Snow Leopard, Mongolia by Tumen Khumbaa

Tour 1: Tuesday 4th – Monday 17th August 2020 (Ulaanbaatar to Ulaanbaatar) 
Tour 2: Wednesday 19th August – Tuesday 1st September 2020 (Ulaanbaatar to Ulaanbaatar) 
Tour Price: £4,250pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Ulaanbaatar (via Moscow) approx. £900 return
Deposit: £600 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £300 – £400
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Mammals: Snow Leopard, Pallas’s Cat, Wolf, Przewalski’s Horse, Wild Ass, Black-tailed Gazelle, Mongolian Gazelle, Siberian Ibex, Corsac Fox, Siberian Marmot, Steppe Polecat, Marbled Polecat, Long-eared Hedgehog, Great Gerbil, Midday Gerbil, Mongolian Gerbil, Daurian Pika, Pallas’s Pika, Desert Hamster and many more!
Birds: Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Swan Goose, Demoiselle Crane, White-naped Crane, Mongolian Lark, Mongolian Accentor, Brown Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch, Mongolian Ground Jay. Plus numerous migrants that may include Arctic Warbler, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Two-barred Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-breasted Bunting and more!

Tour Summary
This exciting tour is very much an adventure as we visit the vast open wilderness of Mongolia in search of its fabulous wildlife. We will be visiting some of the more easily accessible areas within this great country. Most journeys will be done on tarmac roads with limited dirt road travel and as with most tours to Mongolia, accommodation will involve a large amount of camping and walking in mountainous areas. Therefore this tour is for the more adventurous traveller with a good level of fitness and prepared to accept more basic accommodation and facilities but the wildlife experiences and scenery will be simply spectacular! Having said that, the Gers are very comfortable! They have beds, basins and running water. Shower and toilet tents are in a separate area. The beauty of this tour is that unlike other Snow Leopard focused tours in other parts of the world, the temperatures in Mongolia should be more comfortable!

Our time will be focused very much on trying to see Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat, as well as other key mammals. This means much of our time will be spent in one area scanning mountains for many hours in the early morning and late evening. Though not the key time for a full birding itinerary, we will still make an effort to look for key species outside of the key mammal focused times and we should see a good selection of the specialities, including a number of exciting migrants. We will have a team of drivers, a cook, interpreter & assistants in a convey of Toyota Land Cruisers so everyone will have a window seat.

Previous Success Rate
We have now completed four tours to this wonderful country, two in 2018 and two in 2019. Based on our experience we have adapted our strategy and timing of our tours to give the best chance of seeing both Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat. Of course we will also see many other mammals during the tour. The timing of our tours also gives a great chance for some exciting birding with many migrants on the move.

The beauty of our tours is that you do not need to travel to far Western Mongolia like so many other tours do. The mountains that we visit in South Gobi have a much higher species diversity than Western Mongolia. Pallas’s Cats are at a high density, Marbled Polecats are recorded regularly and there is also a good diversity of birds including Brown and Kozlov’s Accentors, Small Snowfinch Eurasian Eagle Owl and more!

The average number of mammals recorded per trip is 31 species
Snow Leopard: 100% success in 2019. Animal watched for 5 hours at 300M and a brief sighting on the first tour.
Pallas’s Cat: 100% success on all tours with numerous day sightings in 2019
Wolf: 100% success in 2019
Marbled Polecat: Seen well 3 out of 4 tours
Long-eared Hedgehog: 100% success on all trips
Wild Ass: 100% success on all trips

Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Mongolian Ground Jay, Mongolian Accentor, White-naped Crane, Demoiselle Crane, Mongolian Lark, Saker Falcon, Amur Falcon, Saxaul Sparrow, Azure Tit, Small Snowfinch, Mongolian Finch and more! 100% on all trips
Plus a number of exciting vagrants found including Great Knot, White-breasted Waterhen and Schrenck’s Bittern

Accommodation: 13 nights in Mongolia with a mix of hotels and Ger Tents
Between 8 – 11 nights in Gers and 2 – 5 in hotels all dependent on our success with seeing Snow Leopard.
The Gers are very comfortable! They have beds, basins and running water. Shower and toilet tents are in a separate area.
Inclusive Meals: Full board

