Difference between revisions of "Altai Tavan Bogd National Park"
Revision as of 08:04, 28 January 2013
Home to Mongolia's highest mountain, Kuiten Uul,4374 m, this national park covers an area of 630,000 hectarce and is home to three large freshwater lakes and 34 glaciers. The largest, Pontuninii Glacier, covers 23 sq km. Tavan Bogd means "Five Saints" in Mongolia and is considered sacred to local Kazakhs, Tuvans, and Mongolians. The name comes from the 5 peaks of the Tavan Bogd, which are part of the Altai Mountain Range .
The Altai Mountains have been inhabited for around 7000 years. Petroglyphs inside the park are estimated to be as far back as 2000 B.C. Turkic standing stones and deer stones can be found inside the park along with burial mounds and Kazakh cemeteries.
A stunning landscape of high glaciated snow capped mountains, alpine and sup-alpine forests, large lakes, rivers and streams, mountain grasslands, barren rocky mountain ranges and semi-arid desert type valleys. A very rugged land.
Flora and fauna
There are many endangered species inside the park including argali sheep, Beech marten, ibex, grey wolves, red deer, black vulture, elk, snow leopards, Altai snowcock, golden eagles, and many others.
Altai Mountains have been a crossroads of history. There are tens of thousands of petroglyphs inside the park, as well as Turkic Standing Stone Men and burial mounds. In one valley alone, Tsaagan Sala, there are 10,000 petroglyphs along 15 km of river banks. During the summer, local semi-nomadic Kazakh herders live inside the park near the lakes. During winter, many of the Kazakh eagle hunters use trained eagles to hunt Corsac foxes.
There is usually snow until end of May. It starts snowing again in October, though it can drop below freezing at night even in August.
Rainy season is from mid of july to Mid of August. Average temperature in Summer: Day: 16-25°C, Night: 7-13°C
From Ulgii center to ATB National Park is 180 km.
There are no bus or taxi services from Ulgii center, where the National Park Headquarters are, to the park itself. You will have to find your own way there by hiring a car (russian jeep or microbus) and driver. You can ask at the park information center in Ulgii to help arrange a car and driver for you. They will know the current daily rate. Alternatively, the local Ulgii hotels and tour companies can also help. It is up to you to make sure the car and driver are safe, ie: good running condition, tires, spares, water, first aid kit, etc and that the driver doesn't drink! There are good drivers and bad drivers.
For any service you request, you will most likely be directed to a family member of whomever you're asking. Since they're all related to some extent, this is unavoidable and not really a bad thing.
Park permit is required to enter the ATB National Park. Buy an ATB National Park permit from ATB National Park Administation office in Ulgii center. Park permit costs 3000 tugrik (Approx. $2.14 ). If you are going into the park, which is next to the border with Russia and China, you will also need a border permit obtained from the border guards office in Ulgii center. Not having one can potentially get you arrested. Your tour company will take care of this for you, or you can ask at the national park information office for someone to help arrange this for you if traveling independently.
Independent travellers in the park will find that park rangers and border guards will stop and ask for permits and fine you accordingly if you don't have them.
Lots to do in the park. High alpine and very serious climbing, backcountry skiing (may spring skiing is great!), fishing, great mountain trekking, horse and camel trekking, whitewater kayak and rafting, and learning about and experiencing the unique khazakh culture of the area.
Buy a good map of the area before you go. You can get topo maps and travel maps at the "Map Shop" in Ulaanbaatar. The Visitor Information Centre in the main post office just off (west) of Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar can direct you to this.
No restaurants in the park. Take any special food you need with you. Local Kazakh foods are generally meat and...more meat. Goat, sheep, horse, camal and cow.
You will most likely "go native" and eat with the locals. It's customary, and generally a nice thing, to bring some onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, a bag of noodles, rice, as food items you can give to the woman of the house, who mainly prepares all meals. This is easy if you've hired a car and driver for your trip. You can get these items in any quantity at the local Ulgii open market. A really interesting place to go. Watch your pockets though! Your driver or guide can help here. You'll also want to take along bottles of water for the ride. You can find these in many Ulgii Center shops. Also bring any herbs, tomato sauce, or soy sauce to help make the food tastier to your personal preference.
If you are really staying with locals in the park, it's also nice to give a needed household item as a token of your appreciation. Candles, packets of matches, a small a block of green tea, and of course a handful of boiled sweets (hard candy) for the table and kids. It's not mandatory of course, but a nice gesture. You can get any of these items at the open market as well and in any quantity you want.
Again, no restaurants in the park. Bring bottled or boiled water with you and the means to purify or boil water when camping and traveling. Lots of water around, just take the ususal precautions. When with the locals, there's always vodka!
Most of the tour companies who travel in the park will bring you to their own pre-arranged accommodation, either their own lodge or camp set up. There are a few very scattered ger (yurt) camps around, but you'll have to check with the park office for their current locations.
Inside the park, there are no commercial lodges, hotels, backpackers, etc. Independent travelers can find lodging with local Khazakh herders if they want to get a very enjoyable and interesting local experience. If you do this, pay them for your stay. Income opportunties for these people are very limited. Two to four dollars a night is currently acceptable and good value for the experience. When traveling further into the mountains, there is no lodging unless you carry a tent, and this is recommended.
There are now several herder communities who have gotten together and can provide some primitive services such as accommodation and guiding. Check with the park information office to find where these are if you want to visit a real community based tourist venture. It can be a great experience, but be prepared for basic, very basic.
If traveling with a tour company they will (or should) have everything you need for a comfortable camping experience. Take pains to make sure they are reputable and do have what you need. Ask the park information office about good camping areas in the park.
There are very few designated camping sites around the park, so it's basically up to you where you want to put your bones for the night. If around a herder family, it's a good idea to ask if you can camp closer to their ger (yurt). Most will enjoy having you there and you will be secure for the night.
The same rules for camping apply here as anywhere else in the world. If you pack it in, pack it out! This is especially important in and around the base camp area for the Tavan Bogd (five kings) range, where serious high alpine climbing can be had. It is a very fragile area and easily impacted by human use.
AS for camping toilet needs. There are no toilets. If you don't know how to "shit in the woods", you'll want to practice a bit before undertaking a Mongolian adventure.
When traveling in the park, especially if you're an individual or an independent group, it's best to register with the park office and let them know your intentions. There is no "rescue" service of any kind in Mongolia, but at least they'll know where to begin looking for you if you do go missing or get hurt. Locals are very kind and helpful, but if you do get seriously injured, it will basically be up to your own initiative and strength to get you out of there. Good seasonal clothing, first aid kit, backcountry equipment for the activity your planning and a little knowledge of the area are essential. A good map.
When traveling alone anywhere, it's always a good thing to play it safe. There is potential to run into a few rogues along your route. It is a wild place and far from anywhere. That's what's appealing. Hopefully as a traveler you already have the experience to read situations as they arise when coming across certain individuals. When camping for the night, it's a good idea to ask a local herder to camp near their ger (yurt) for extra safety. If that's not possible, be discreet in choosing where to set up the tent.