The Takhi Horse and Hustai National Park

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Back to Mongolia for one final post about our trip (although I may have to do a special post about the dinosaur skeleton repatriation triumph, but I think I’ll save that for later…).

For our last two days in Mongolia we planned a brief trip to Hustai National Park. After all our adventures out west, we knew staying in a tourist ger camp two hours outside of Ulaan Baatar would seem pretty tame, however, the exciting part was that Hustai is one of the few places where one can see the endangered Takhi (or Przewalski) horse in the wild.

The Takhi (the Mongolian name meaning ‘spirit’) is the only remaining truly wild horse. All other horses such as the Brumby in Australia and the Mustang in the US are derived from domestic horses that have become feral.  By the 1960s over hunting in Mongolia had made the Takhi extinct, but luckily there were a few Takhi breeding programs in a handful of zoos around the world. In 1993, the Takhi was successfully re-introduced into the wild in Hustai Park and their IUCN status has now gone from ‘extinct in the wild’ to ‘endangered’. More about global breeding programs here and the Hustai National Park reintroduction here.

Although I had originally imagined riding up to a herd on horseback, like one can do with Zebras in Africa, instead we found the herd by van late one evening just as the Takhi had come down from the hills to drink water. Unfortunately, the good light had just gone and I hadn’t brought my zoom lens, but it was still an incredible experience being so close and getting to watch the herd interact.

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Both days were spent on long rides around the park on some surprisingly nippy little Mongolian horses. After being so cold out west, it was great to finally lose the sweaters and just enjoy some final gallops on the most perfect plains.

Me on my nameless steed enjoying warm weather finally

Me on my nameless steed enjoying warm weather finally – the terrain was perfect for gallops

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The only downside was the rather serious fly swarms. Any time we stopped we either looked like this:

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Or the poor horses would go into perpetual neck shake mode:

Note the traditional Mongolian saddle - glad it was just the guide who had one of these!

Note the traditional Mongolian saddle – glad it was just the guide who had one of these!

We also saw deer (too far to photograph) and so many wonderful wildflowers – please see my previous post here for more photos.

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Although the ger camp turned into a bit of a German holiday home when twenty caravans arrived (impressively having started in Europe), the gers themselves were very cozy and cutely furnished.

Our little ger room at the Hustai Tourist Camp

Our little ger room at the Hustai Tourist Camp

Luckily, as soon as you went over the hill from the camp the scenery went back to looking like typical empty steppe save the odd ger, horse, or herd of animals – not a tourist in sight!

IMG_3268Goodbye Mongolia! Quite the opposite from my daily life in Hanoi….

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