Khustain Nuruu National Park is one of three locations chosen for the re-introduction of the endemic Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii)– the only wild horse to survive in modern times and known as Takhi in Mongolian.
Roughly 17% of Mongolia’s landmass has some form of national environmental protection. A further 10% has local protected area status. Khustain National Park is one of the success stories of environmental protection in Mongolia with a population of 300 Takhi – although it does face frequent challenges.
There are three locations where the Takhi have been re-introduced:
Khustain is actually managed by a dedicated NGO – the Hustai National Park Trust (HNPT)* – established in 2003 and specialising in nature and environmental conservation. Takhi’s stay in harem groups with a strict hierarchy, dependent on the age and relationship of the individual horses. Each group has its own range within the NP.
* You will see Khustain written as Hustai and Hustain
Part of the appeal of Khustain Nuruu National Park is its accessibility – located approximately 100km from Ulaanbaatar.
The reserve covers an area of 50, 600 hectares and is located on the southern fringes of the forest-steppe zone. It has a diverse ecology and habitats include sand dunes, open steppe, a river valley, birch forest and mountains.
It has an elevation of between 1100 – 1840m – which leads to some incredible look- out points over the distant Moltsog Sands as well as the partly forested Khustai Mountains.
Read a guidebook and you will see it recommends visiting Khustain at sunrise and sunset. Why? This is the key time to see the wild horses. However, it’s also peak visiting time and you compete with large tour groups and vehicle dust. So. I recommend approaching things a little differently.
This is how we prefer to do it. This slower pace of exploration helps to provide you with a better understanding of the biodiversity of Khustain. – its people, landscapes and wildlife. Also, try to arrange an overnight stay as this gives you longer to experience the local community, the diversity of the landscapes and the variety of wildlife including red deer, corsac foxes, Siberian marmots, black vultures and other numerous raptors such as eagles and falcons. Not to mention the wild flowers. You can also explore the archaeology in the southern region of the park – close to the Tuul River including Neolithic graves (roughly from the 6th or 7th century A.D).
The tourist ger camp provided by the Hustai National Park Trust is an obvious accommodation option – especially as the funds raised go back into the national park. Located at the entrance to the park, there is a (recently updated) information centre. Although it seems large, part of the camp does include the research centre.
However, we prefer the more local approach and the herders in the buffer zone of the protected area are part of a community-based tourism project where they open their homes to visitors. We work with the Bayansonginot Cooperative where herding families within the area have come together to focus on developing community-based tourism as an alternative income generation as well as promoting the modern-day herding way of life. The women members of the cooperative are treated as equals and attend the meetings and are also involved in decision making. They also hand-produce felt items from their sheep herds – they do this for additional income as well as a sense of empowerment.
Alternatively, we are permitted to camp in the buffer zone and I dearly love the view from our campsite.
Whoever you choose to visit with, make it a responsible visit
For other ideas on what to do in Mongolia why not look at the Mongolia Inspirations page of our website? You can also look at our Mongolia tours page for ideas on how we incorporate Khustain Nuruu National Park into our Mongolia tours.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes