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Mongolia – Eagle Hunters & Cultures of Western Mongolia Photo Tour

A Visual Diary – Part I

It was with much anticipation that our ORYX clients and I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, for our much-anticipated 2016 Mongolia Photo Tour.

Our first day was scheduled as an arrival day as our clients arrived from 5 different continents. Soon after everyone’s arrival, we headed out to explore the capital city in all Her glory. We visited and photographed the incredible Gandantegchinlen Monastery, the infamous Black Market and climbed the steps to the Zaizan Memorial to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

eagle festival in mongolia
After a lovely dinner that evening, we called it a night in anticipation of our early flight to Olgii, the capital city of Bayan Olgii, and gateway to Western Mongolia.

Upon arrival in Olgii, our local Mongolian team, spearheaded by our guide Oyunaa, met us as we disembarked from the plane. After a brief shopping spree where we purchased gifts as a thank you to our host families, we were treated to a lovely lunch at our translator, Jako’s house before leaving for Ulaankhuus.

eagle festival in mongolia
Upon arrival at our first host’s house, we were treated to tea and snacks by Bashahan and his family before we settled into our accommodation, a Kazakh Yurt, for the next 2 nights.

eagle festival in mongolia
After spending quality time with Bashahan’s family and documenting their daily lives, he provided my clients and myself with our first glimpse of the incredible and amazing nomadic lifestyle of a Kazakh Eagle Hunter; how he trains his female Golden Eagle. Locally, an eagle and hawk trainer is known as a Berkutchy, and for these trainers, the ultimate eagle for falconry is a female Golden Eagle.

eagle festival in mongolia
golden eagle festival in olgii
The next morning we woke up with great anticipation for the day ahead. The scenery that surrounded us was magnificent. We photographed the amazing sunrise over the Altai Mountains before sitting down to enjoy a warm cooked breakfast by our camp staff.

golden eagle festival in olgii
The rest of the day was spent photographing in and around the Kazakh family’s house, which included some amazing portrait photographic opportunities of them.

golden eagle festival in olgii
golden eagle festival in olgii
That afternoon, our photographic activities and inspiration continued as Bashahan brought out his Golden Eagle to train. It is very special to witness and capture this ritual, and it afforded everyone a chance to pull out their Fish-eye lenses and ensure unique images of the regal Eagle Hunters were created.mongolia photo tour
Our final morning in Ulaankhuus was spend photographing the stunning landscapes of Western Mongolia as the sunrise painted the sky a striking red and the dotted clouds created the perfect canvas for our images.

mongolia photo tour
After another hearty breakfast we left our host family at Ulaankhuus and headed towards Sagsai, our home for the following 2 nights.

mongolia photo tour
En – route to Sagsai, we had amazing photographic opportunities of Bactrian Camel’s and Yak’s crossing the barren soil of Western Mongolia. Getting down low to photograph both species ensured that we captured dramatic images of the two most important mammals for the Kazakh people of Western Mongolia.

mongolia photo tour
mongolia photography tour
Upon arrival at our second host family, Sailaukhan and is wife welcomed us into their Yurt where we spent the next couple of hours photographing their family making supper and enjoying a warm cup of tea.

mongolia photography tour
mongolia photography tour

After their dinner, Sailaukhan invited us to watch and photograph him whilst he trained his female Golden Eagle. The Eagle Festival in Mongolia which is held in Bayan Olgii was now only 2 days away, so training his eagle was necessary to ensure that she was ready for what the day would bring.
mongolia photography tour
golden eagle hunting

We spent the next day with Sailaukhan and his family, where we were given an honorary glimpse into the family going about their daily chores. The photography was incredible, especially the portrait opportunities, as the beauty of this nomadic culture constantly inspired us. We all headed to bed early in anticipation of the Golden Eagle Festival in Olgii that was taking place the next day.
golden eagle hunting

To be continued….

Thank you for sharing Part 1 of my visual journey to Western Mongolia with me. Keep an eye out on our Blog  as well as our Facebook page  as Part 2 will be coming soon!

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