagle Festival and set up camp.
Visit the Eagle Festival. Attend the opening ceremony, and then watch hunters compete to test the skills of their eagles, and in traditional horse games.

Day 16:  Fly back to Ulaanbaatar. We meet in the evening for our final farewell dinner together.

Day 17: ( September 15) Transfer to the airport/train station and say goodbye.

Meals: Our local staff will prepare meals. You can of course help with cooking if desired, but it’s not expected. The local diet is very basic, as in Zavkhan (boiled mutton and dairy products) but we provide simple western-standard meals, including fresh vegetables. Once in the countryside there is little opportunity to re-provision. They can cater for vegetarian and gluten-free diets. 
Driving: We will travel in reliable 4WD vehicles with experienced drivers. The drive from Ulgii to first camp takes about four to five hours, over rough roads, but with plenty of breaks. 
What to bring : A list will be provided .We will work with you to ensure everyone does bring the right gear. Typically on our regular trips at least one person will not bring an adequate sleeping bag in our experience, despite our dire warnings! 
Staff : During the trip we will be accompanied by our local translator/guide, horse wranglers, drivers, and cooks. The wranglers will tack-up the horses, but guests are welcome to learn how to help.
Emergency backup: The outfitter works with SOS Medica Mongolia, a medical service in Ulaanbaatar for expats, to provide an emergency response if required. A comprehensive first-aid kit is carried at all times during the trip, and a satellite phone is available for emergencies.

What is included
  • Airport transfers for international flights 

  • Return domestic flight from UB to Ulgii 

  • 4WD vehicles, including fuel 

  • English-speaking translator/guide 

  • Hiking tents, and all group camping gear 

  • National park and border entry fees 

  • Eagle Festival entry fee 


  • Excluded:
  • Personal camping gear (sleeping bag and sleeping mat) 

  • Excess baggage fees on domestic flights (about $3USD per kg). Up to 20kg of 
luggage per person is included in the trip price. 

  • Visas, travel insurance (required), international flights 

  • Entry fees for sites such as monasteries and museums 

  • If you do wish to tip the local staff, as a way of saying an extra thank you, 
we can advise. 
Itinerary
Total full riding days 9 (including optional rest days) 

Highlights
  • Stark beauty of Bayan-Ulgii's arid mountains and valleys as we drive south to Altai sum.
  • Lush alpine meadows, forest and streams of this hidden corner of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. 

  • Great riding country, everything from tricky forest trails to high mountain grasslands, and open valleys, and not a fence or gate to be seen. 

  • Fascinating bronze age archaeological sites. 

  • Rare wildlife including Asiatic ibex, elk, argali, bears and wolves (if we are 
lucky). 

  • Mongolian culture - nomadic herdsmen still live the traditional lifestyle and 
will be as interested in you, as you are in them! 

  • Explore deep in to the Altai Mountains where even local people rarely 
venture. 

  • Attend the fascinating annual Eagle Festival 
Notes:
  • Ulaanbaatar is best explored on foot and a guide is not essential. However if you would prefer to have a driver and guide we can arrange this. 

  • If arriving before Day 1 transfers are still included. 

  • The itinerary remains flexible (within the start and end dates) to allow for 
unforeseen circumstances such as changes to the domestic flight 
schedule 

  • Mongolia’s roads are often little more than dirt tracks; all driving times 
should be considered approximate. Times include breaks for lunch, 
photographs etc. 

  • Support vehicles are used to carry food, camping equipment and personal 
luggage. Pack horses or camels will be used when necessary. 

  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 (in UB) to dinner on Day 14, including snacks, tea and coffee 

 Flexibility of the itinerary : Within the start and end dates of the trip there is a high degree of flexibility, partly by necessity, but also because that is our usual 'trip style'. This is a’ non-itinerised’, trip which means we can be open to whatever adventure comes our way, rather than being constrained by a rigid schedule.We are of course at the mercy of the weather (and domestic flight schedules) in Mongolia, so we will need to adjust our plans as necessary. The weather can change suddenly in the Altai Mountains. We will change the route as required.

 A typical day on the trip: Expect six to eight hours of riding per day, but be prepared for longer days when necessary. There will also be shorter days, and rest days as required. For those who would like more riding, it is often possible to ride out in the evening, or to take a longer ‘scenic’ route.The terrain is generally not good for fast riding, but for those who are keen for a gallop, there are some opportunities. 
Suitable clients for this trek: This trek is suited to more adventurous riders, who do not mind ‘roughing it’ to a certain extent. The area of the Altai Mountains where we ride is remote and involves some days with packhorses. Riders are expected to minimize their personal gear when using packhorses.The terrain can be tough, and does involve some leading over rough, steep ground (typically less than an hour at a time). A good level of general fitness is essential to enjoy this trek. We can discuss what that means!By September the weather is generally sunny during the day, but can be below zero at night, and can snow at any time. Riders need to be aware of the possibility, and be prepared for, cold weather. We will discuss the gear they need to bring.

