In the search of Mongolia's rare wildlife


Mongolia evokes images of immense grasslands, desert and mountain wilderness, limitless blue skies, and nomads roaming the ancient steppes on their sturdy horses. And many will have heard of the Silk Road and Genghis Khan, the world conqueror. But few realize that Mongolia is home to some of the rarest and most elusive wildlife species on Earth. These include Snow Leopard, big horn Argali sheep, Goitered and Mongolian Gazelles, the Asian Wild Horse (Takhi or Przewalski’s Horse), the Mongolian Wild Ass (Hulan), the last wild Bactrian camels (Havtgai), and, rarest of all the endangered Gobi Bear (Mazalai).

On this exclusive journey we shall meet with members of a local start-up initiatives to protect endangered snow leopards as well a successful NGO running a National Park to re-introduce wild Takhi horses and we shall have a meeting with a monk, who has started a local NGO helping less fortunate ones in the city of Harhorin. Join this exclusive expedition through the mountains of the Gobi Desert and steppes of Central Mongolia to search together for these rare mammals as well as seldom-seen bird specialties of Inner Asia, such as the Mongolian Ground Jay, Altai Snowcock, and Pallas’s Sandgrouse.

Brief Daily Itinerary

Day 1 – Sept 2. Arrival

Upon arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. After some rest, enjoy a brief city tour including a visit to the Zaisan Hill where you can get bird’s eye view of the city. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at one of the city’s fine local restaurants. Overnight at hotel. (Hotel Bayangol or similar; D)

Day 2 – Sept 3. Gun Galuut Nature Reserve

This morning, we will drive east of Ulaanbaatar, stopping along the way at the biggest equestrian statue in the world commemorating the world renowned Genghis Khan (known in his native Mongolia as Chinggis Khaan), who in his constitution (known as Yasa) devoted several chapters to protection of water sources and places of natural beauty. After a brief stop at the monument we’ll continue on to Gun Galuut reserve, situated in a picturesque valley of the Kherlen River. We will spend the afternoon exploring the rich variety of habitats at this private reserve managed by the local community. Several wetland areas typically contain a variety of waterbirds, possibly, including the globally threatened White-naped Crane. We also have an excellent chance of observing the resident herd of Argali, the big horn sheep with the most impressive horns. We will drive back to Ulaanbaatar for overnight after dinner at the camp. (Approx. 4 hours of driving; Blue Sky hotel; B, L, D)

Day 3 – Sept 4. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve

Drive to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, one of 3 national parks in the country managed by an independent non-governmental organization. Established in 1996, Ikh Nart covers an area of about 66,000 hectares of grassland and steppe and is home to a significant population of Argali Sheep. Since 2003, Earthwatch volunteers have helped Dr. Richard Reading and Ganchimeg Wingard study the ecology and biology of the area’s wildlife. These researchers are working to develop long-term conservation management plans for individual species as well as for Ikh Nart. Dinner and overnight at a local ger camp. (Local ger camp; B, L, D)

Day 4 – Sept 5  Umnugovi province

Today we drive to South Gobi, the southernmost province in the country. Known as the coldest desert in the world, Gobi has about it the greatest air of mystery, perhaps because it lies between the Siberian wilderness to the north and the Tibetan Plateau to the south. In the adventure-filled days that follow, we will spend time in and around Gobi Gurvansaikhan, the largest of Mongolia’s National Parks comprising over 2.7 million hectares. The peaks of this spectacular high desert mountain range that form the core of the park will be constantly in view as we drive to our comfortable ger camp. En route we will watch for flocks of Pallas’s Sandgrouse, herds of Goitered (Black-tailed) Gazelles and other desert wildlife.

In the evening we check into our ger camp, dinner, overnight. (Approx. 7 hours of driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 5 – Sept 6. Yol valley, Flaming Cliffs

In the morning, we will drive to Yol Valley within Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Gurvansaikan means “Three Beauties” describing the park’s most prominent peaks, and Yol – refers to the Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier. In the desert’s hierarchy of raptors and scavengers, the Lammergeier arrives last to the carcass to feast on the bones; to get at the marrow, these enormous yet surprisingly graceful birds carry the bones high in the air and drop them on the rocks below. The Yol is one of most beautiful valleys in the park, and exploring the gorge allows a rare chance of watching wild Argali sheep grazing in the grassy saddles and Siberian Ibex clambering with uncanny skill along steep rocky ledges. Many interesting birds such as the butterfly-winged Wallcreeper and the exceedingly rare Koslov’s Accentor also inhabit this magical spot. We will also visit a Natural History Museum located at the entrance to the park.

