Horse Riding for Wilderness Preservation in Mongolia
Responsible Travel for Good Reasons – Ecological, Ethical and Economical
Riding in landscapes of outstanding scenic beauty is a hallmark of Stone Horse Expeditions in Mongolia. Our horseback tours are not only great adventures, but experiences that promote appreciation of the wilderness we explore and of the parks we ride in. We even go a step further with one particular expedition that is true horse riding for wilderness preservation in Mongolia. It comes natural to us that we work closely with the park authorities. This is what brought us to Mongolia in the first place.
Besides our commitment and professional engagement in conservation, there are several good reasons that our horse trek expeditions should help to maintain and protect the conservation values of the parks. Our guests are typically conservation minded, concerned about responsible travel and interested in environmental issues and the ecology of their chosen travel destination. With our background and experience, we have a lot to share on these topics. As a company committed to responsible travel, we keep a high standard of environmental conduct and low impact wilderness travel. With the Herder Home Stay that we market, we bring tangible income improvement to the local community at our staging area.
Tourism in Mongolia depends on Landscape and Wilderness Preservation
With scenic beauty and wilderness experience being some of the key points of the Stone Horse Experience, preservation of these values is a prerequisite for our company’s sustainability. Much of Mongolia’s tourism sector in fact depends in the long term on the preservation of the country’s landscapes. Both the cultural landscapes shaped by millenia of nomadic civilization and the back country of pristine wilderness are major attractions for visitors seeking experiential travel and interested in nature and culture.
Stone Horse Expeditions explore Protected Areas in Mongolia
With a Stone Horse Expedition in Mongolia, you travel on horseback through some of the premier parks in the country. Gorkhi Terelj National Park was designated to protect pastoral landscapes used by nomadic herders over the ages. The Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area was gazetted to preserve historical, spiritual and biodiversity values and a unique wilderness that is the last habitat for wildlife species such as moose, elk and bear in Mongolia. Both protected areas are also important for watershed protection, encompassing crucial water resource areas of the Tuul River Basin that supplies the nation’s capital city with drinking water.
Putting Responsible Travel into Practice
A regular activity when preparing one of our Horse Riding Expeditions is to let the park authorities know we will be traveling in the protected areas. We obtain the proper permits for all tours entering the parks. Other standard procedures include carrying out all our (and sometimes others’) rubbish, manage human waste responsibly, protect water sources, chose and manage campsites so as not to impact wildlife habitat, fragile areas, or grazing resources for herders’ livestock. With our “Wilderness Conservation Holiday”, we go beyond that and offer active involvement in conservation work – an opportunity to take experiential travel to a new level.
Wilderness Conservation Adventure 2015 – Expedition to the “Black Lichen Lake”
Preparations for this year’s Wilderness Conservation Adventure saw our team buying lumber and prefabricating a back country toilet. Keith’s experience as a wilderness ranger with the forest service in the Western United States provided the design of this simple and practical facility. The disassembled structure then needed to be divided and packed on several of our pack horses. Being experienced expedition horses, they skillfully navigated rivers, passes and bogs with their loads. Lumber, tools and other materials all arrived safely after three days of horseback transport. For this special horse trek, an advanced camp had been established. A Conservation Holiday participant and third time Stone Horse guest, Steve Potter, the Executive Director of Wagner Asia Group in Mongolia, provided logistics support to get materials to the advanced camp.
A Wilderness Lake and its Wildlife Habitat
The final destination was Hagiin Har Nuur, or “Black Lichen Lake”. The lake lies like a jewel hidden in the forested mountains of the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area. When approached from the South, the first glimpse of blue water amid dark mountains is from a grassy, windswept pass – a great view for riders or hikers having traveled up the Tuul River valley. Spending time at the lake is a great experience. Sand and pebble beaches invite for a swim in the clear water – very refreshing! The lake’s surroundings are intriguing to explore. In the Northwest, the lake transitions into a wetland through which a stream meanders. Reed grasses mark the water’s edges. This is a grazing area for moose, as we were lucky to witness one evening this year. The wetlands are a wonderland of mossy ground, small creeks and ponds. Small conifers are interspersed with the brush in the lowland. Beyond the wetland, pine forest grows on rocky ground that forms ridges along the Western lake shore. In the summer warmth, the forest here is filled with the aroma of pine trees and ground covering plants. Blue berries and cranberries add color, and a snack, later in the season. The Southern shore of the lake is a grassland above a small sandy cliff – great in calm weather but exposed to the elements otherwise.
Environmental Impacts at Black Lichen Lake – and Working Together to Protect the Lake
On the Northeast shore of Hagiin Har Nuur, a grassy area is the popular campsite, with beach and great lake views. And this is where rubbish, human waste, and camp fires had degraded the environment over the course of several years as visitor numbers increased. Our suggestion of a horseback expedition dedicated to cleaning up waste and constructing a back country toilet were welcomed by the administration of the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, and the joint effort was planned. While two park staff joined our horseback trip, three more rangers met us at the lake. For two days, Stone Horse team and guests worked with park staff at the lake. A busy camp was established, pack horses shuttling supplies from camp to the work site. Having completed their transport, the horses would return a kilometer or so away by themselves to join the herd and resume grazing. A nice thing during that busy time we hardly thought about – so well are these great horses in performing their back country job. At the end of day two, much had been achieved. Signs were placed to mark camp sites; camp grounds, shore lines and surrounding bush and forest land had been cleared of rubbish, and the back country toilet was ready.
Making a Difference while Enjoying Wilderness Travel
On our ride back, and on following expeditions to the lake, we told groups we met along the way of the joint clean-up action, and it was much appreciated by all. More people are traveling to the lake, groups of hikers brave the rugged terrain to make it to the legendary destination of “Hagiin Har Nuur”. Mountain bikers are also making it into the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area. Most still arrive on horseback. All those coming for the wilderness experience, to enjoy nature and relax in the quiet surroundings of the lake have a common interest in keeping this precious place intact. With this year’s environmental work at the lake, we hope to have helped turn the tide, towards wilderness preservation. With a disturbing trend of 4×4 vehicles and ATVs entering the strictly protected areas, the issue is even more pressing now.
Join a Horseback Wilderness Preservation Expedition in 2016!
Stone Horse Expeditions will continue to work with the park authorities, other tour operators and interested groups to protect the wild places we travel to.
Watch our “Wilderness Conservation Holiday” page, for opportunities to ride with Stone Horse and help with conservation work in 2016.
See the video of the 2015 Wilderness Conservation Adventure: