Meeting & Protecting the Gobi Khulan


The Mongolian wild ass or onager ( Equus hemionus hemionus ) known as Khulan in Mongolian is a wild equid and one of the recognized subspecies of the Asian wild ass ( Equus hemionus ). It now represents the largest population of the Asian wild ass in the world, living mainly in the Gobi Desert with small populations in northern China (Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia). The Mongolian wild ass is listed in the IUCN Red List as “Near threatened” (but was listed as “Endangered” until 2015.

This exceptional journey is arranged with the collaboration of Goviin Khulan Association and certain proceeding of the income is dedicated to supporting this important conservation project. The journey, which is co-led by biologist Anne-Camille SOURIS and founder of the non-profit Goviin Khulan association, will take you through the Gobi’s most remote and secluded regions whee you will be able to observe amazing flora and fauna but also to take part to some of the non-profit association’s research and conservation activities (e.g: camera traps set up, collect of species’ GPS locations, etc). You will be also able to observe and compare the behavior and ecology of the different equids (wild and domestic) that inhabit Mongolia.

Brief Daily Itinerary

Day 1 – June 28. Arrival

Arrive in Mongolia through Chinggis Khaan International Airport. Upon arrival, meet with the local guide and transfer to the Ulaanbaatar hotel or similar. After a short city tour, orientation meeting, followed by a welcome dinner. (Bayangol Hotel or similar; D)

Day 2 – June 29. Hustai National Park

After an early morning breakfast drive to Hustai National Park, which is known for its successful reintroduction of the Przewalski’s horse or “takhi” in Mongolian (the only wild horse to survive in modern times). Before entering the park, we will first stop at the camp of the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project which is based just few kilometers before the entrance of the park. This project is conducted by a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring back the traditional use of the livestock guardian dog known locally as the ‘Bankhar dog’ to help herders protect their livestock from wolves (and in some areas from snow leopards too). Then, after lunch you will travel inside the park where you will be able to observe a certain variety of species such as Red deer, Siberian marmots, Corsac foxes, numerous raptors and the Przewalski’s horses. In late afternoon, we will drive back to Ulaanbaatar.Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
( Approximately 250 km. Bayangol Hotel or similar; D B, L, D )

Day 3 – June 30. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve

This morning we will travel by road through the steppe to desert fields and will have a better insight about the diversity of Mongolia’s natural habitats to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, which is a protected area home to Siberian Ibex, Argali sheep, and Cinereous vulture.

Located in Dornogovi province, Ikh Nart Nature Reserve that has been established in 1996, covers an area of about 66,000 hectares of grassland and semi-desert steppe environments and harbors the last remaining populations of Argali sheep. It is also one of the most significant breeding sites for the Cinerous Vulture (European Black Vulture). Three research projects are ongoing in this reserve, conducted by the Denver Zoo and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences: Argali sheep and Ibex project, Carnivore project, and vulture project. You will spend this day to discover this nature reserve and its exceptional landscapes.

Stay in tents or depending on availability in small ger camp close to the park. ( Approximately 320 km. Tents/gers; B, L, D )

Day 4 – July 1. Khamar Monastery

In early morning you will leave the nature reserve on dirt roads to travel to Sainshand, a city in the southeast part of the Gobi Desert. Then, you will reach the ger camp of the “Khamar Monastery, Energy Center” which is located about 50 km from Sainshand. Khamar Monastery and Energy Center was built by a famous poet, Buddhist monk, and scientist of the 19th century, Danzanravjaa. Tour the area, including a visit to the Shambala monument and monastery established over 200 years ago. Dinner and overnight at the local ger camp. (Approximately 310 kms. Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 5 – July 2. Native mountain and its Buddhist monastery

This morning drive further south into the Gobi desert. The Gobi desert makes up about third of Mongolia and despite the common understanding of the desert “sameness” offers a great variety of scenery and wildlife. Travel through some small towns in the remote desert to reach our destination. The monastery of the site of the ‘Native Mountain’ was destroyed during the 1930’s political purges but in the 1990’s with the reintroduction of Buddhism some of Mongolia’s ruined monasteries and temples have started to be rebuilt, including this monastery. On the way starting from today you might be able to see water holes made by khulans at dry river beds and water points, and we will collect GPS locations of Gobi wildlife, as well as any information about species presence, behavior and ecology. The Association Goviin Khulan’s research team has observed that khulans dig such holes to access to underground water to drink.

Other wild species (e.g. black-tailed gazelle, argali sheep, fox, wolf…) and some domestic species (camels, cows and horses) also use these holes to drink. After lunch and a short first visit of the place, we will set up a few camera traps in this area’s surroundings. Overnight in tents or in yurts (depending on the availability at the time of the expedition). ( Approximately 330 km. Tents; B, L, D )

Day 6 – July 3. The Native mountain and its surroundings

This morning after, you will have a chance to explore the remains of the old monastery as well as visiting the temple, which started to be rebuilt about 30 years ago, you will meet with the community of monks and will have the opportunity to discuss with the monks about their involvement in the Association Goviin Khulan conservation program and their actions and motivations towards the protection of the Gobi ecosystem.

