Mongolia - Snow Leopards & Birds 2020
August 2020 (11 days)
Dates25 Aug 2020 - 4 Sep 2020
Tour LeaderDaniel Danckwerts
Tour Size8 Participants & 1 Rockjumper Wildlife guide
Flight Cost (Approximate)Not Applicable
Spaces AvailableSpaces Available
Type of TourWildlife
Snow Leopard, Urial, Siberian Ibex, Argali, Saiga, Goitered Gazelle, Przewalski’s Horse, Black-tailed Gazelle, Grey Wolf, Pallas’ Pika, Northern Three-toed Jerboa, Mongolian Gazelle, Red Deer, Mongolian Marmot, Long-tailed and Daurian Sousliks
Day 1: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
Upon arrival in Mongolia’s capital, we will check into our comfortable hotel for the night. If time permits, we may be able to do some birding along the Tuul River today, where exciting possibilities could include Mandarin Duck, Steppe Eagle, Saker Falcon, Azure-winged Magpie, Azure Tit, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Siberian Rubythroat and Pine Bunting.
Day 2: Altai Mountains via Khovd
We will take a flight to the town of Khovd today. Situated in the far west of the country, it is at the base of the Altai Mountains. A drive will take us to our ger camp, located in the foothills of the Altais. This is as remote a wilderness as one can find. It is unlikely we will see any other people here apart from our team. The hauntingly beautiful scenery of these arid mountains and deserts will be our home for the next 6 nights. The camp is basic but, given the remoteness of the area, surprisingly comfortable!
Once we are set up, we will begin our search for the Snow Leopard and many other exciting mammals and birds that call this area home.
Days 3 to 7: Altai Mountains
Our clear focus over these exhilarating days is going to be searching for the Snow Leopard. The ‘Gray Ghost’ needs little introduction… One of the most elusive and evocative species on our planet, only in very recent years has it become a possibility to have a realistic chance at seeing one. Here, we have just that – a realistic chance of seeing a Snow Leopard! Working with our local tracking team, we will head out to the best areas to find one each day.
In comparison to some of the other areas that have recently opened up for Snow Leopard viewing, this site has a few advantages. Firstly, it is at a much lower elevation, with the maximum elevation visited during this trip being about 2,500 meters above sea level. Secondly, the accommodation is more comfortable. And, thirdly, much of the terrain can be covered by 4×4 vehicle rather than hiking!
Our search will be done through a mixture of driving and short hikes with lots of scanning. We will also be tuned in for any sightings from our trackers and even local shepherds. It will probably take patience and persistence to get a sighting, but our chances are quite high given the amount of time we have devoted here!
Of course, there is much more besides the Snow Leopard to be excited about. Their prey base in this area is formed largely of nimble Siberian Ibex and Argali. Rams of both species sport impressive horns and the latter species is the world’s largest sheep. Gray Wolf is another exciting possibility in this area; while additional mammals to be on the lookout for include Mongolian Marmot and Pallas’ Pika.
We will also spend some time in the flatter areas looking for the incredible Saiga. The once vast herds of this truly unique and remarkably speedy antelope are sadly fast disappearing, but this area still offers a great chance at seeing them. Goitered Gazelle is another fantastic antelope species that we should encounter in this area. We will also head out at night for some spotlighting, when several species of interesting rodents come out – the mini-kangaroo-like Northern Three-toed Jerboa being most notable!
As one might expect, the birding in this area is also fabulous! This is a particularly good area for two special species, the localized Altai Snowcock and the wonderful Henderson’s Ground Jay. Other highlights could include Chukar, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Red-billed Chough, White’s, Black-throated and Red-throated Thrushes, Bluethroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Eversmann’s and Guldenstadt’s Redstarts, Desert and Pied Wheatears, White-winged and Pere David’s Snowfinches, Brown, Black-throated and Kozlov’s Accentors, Mongolian Finch, Great Rosefinch, and Pine, Godlewski’s, and Meadow Buntings. Overhead, we will keep a watchful eye for soaring Lammergeier, massive Cinereous Vultures, Steppe and Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawk and Saker Falcon.
We also plan to visit a huge lake and bordering grasslands, where prime specialties include White-headed Duck, Dalmatian Pelican and Pallas’s Sandgrouse. Other highlights could include Whooper Swan, Red-crested Pochard, Smew, Pallas’s Gull, Asian Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Saxaul Sparrow, Citrine Wagtail and Pallas’ Reed Bunting.
Day 8: Altai Mountains to Hustai National Park via Ulaanbaatar
This morning, we will pack up and leave camp, driving back to Khovd. Here, we will catch a flight back to Ulaanbaatar and take a relatively short drive to Hustai National Park, where we will spend two nights in another ger camp. We will have time for some initial exploration in this area, which is also rich in mammals and birds.
Day 9: Hustai National Park
We have a full day for wildlife watching here. The rolling hillsides are most well-known for their population of Przewalski’s Horse. The taxonomy of this species is still debated, but it is generally considered to be the last truly wild horse. Although it sadly went extinct in the wild, a captive breeding population was successful, and they have now been reintroduced into a handful of reserves within their historic range. Hustai is surely the best place to encounter them, and it will be one of the highlights of our visit here.
Two packs of Wolf also live within Hustai and sometimes prey on the endangered horse! We will certainly be scanning hard for a sighting of this top predator. Other mammals that we hope to see include the wonderful Mongolian Gazelle, Red Deer, Mongolian Marmot and Long-tailed and Daurian Sousliks. If we can arrange a spotlighting trip, we could see Red Fox, Corsac Fox, some interesting gerbil and hamster species and possibly even Steppe Polecat.
Birds we hope to encounter here include Black Grouse, Lammergeier, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, White-backed Woodpecker and Mongolian Lark.
Day 10: Hustai National Park and transfer to Ulaanbaatar
We have another morning to explore this fascinating park. Later in the day, we will return to Ulaanbaatar, where we will check into our hotel and have our final dinner of the trip.
Day 11: Departures
We will transfer to the airport today, where the tour will come to an end.