Cultural Interaction : Mongolia has seen relatively little tourism, so offers a uniquely authentic chance to experience one of the last truly nomadic cultures. There are no children begging for sweets, or people trying to sell souvenirs. In order to avoid these problems occurring in future we will explain the dos and don'ts.The guides have good contacts amongst the local people, so will be invited in to their gers for a glimpse of local life and offered various 'delicacies' to try. They will explain how to navigate the cultural minefield, such as always giving and receiving with the right hand whilst your left hand supports your right elbow...you will remember how it goes. Luckily the culture is quite 'relaxed' and transgressions are more a source of amusement than offence!There are wonderful opportunities for immersion in the local people's' lives. The women will be more than happy to give hands-on lessons in yak-milking and how to process the milk into a range of obscure dairy products. Herding the livestock is the men's realm, but there is no problem for 'honorary men' from foreign lands to get involved. Mongolians are very proud of their culture and like to share it with outsiders.The majority of people in the area where we ride, and our team, are ethnically Kazakh. and they live the same nomadic lifestyle as elsewhere in the country. They have the same amazing hospitality.
The Eagle Festival :The trip will finish with the annual Sagsai Eagle Festival. The first day, including the opening ceremony and we will fly back to UB on the second day. During the ride we will stage our own small Eagle Festival, meeting local hunters and trying our hand at horse games. There will be the opportunity to discover what it feels like to sit on your horse with a giant eagle on your arm.
Accommodation
  1. In UB :Before and after the trek (Days 1 and 14), we include accommodation in a suitable hotel in UB. For guests arriving before the trip, or staying on after, we can help arrange extra accommodation.
  2. In the countryside : During the trek the only option is to camp in tents. We provide good quality hiking-style tents, and riders do not need to share. Our staff will have tents ready at the end of each day, and will take them down after you ride away in the morning.
We will have our own ger set up in the national park as a base camp for some nights during the trek. We also have a more mobile communal tent, with heating stove, for other nights. A communal shelter is essential in the evening at this time of year.
  1. At the Eagle Festival :We will camp near the festival on the Friday and Saturday nights.
Meals :Our local staff will prepare meals. You can of course help with cooking if desired, but it’s not expected. The local diet is very basic, as in Zavkhan (boiled mutton and dairy products) but we provide simple western-standard meals, including fresh vegetables. Once in the countryside there is little opportunity to re-provision. They can cater for vegetarian and gluten-free diets.Driving :We will travel in reliable 4WD vehicles with experienced drivers. The drive from Ulgii to first camp takes about four to five hours, over rough roads, but with plenty of breaks.What to bring : A list will be provided .We will work with you to ensure everyone does bring the right gear. Typically on our regular trips at least one person will not bring an adequate sleeping bag in our experience, despite our dire warnings! 
Staff : During the trip we will be accompanied by our local translator/guide, horse wranglers, drivers, and cooks. The wranglers will tack-up the horses, but guests are welcome to learn how to help.
Emergency backup : The outfitter works with SOS Medica Mongolia, a medical service in Ulaanbaatar for expats, to provide an emergency response if required. A comprehensive first-aid kit is carried at all times during the trip, and a satellite phone is available for emergencies

What is included: 
  • Airport transfers for international flights 

  • Return domestic flight from UB to Ulgii 

  • 4WD vehicles, including fuel 

  • English-speaking translator/guide 

  • Hiking tents, and all group camping gear 

  • National park and border entry fees 

  • Eagle Festival entry fee 

What is excluded: 
  • Personal camping gear (sleeping bag and sleeping mat) 

  • Excess baggage fees on domestic flights (about $3USD per kg).
    (Up to 20kg of 
luggage per person is included in the trip price) 

  • Visas, travel insurance (required), international flights 

  • Entry fees for sites such as monasteries and museums 

  • If you do wish to tip the local staff, as a way of saying an extra thank you, 
we can advise. 

  • full riding days 9 (including optional rest days) 

Highlights
  • Stark beauty of Bayan-Ulgii's arid mountains and valleys as we drive south to Altai sum.
  • Lush alpine meadows, forest and streams of this hidden corner of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. 

  • Great riding country, everything from tricky forest trails to high mountain grasslands, and open valleys, and not a fence or gate to be seen. 

  • Fascinating bronze age archaeological sites. 

  • Rare wildlife including Asiatic ibex, elk, argali, bears and wolves (if we are 
lucky). 

  • Mongolian culture - nomadic herdsmen still live the traditional lifestyle and 
will be as interested in you, as you are in them! 

  • Explore deep in to the Altai Mountains where even local people rarely 
venture. 

  • Attend the fascinating annual Eagle Festival 

    Notes:
  • Ulaanbaatar is best explored on foot and a guide is not essential. However if you would prefer to have a driver and guide we can arrange this. 

  • If arriving before Day 1 transfers are still included. 

  • The itinerary remains flexible (within the start and end dates) to allow for 
unforeseen circumstances such as changes to the domestic flight 
schedule 

  • Mongolia’s roads are often little more than dirt tracks; all driving times 
should be considered approximate. Times include breaks for lunch, 
photographs etc. 

  • Support vehicles are used to carry food, camping equipment and personal 
luggage. Pack horses or camels will be used when necessary. 

  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 (in UB) to dinner on Day 14, including snacks, tea and coffee