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The Adventure Of A Lifetime: 16 Days With The Famed Eagle Hunters Of Mongolia

Photos Courtesy of Wild Focus Expeditions

Imagine going on an adventure that includes riding horses across the very same land that Chinggis and Khubilai Khaan trekked, being part of a camel caravan across the Gobi Desert, sleeping in traditional Mongolian tents, and finally, joining the famous Golden Eagle festival held in the far-western province of Bayan Olgii. Well, welcome to Wild Focus Expeditions’ 16-day journey through Mongolia where you will do all of that and so much more. 


Experiencing countries and cultures vastly different from your own can be intimidating, not to mention complicated to orchestrate, which is why choosing a reputable tour company to travel with is a no-brainer. Award-winning wildlife photography tour company Wild Focus Expeditions (WFE) specializes in small group travel and promises that through their packages, you will “travel different” than you are used to. The company connects photographers and adventure-seekers with intimate, unique moments in nature to make rare photo moments possible. Enter their Eagle Hunters tour happening from September 30 to October 10, 2020. 


Mongolia’s history is incredibly rich and varied, and WFE’s itinerary is specially designed to show you everything there is to see. With 90% of landlocked Mongolia covered by deserts or pastures with extreme climatic conditions (desert area is the largest temperate grassland habitat), this country is home to a variety of animals, including gray wolves and Siberian ibex, as well as endangered species like the wild Bactrian camel, the snow leopard, and the Gobi bear. Oh yeah, and Mongolian horses and camels which were, and still are, at the very center of nomadic existence and are instrumental in the history of the country and its people. These are the descendents of the very same horses that carried the armies of Chinggis Khaan so they could conquer half of the known world in the 13th century. It is thanks to the horses that mongols are still able to trek move through Inner Asia in nearly the same way their ancestors did. And these camels made it possible for trade routes between Asia and Europe, making it possible for the great Tea Road to flourish for over 200 years. In fact, up until the mid-20th century, camels were still used to transport goods throughout the whole of Inner Asia.


This small, 10-person tour will take you on camel caravan through the infamous Gobi Desert and bring you together with the descendants of Chinggis and Khubilai Khaan while on horseback. You also get to join the Golden Eagle Festival, which is unlike any other festival you have ever attended. We promise. Found in the beautiful Altai Mountains, the yearly festival begins at the beginning of winter hunting season. Kazakh eagle hunters from all over the region head to the festival with their prized Golden Eagles, known as Berkut. While dressed in full eagle regalia and mounted proudly on their decorated horses, the hunters compete to show off their trained eagles to hopefully win the honor of being the best eagle hunter. 

Over a thousand years old, eagle hunting has a storied history in Central Asia and unlike other cultural practices that have fallen victim to the modern world, the Kazakhs have kept eagle hunting as a vital part of their culture and traditions. The Golden Eagle Festival not only tests the bird’s courage and the hunter’s skill, but also the uniquely special bond between the hunter and the eagle. Being able to witness and be part of this festival is truly remarkable. 


Leaving the festival doesn’t mean your time with eagle hunters is over. You will not only be invited to spend time with eagle hunters in their own village to learn firsthand about the about Kazakh culture, including tapestry making, you will also further west to the village of Altai soum where you will spend the following days riding on horseback with eagle hunters. You will be able to go hunting with them and get some amazing photos of the hunt in the beautiful mountains. A trip to the northern entry of the Yolt Valley, one of the scenic areas where parts of the “Eagle Huntress” movie were filmed, is also on the agenda. 


After the eagle portion of the adventure, WFE will be taking you to the Yol Valley in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, the largest national park in Mongolia. Home to much of Gobi’s wildlife, including Ibex, Argali sheep and snow leopards, it is here where you will explore the Hongoryn Els, the largest sand dunes in Mongolia (similar to the dunes in Egypt). The dunes span 60 miles alongside the Gobi Altai Mountain Range and can reach as high as 300 meters (984 feet). If the wind is blowing just right, the sand slides down the tallest of dunes and creates a strange humming sound. This phenomenon is why the dunes are often called “singing dunes” or “singing sand.” You will be climbing these exact dunes on the backs of Bactrian camels, with their herders as guides, under the night sky. 


Of course, we couldn’t possibly cover everything that this journey through Mongolia from WFE has to offer; these are just the highlights! You will have to sign up if you want to experience it for yourself. 

WFE’s Eagle Hunters tour is priced at $10,960 to $12,160. To learn more about the nitty gritty details, such as what is included and what isn’t, check out WFE’s website

Mila Pantovich

An avid traveler, Mila Pantovich splits her time between San Diego, CA and Banff, AB Canada. She has been featured in several publications, including Huffington Post and Citizine, and also works in marketing for a prestigious law firm. Follow her travels on Instagram: @MilaPantovich ...(Read More)

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