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Winter Migration Tours

Winter Migration Tours

The Winter Migration of the Altai Kazakhs in Western Mongolia

The Kazakh Eagle Hunters and Nomadic herders of western Mongolia have lived the same way for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Hunting with their Golden eagles, raising their families, and tending to their herds of livestock, they are on the move 3-4 times a year, always in search of greener pastures.

We will travel with them across some of the most beautiful winter landscapes with amazing photographic opportunities. We will document the entire migration, the animals, the families, and their interactions. We’ll travel through tundra-like pans, on or around frozen lakes and rivers, and through mountain passes. You can expect cold, wintry conditions: temperatures will be in the range of cold to very cold (ranges of -8 to -18 C during the day and a lot colder during night / 20 to 5 F, with wind chills colder). We’ll be at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 meters. Each day our ground team will drive ahead in special 4×4 vehicles and set up our heated ger tents for sleeping and for dining.

We will have 2 cars with us all day every day, so that you can warm up, and take a riding “rest” as needed. While the migration will cover some 14 to 18 km each day, we will only walk a portion of that, as we’ll be using our vehicles to get us in the best position for amazing photographs.

Before and after our migration days, we’ll have exclusive opportunities for up-close and personal photo shoots with up to 3 eagle hunters and their families.

Winter migration of nomadic eagle hunters
summer migration of the nomadic eagle hunters family

We will cap off our western Mongolia adventure with days of landscape photography in one of the most scenic and beautiful areas in the Altai Mountains. Here we’ll have a lakeside.

Are you ready for quite possibly the most unique photographic and cultural experience ever? Yes, you need to be fit enough for the walking, but this experience doesn’t require you to be a marathoner or weightlifter.

It’s more about your ability to handle cold weather and harsh conditions—and of course we’ll get you prepared with the right clothing and gear. If you are tenacious, able to handle long days, can sleep on a bed in a yurt, use an outside bathroom, have a great mental attitude, and want a unique cultural photography experience, this workshop is for you. You’ll be rewarded with photos that very few have, and an experience that even fewer have undertaken. Our group is exclusive and small, only six guests. Ready? Read on!

What our Customer say About Winter Migration Tours

Winter Migration Tours Itinerary

ITINERARY NOTE: While we don’t expect it, we have learned to expect the unexpected! This itinerary is subject to change, but we intend to keep as close to it as possible. Also, not listed in the itinerary are the image reviews, critique, and post-processing sessions that we’ll have over the two weeks. We schedule them when time and facilities best allow.

Arrivals in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (ULN airport code) anytime this day. We’ll pick you up at the airport and bring you to our hotel in UB. Tonight we’ll have a group welcome dinner and get ready for our adventure ahead.
We have an early flight from UB to Ulgii in western Mongolia. Once in Ulgii, we board our Toyota Land Cruisers and drive to our nomadic family’s home in the Ulaankhus region. Overnight stay in a warm Ger(yurt).
We are with our nomadic family and Eagle hunter preparing for the upcoming migration. See and be part of this lifestyle, help the family load the gears and be introduced by Kazakh tradition also you will have an intimate photography experience of how the eagle hunters have supplied food and fur for their families for over one thousand years. Overnight stay in a warm Ger(yurt).

(Migration-Day1) Starting from winter shelter. Herder starts herding early morning before sunrise, we walk with the nomads and herd at the same time as taking photographs while we follow the families to their spring camp. Each day our ground team will drive ahead in special 4×4 vehicles and set up our ger tents for sleeping and for dining. Our walking will be approximately 15-20 kilometers per day.

While the walking isn’t terribly difficult (it will be cold and there is a lot of walking), anyone who gets tired or simply wants a break can always hop into one of our vehicles. Photography from sunrise to well past sunset each day.

Migration towards Saina’s Tuvan ethnic group winter shelter.
Same schedule as before, herdsman will start herding animals before the sun rises. It’s around 7am in the morning. Herding towards “Buudal” place where most migrators stop and spend the night, get strength for the following day across a frozen lake and snowy high pass. Overnight stay in a warm Ger(yurt).
Morning start of migration will be the same as before, start before sunrise. And continue till we do the high pass through frozen lake “Khara-Kol”. Have a picnic on the frozen lake. Overnight stay in a warm Ger(yurt).
Our final day of walking, and arrival at the spring camp. Today in the early evening, we will arrive at our family’s spring camp in Dayan Lake region. Tonight will feature a feast and celebration of this epic journey.
Today after a good rest there will be possibilities to take a good shower in special prepared Ger(yurt). After taking shower we invite the hunter for the portrait photography inside the Ger(yurt) Overnight stay in a warm Ger(yurt).

Photography and hunting for the fox takes place on the top of nearby mountains. Eagle hunters take position higher so the eagle can see and catch the prey better.

Today we will see this in the morning and try to catch some wild animals like foxes.
In the afternoon we drive back to Olgiy city. Stay in a hotel in Olgiy.

Drive to Tolbo lake (same lake as last year close to the town with the eagle hunters) Photography of the lake and “Ice Archery” on the lake. Around 10 archery’s will come together to compete with each other shooting targets within 40-70meters. Overnight at the hotel in Olgiy.
Transfer to the airport and to your hotel in UB. Transfer to the airport for international flight.

You must be reasonably physically fit, but this experience doesn’t require you to be a marathoner or weightlifter. It’s more about your ability to handle cold weather and harsh conditions. Most anyone can walk 15to20 km in a day, with the right mindset. We do take lots of breaks.

If you are tenacious, able to handle long days, can sleep in a yurt, use an outside bathroom, and have a great mental attitude, this experience is for you.

Weather: It will be cold. Expect temperatures to be below freezing every day. This means, the high temps could be say, 20F/-7C and the low temps could be -20F/-28C. Prepare for the coldest temps. We set you up with layers (you will get instructions from us) and with the right clothing, you will be warm. Remember we will be physically active during this workshop. Expect wind, snow, and ice to make the weather feel colder and walking more difficult than you are used to.

Accommodations: In Ulaanbaatar (first night and last two nights), we stay at a 3-star hotel with all the amenities you would expect: nice simple rooms, en-suite bathrooms, Wi-Fi.

On the migration, we sleep on thick mattresses in heated ger tents . One tent for gents, one tent for ladies. You will need a 0 degree F sleeping bag, bring your own or we can rent one for you. Separate, camp-style outdoor toilet facility in a private, stand-up tent . No showers, but you will have the ability to wash and freshen up each day. We’ll have a generator on hand so we can charge up our camera batteries and laptops.

In Ulgii, we are in a 3-star hotel (it’s the only hotel!). The rooms are clean and heated, the beds twin beds. We bring our own chef. There is Wi-Fi, hot showers, and en-suite facilities.

Food: restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, with a choice of local and internationally-known foods. With our nomad family, on the migration, and at our hotel in Ulgii, we have our own private chefs along, and they will cook food you know and like in the traditional Mongolian ways. Beef, chicken, lamb, pastas, and vegetables are all featured. We can accommodate food allergies and most any dietary requirements throughout the workshop in all locations, no problem.

Transportation: We have two commercial in-country flights aboard Fokker twin-propeller aircraft. Your camera backpack will fit in the overhead bins, but larger roller bags will not fit and must be checked. When off road and when out at the nomad family, we are in Toyota Land Cruisers, again 3 guests to a vehicle with plenty of room for you and your gear.

We're friendly and available to chat, Reach out to us anytime and we'll happily answer your questions.