After having lunch and enjoying some free time we will drive in the afternoon to the Flaming Cliffs, a red sandstone escarpment stretching above the desert for 3 kilometers, where the first dinosaur eggs known to science were found by the Roy Chapman Andrews expedition in early 20th century. Since then, paleontological expeditions from many countries, including the U.S, Poland, Japan and Russia, have uncovered thousands of fossils of many species. Each year rain and wind reveal yet more fossils and every summer new discoveries are made. Weather permitting, we’ll enjoy an al fresco dinner as the setting sun enflames the cliffs. Returning to our ger camp after dark we will watch in our jeep lights for species of jerboas, distinctive Asian desert rodents similar to New World kangaroo rats (Approx. 4 hours of driving total; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 6 – Sept 7. Khongoryn Els dunes

After breakfast we’ll set out on a drive to Khongoryn Els, the Gobi’s largest sand dunes and among the most spectacular in the world. En route we’ll explore the small mountain ranges of Bayan Dalai and Zoulen, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch. At nearby Tukhim an ancient dry lake-bed, we will look for a local population of Goitered Gazelle and Mongolian Wild Ass or Hulan. There are three species of wild ass in the world – the African Wild Ass, the Tibetan Kiang and the Asiatic Wild Ass or Onager, of which the Hulan is a subspecies All of them are desert animals and all threatened with extinction. Today Mongolia holds one of the last remnants – about 20,000 animals – of this once abundant species.

After a picnic lunch, we’ll drive to a local ger camp. A river that runs along the base of the dunes often attracts flocks of Pallas’s Sandgrouse and other birds drawn to the scarce desert water source. In the beautiful light of late afternoon, we will enjoy “sundowners” in the dunes as their colors change. Overnight in gers. (Approx. 5 hours of driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 7 – Sept 8. Sevrei Mountain Range

In the morning we’ll drive along the foothills of the tallest dunes and enter the mountains of Sevrei, stopping along the way at Adag water hole for a chance to look out for migratory birds on their way to warmer lands and crossing an area of Saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron), a small, salt-tolerant tree, whose stands constitute the closest thing to a forest in the deserts of Central Asia. This plant community harbors numerous characteristic species including several bizarre looking parasitic plants that attach themselves to the roots of the Saxual trees and several very localized birds such as the Saxaul Sparrow and Mongolian Ground Jay. Also this area is great for finding Great Gerbil, the largest of the world’s gerbils. Overnight in tents. (We will have a ger set up for meals and get together events). (Approx. 3 hours driving; Tents; B, L, D)

Day 8,9. Sept 9-10. Sevrei Mountain Range

Stories of Snow Leopards living in the mountains of Sevrei are told by old and young in this area. There are many eyewitnesses who have seen them and survived dangerous encounters and there is no household that has not lost an animal or two to these big cats. Following a local herder we will be visiting one of only 2 water holes in the Sevrei Range, where all the creatures of these mountains come for water. With help of motion sensor cameras some amazing footages of Snow Leopards were taken at this spot. Our chances of seeing one of these elusive predators is extremely remote, but we will be searching in prime habitat and might get lucky.

During our time in the mountains we shall have a chance to interact with members of the local community group who have come together in order to protect these elusive cats and start a local research and conservation fund. Overnight in tents at the same base camp. (Tents; B, L, D)

Day 10. Sept 11. Chono Haraikh

Today we get out of the mountains and camp to the west of Khongoryn Els dunes in a place called Chono Harhaikh. Spend the afternoon in the area looking for gazelle and other big mammals. Overnight in tents. (Tents; B, L, D)

Day 11. Sept 12. Bichigt Rocks, Bayangobi

Today we turn north, heading towards Bayan Mountains, we will inspect an unmatched concentration of exceptionally well-defined ancient rock carvings. The vast basin between the Nemegt and Bayan ranges are well known for an abundance of Mongolian Gazelle, as well as Goitered Gazelle. We will spend the night in the Bayan mountains, with excellent views of two of the highest mountain ranges in the Gobi – Ikh Bogd and Baga Bogd. (Approx. 5 hours of driving; Tents; B, L, D)

