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Experiences

Taking Salt and Sperm to The Mongolian Tsaatan

The nomadic Tsaatan people have herded reindeer for millennia, but their lifestyle is under threat from reindeer with reproductive issues. Embark on a mission to deliver critical supplies of reindeer sperm and salt that their diet lacks and help protect these people and their way of life.

When to go:
June – September

Cross frozen lakes by dog sled, use horses and reindeers to transport supplies across mountain passes and use skis and snowshoes to traverse snowy terrain on this expedition. This adventure is not for the faint-hearted, Mongolia in winter is cold, and the northern Taiga is even colder with temperatures of -30°C and below. Arrive to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city and a true melting pot of cultures placing luxury shopping outlets alongside Irish pubs, all shrouded in Mongol overtones.

After a night here, charter a private plane and head to the very north of the country, to the remote village of Khatgal. Here your adventure truly begins. Meet your dog and horse sleds and travel across the frozen fringes of the enormous Lake Khovsgol that holds 70 per cent of Mongolia’s fresh water. As you journey across the lake watch the surrounding wild Taiga forest, populated only by wolverines, eagles, wolves, bears, and, of course, reindeer. Spend the evening camping at the foot of the mountains with unparalleled views over the snowy taiga.

Having reached the edge of the lake, swap your horses for reindeer for the remainder of your journey. Load them up with your own supplies and the salt and trek or ski across the 10,000 ft high Jigleg pass in the Saridag Mountains. Witness uninterrupted views like no other in one of the last remaining untouched landscapes on earth. Unload the reindeer and set up camp on the trail for a rewarding and invigorating deep night’s sleep.

Continue your trekking along the trail with your guides as the only human interaction you are likely to experience. Keep a look out for wolverine tracks and feed back the information to the conservation teams who are trying to protect these endangered animals.

Finally arrive at the Tsaatan winter camp. The Tsaatan people have herded their reindeer as they have for millennia, but they reindeer they rely on have, over the centuries, interbred and now suffer from reproductive issues. Their careful form of herding, moving the reindeer between seasonal pastures, is a sustainable way of using land in a fragile and vulnerable ecosystem. The reindeer are docile, often coming when called by the Tsaatan people meaning that there is no need for corrals. It is this way of life that you are helping to preserve by providing new donor reindeer sperm from Russia or Sweden to strengthen their stock. Also provide salt that is critical to the diet of the Tsaatan people but that is incredibly hard to find in the harsh winters.

Engage with the Tsaatan people, who call themselves the Dukha, and learn about the central role reindeer play in their social and spiritual life. Learn about the many challenges they face from unregulated mining, forest logging, loss of resources, and climate change. Find out about how unsustainable tourist companies are exploiting their land and livelihoods whilst cutting the Dukha or Tsaatan people from the value chain completely. Not only will your expedition provide reindeer sperm and slat to the Tsaatan people, but it is also organised using guides, cooks, and horses from the communities themselves. Tsaatan families will also receive payment for hosting you in their tipis and showing you their way of life.

Head back a remote airstrip and fly back home after an unparalleled, remote adventure. The memories of your part in helping maintain the Tsaatan way of life will undoubtedly remain with you forever.