Mongolia’s landscapes vary from lush meadows with rolling hills to vast swathes of desert with its iconic dunes.
Between the two lies a little known area named Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, an area of rocky plateau, rich in archaeology and history and home to Argali Wild Sheep and Siberian Ibex. Not only is this region perfect for the most intrepid of travellers, it is now also possible to stay there in an exclusive ger camp.
The journey to reach these far flung and remote destinations begins with a six hour journey on the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Ulanbataar, the capital. Even the name of the train evokes adventurous thoughts.
As the train works its way towards the East Gobi the landscape becomes more arid and the lusher pastures are left behind. The last 40km is by vehicle. A brief stop overnight at a Ger Camp before continuing the following morning. This is where the excitement really begins.
In true nomad style camel carts are used to cover the 8 kilometres. Walking, horse riding or simply catching a lift on the cart are all on offer. What awaits is a private ger (traditional nomadic tent) camp truly surrounded by wilderness and the days are spent searching for the area’s fascinating wildlife and exploring the rich history and archaeology of the region.
Night fall brings cosy camp fires and the wonder of clarity of the starry sky in this vast wilderness. A truly unique experience for you and whoever you choose to share it with.
The next day you will embark on a guided walk through the reserve accompanied by the camels to reach another destination for a private camp. En route you will discover the ruins of a temple and uncover the history of this region seeing petroglyphs and ancient graves. Two nights are spent here looking at the fascinating treasures of the area from rock art to the unique geology.
Once again the camels are loaded up and another walk north to Mankhan Sands on the edge of the Ikh Nart Plateau is the last stop in the East Gobi. With higher dunes than at the previous stop and with fabulous views over the vast desert steppe plains below this is a superb location for the end to this part of the journey.
Alternatively it is possible to reach the shared camp also that night from which, the following morning, one can walk on to the airstrip with the camels and everything is then loaded onto the plane directly from the camels!
Depending on where the private camp has been placed either a vehicle will bring you to the airstrip or it is also possible to walk. Nothing is set in stone on this journey! From here a private charter of a Cessna Caravan will take you on a one hour flight to the airstrip for Khan Khenti, from which you will then walk for two hours to reach your camp – from desert to lush green meadows in one day.
You are met on arrival with yak carts (no limos here!) and walk to another private ger camp in a set in such a location with 360 landscape undisturbed private views of the stunning surrounding countryside which has remained unchanged for thousands of years.
Using this camp as a base, explore the surrounding area on foot, horseback or using the Russian catarafts or inflatable kayaks on the Tuul River. There are also mountain bikes available at camp. Read books, take a wild swim in the river (on hot days only) or even enjoy a ger sauna set up just for you by the riverside. You will also have a private chef to keep you well fed and your energy levels up for exploration.
This is a strictly protected area. In the south herdsmen keep their livestock following a traditional way of life that has remained virtually unchanged since the time of Genghis Kahn and in the north lies a true remote wilderness that stretches all the way up to the Russian-Siberian border. Wolves are aplenty in the region, although rarely seen but other wildlife includes wild boar, moose, wapiti deer, marmot and gazelle.
If time allows the camp can be moved to another location and walk between the two. This is the sheer beauty of these camps. They are fully mobile, collapsible with no permanent structures and compacted to be loaded onto the animals that transport them making them very low impact on this precious environment.
These incredible journeys can be combined with visiting the other regions of this highly interesting country of course. Undertaking such a journey will surely be an unforgettable experience.