After lunch, we will travel in the monastery’s surroundings to set out camera traps at different places in the area. We will come back to the monastery in the late afternoon. (Approximately 150 km; Tented camp; B, L, D )

Day 7 – July 4. Queen’s spring

In the morning we will head out towards the south, at about 150km from the Chinese border. This region is a natural habitat for the Khulan but also for blacktailed gazelle and argali sheep. Water sources are an important factor in the distribution of Khulan populations including natural springs such as the one at Queen’s Spring. In the summer months the species occurs within 10-15 km of standing water, and this range increases in the winter when it is not restricted by water availability as there is typically snowfall. On the way to Khatni bulag we will stop at Khatanbulag village where – depending on their availability we could meet with some of the park rangers working in the Small Gobi B Protected areas and talk with them about their work towards protection of the Gobi ecosystem and wildlife. We will set up camera traps again on the way (Approximately 210 km; Tented camp; B, L, D )

Day 8 – July 5. Queen’s spring

While we stay at the same camp for another night, we shall take packed lunches and explore nearby localities with possible watering holes of the Khulan, including one at Lugiin Gol. We will also meet with one family of herders that live in this area. You will be able to have an insight of the daily activities of the nomad family of the Gobi Desert. (Approximately 200 km; Tented camp; B, L, D )

Day 9 – July 6. Native mountain

Today we drive back to the native mountain and we will check some of the camera traps we did set up in the area before. We will have an opportunity to meet the monastery’s community members and monks and those who have been and are involved in the Khulan project as Citizen Conservationists, and we will explore with them the pictures that have been collected by some of the camera traps. Dinner and overnight at Suikhent. (Approximately 230 km; Tented camp; B, L, D )

Day 10 – July 7. Khanbogd and Dinosaurs footprints

In the morning, we will visit Mt. Suikhent. This is an area where petrified wood from Cretaceous period still could be seen on the surface of the soil. Mongolia is famous for its rich fossil beds and the area of the Gobi we are exploring for the Khulan is also known for remnants of vegetation and other forms of life, including the dinosaur and other species (e.g. turtles …) from 80-120 million years ago. Mt. Suikhent has been protected since 1996 but is threatened because of illegal robbery of the artifacts. After our visit at Mt. Suikhent, we travel to Hanbogd soum, one of the biggest settlements in the area. This is the administrative unit, where one of the biggest mining activities in Mongolia are happening. As a way to offset their harmful influence, the mine is funding various projects, including help with developing community run tourism activities. We will have a chance to stop by Shar Tsav, a visitor center built around a unique find of 18,000 dinosaur foot prints. During our stay in Hanbogd we miht have the opportunity to meet with the director of the Small Gobi A and B protected areas. Association GOVIIN KHULAN works in partnership with the administration of the Small Gobi A And B Protected areas since 2008. (Approximately 300 km; Hotel in Hanbogd, B, L, D )

Day 11 – July 8. Mandalgovi

After breakfast, we will visit a local monastery – Demchog, built by the same lamapoet who built the Hamriin Hiid in Dornogovi, this was one of the three most influential Buddhist centers in the entire Gobi region. Destroyed by the communist government in the 30s of the last century it is being rebuilt by locals with help from the local copper mine. Then, we will head to Ulaanbaatar through a slightly different road via Dundgovi. Mongolia is divided into twenty one provinces and on this day we will drive from the Southgobi to Middle Gobi. While technically it will still be the great Gobi desert, one will clearly see the difference in vegetation and landscape. ( Approximately 550 km. Local hotel; B, L, D )

Day 12 – July 9. Ulaanbaatar

Continue driving to Ulaanbaatar. Check into the hotel. Dinner on your own. (Approximately 300 km. Bayangol Hotel; B, L )

Day 13 – July 10. Ulaanbaatar

We will spend this day exploring sights and sounds of Mongolia’s capital. We will begin this morning with a private blessing with a Buddhist monk at Gandan, the country’s largest monastery. An imposing 90-foot-tall statue of Megjid Janraisag (Avalokites – vara in Sanskrit) stands in the largest temple in the monastery. This statue is considered the religious symbol of Mongolia’s independence and democracy after the country’s democratic transition in 1990. When a Mongolian student in the mid -1990s discovered fragments of the original statue (which was destroyed by Soviet authorities in the 1930s) in St. Petersburg, a nationwide campaign began to collect money for rebuilding the Buddha. After years of hard work, this magnificent Buddha was resurrected and is now standing proud, making all Mongolian Buddhists happy.

Next, we will visit the National History Museum located in downtown Ulaanbaatar. This museum offers an excellent introduction to Mongolia’s history from prehistoric times through the 13th century Mongolian Empire, and on to the democratic movement of the early 1990s, which overthrew the Communist regime.

After lunch, we will visit the Zanabazar’s Fine Arts Museum with its excellent collection of Mongolia’s arts, including golden Buddha statues of the 17th century and some of the best preserved tankas in the world or have an opportunity to explore some shopping opportunities, including visits to cashmere factory outlets and genuine Mongolian product stores.

In the evening, we will enjoy a wonderful performance of traditional Mongolian music and dance, featuring Khoomii or “throat” singing.

Farewell dinner in one of the best restaurants in town. (Bayangol H otel; B, L, D)

Day 14 – July 11. Departure

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your departure flights home. (B)

Trip Highlights:

The Mongolian hemion ( Equus hemionus hemionus ) known as Khulan in Mongolian is a wild equid and one of the recognized subspecies of the Asian wild ass ( Equus hemionus ). It now represents the largest population of the Asian wild ass in the world, living mainly in the Gobi Desert with small populations in northern China (Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia). The Mongolian Hemione is listed in the IUCN Red List as “Near threatened” (but was listed as “Threatened” until 2015. This exceptional journey is arranged with the collaboration of Goviin Khulan Association and certain proceeding of the income is dedicated to supporting this important conservation project. The journey is co-led by biologist Anne-Camille SOURIS, the founder of the non-profit association, who takes travelers through the Gobi’s most remote and secluded regions with amazing flora and fauna.


Trip Date:

Jun 28 – July 11, 2024


4-7 travelers:

$4,775 per person, twin occupancy

8-10 travelers:

$4,480 per person, twin occupancy;

Optional single supplement:

$420 per person (including a single tent).


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

Throughout the most part of our country, 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!

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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.