Day 12. Sept 13. Orog Lake, Bayanhongor

Today we cross dramatic mountain valleys of Ikh Bogd to Orog Lake, one of few perennial water bodies in the Gobi. Depending on water level, thousands of migratory birds stop to rest and feed here on their southward journeys in fall. We camp on the shores of lake Orog or Holbooljin, depending on where most number of birds are. Dinner and overnight in a local hotel. (Approx. 6 hours; Tents; B, L, D)

Day 13. Sept 14. Kharakhorum

After an early morning breakfast, we will begin our overland journey towards Kharakhorum (6-7 hours driving), stopping for a picnic lunch on the way. The construction of Kharakhorum city was completed during the reign of Ogedei Khan, Genghis Khan’s third son who, in 1228, inherited the empire his father created. It is located within the beautiful valley of the Orkhon River, which bears hundreds of historically and archeologically significant sites going back 2000 years. These burial sites, deer stones, and ruins of cities all pre-date the time of Genghis Khan. Unfortunately, Kharakhorum did not survive the perils of medieval struggles between different Mongolian clans or invasions from abroad. It was completely destroyed by the Ming Dynasty’s army in the 14th century after the collapse of Mongolia’s Yuan Dynasty in China. Its remains were used in the construction of Mongolia’s first and largest Buddhist Monastery, Erdenezuu, which stands today. Dinner and overnight at a local ger camp. (Approx. 6-7 hours driving; Ger Camp, B, L, D)

Day 14, Sept 15 Hustai  National Park

Early in the morning, we’ll head east to Hustai  National Park, one of three sites where the wild horses, known as the Takhi or Przewalski’s Horse have been reintroduced during the last two decades. After the last individuals disappeared from the wild in Mongolia in the late 1960s, genetically pure animals were bred in captivity in European zoos and have been reintroduced into three distinctive habitats in Mongolia. We will be able to observe these handsome, completely wild horses in their natural steppe habitat. Together with the Tarpan of the European steppe – which no longer exists in a pure state – the Takhi was a dominant grazer of the arid grasslands of the Eurasian continent. This is one of the few instances in which a large mammal, extirpated in the wild, has been successfully reintroduced within its former range. Overnight at local ger camp. (Approx. 6 hours of driving; Ger camp; B, L, D)

Day 15. Sept 16. Ulaanbaatar

In the morning engage in optional city touring, including stops at the Gandan Monastery, the country’s National History Museum and downtown stores. In the evening we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner at one of the fine restaurants in downtown. (Hotel Bayangol or similar; B, L, D)

Day 16. Sept 17. Ulaanbaatar

Transfer to the airport for your return flight home. (B)

Trip Highlights:

  • Travel through Mongolia’s vast grassland and the steppe, learning about their ecosystem and searching for the wildlife
  • Enjoy hiking in some of the most scenic trails in Mongolia while learning about birds, flowers and geology
  • Visit the Gobi desert and ride two-humped Mongolain camels on the   sand dunes
  • Visit the habitat area of the elusive snowleopards in the Altai Mountains
  • Visit the Orhon Valley, considered as the cradle of Mongolian civilization and visit the largest Buddhist Monastery Erdenezuu
  • Enjoy a private tour at the Wild Horse park with a leading local biologist
  • Enjoy meeting with nomads and exploring the nomadic culture of Mongol


Trip Date:

Sep 2 – 17, 2024

2 travelers:

$4,800 per person; twin occupancy

3-5 travelers:

$4,650 per person; twin occupancy

6-9 travelers:

$4,400 per person; standard twin occupancy

10 and more travelers:

$4,150 per person; standard twin occupancy

Optional single supplement:

$600 per person


bayngol room

Hotel Bayangol

Located centrally in Ulaanbaatar, Bayangol Hotel offers comfortable accommodations with easy access to the city’s attractions. Accommodations at Bayangol Hotel cater to every need, from cozy standard rooms to luxurious suites, ensuring a comfortable stay for all guests.

camping night view mongolia

Field camps

In the Gobi mountains, we will be staying expedition style tents. It is one of the best camping grounds in the entire country and be sure to watch for the northern stars and the entire Milkyway spanning over us!


Ger camps

Throughout the rest of the program, you will be staying at cozy and authentic ger camps with western bathroom and restaurant facilities. Most visitors find staying in gers as one of the highlights of their trip to Mongolia.

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Land Transportation

Land transportation is provided by Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps seating  3 passangers per vehicle. Some roads can be bumby and hard but our drivers are some of the most experienced and reliable in the country.