Previous Trip Reports for 2018 and 2019 Tours

DAY 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (UB)
After arriving into Ulaanbaatar in the early morning we will then head south to Dalanzadgad. We will travel the 600Km by road making birding stops en route. Birds we hope to find en route include Demoiselle Crane, Mongolian Lark, Pallas’s Sandgrouse and Steppe Eagle and Cinereous Vulture. Overnight Dalanzadgad Hotel

Pallas’s Cat, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 2: Mountains west of Dalanzadgad
Today we will travel by dirt road to reach our Ger Camp. En route we will look for mammals and birds. Our camp will be ready for us and will be our base for the next 7 nights to focus on searching for Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat. Common bird species we are likely to see today include Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon as well as numerous Isabelline Wheatears and White-winged Snowfinch. Common mammals we hope to find include Siberian Ibex and possibly Corsac Fox before we spend the first afternoon focusing our attention to the Snow Leopard! Overnight in Ger tents with camp shower, toilet & food catering tent

DAYS 3 – 8: Ger Camp at around 2,300M
During the next few days our time will focus on Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat with much of our time spent scanning from viewpoints. Our plans will very much depend upon the latest information from our trail cameras and speaking with local herders. Generally, we will focus on cats from early in the morning until mid morning and late afternoon to early evening. During the middle of the day there will be time to rest at base camp or look for some of the other birds and mammals in the area such as Eurasian Eagle Owl, Mongolian Accentor, Small Snowfinch and Mongolian Gazelle. We will also spend some evenings spotlighting for other mammals such as various Jerboa species and the highly prized Marbled Polecat!.

Marbled Polecat, Mongolia by Chris Townend

Our base camp location will depend on the most up to date cat news, but it will most likely be at around 2,300M close to areas where we can view suitable Snow Leopard habitat. Temperatures during the night should be around 10 – 12C during the night and 18 – 22C during the day. The furthest trek required to one any viewpoint will be an hour, but we may may not need to go this far this dependent on the latest information and what the trail cameras reveal. Snow Leopards have been recorded at all times of day and night. On numerous occasions animals have been recorded during the first and last couple of hours of daylight and it is just a matter of perseverance until we hopefully succeed! Overnight in Gers with camping shower, toilet and food catering tent

** NOTE** This itinerary needs complete flexibility to maximise our chances of success. If we have still been unsuccessful by day 9, then days 10-12 may be re-scheduled to give us more time in Snow Leopard areas. Of course, nothing is guaranteed but we have an excellent chance with more time in the field.

Wild Ass, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 9: Khongor Sand Dunes
Dependent on our success with Snow Leopard, we will visit the Khongor Sand Dunes. This area is part of the Gobi Gurvan Saïkhan National Park and holds some fabulous wildlife. In particular, we will look for Mongolian Wild Ass as well as speciality birds like the Mongolian Ground Jay, Asian Deset Warbler and Saxaul Sparrow. During the night we will spotlight for mammals such as Long-eared Hedgehog, Desert Hamster and Northern Three-toed Jerboa. Overnight Khongor Dunes Tourist Camp

DAY 10: Travel to Dalanzadgad
During the morning we will slowly make our way back to Dalanzadgad making a number of stope en route to look for any species that we may have missed the day before. We will also visit the Khongor River for some general birding. Overnight Dalanzadgad Hotel

DAY 11: Travel to Ulaanbaatar
Today is mostly a travel day as we head back north, though we will make a number of birding stops en route. Overnight UB Hotel

Mongolia Camp by Chris Townend

DAY 12: Bayan Lake / Lun Wetland – Hustai National Park
Today we will set off to the west of UB and head for the wetland areas of Lun and Lake Bayan. These sites are breeding areas for White-naped Cranes and family groups should still be present. At this time of year, wader passage is slowing down though we should still find Long-toed Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and with luck small numbers of Asian Dowitchers. We will also be looking for Pallas’s Bunting, Swan Goose, Bar-headed Goose and migrants.
We will then travel back east to Hustai National Park for the late afternoon. We will spend the rest of the day in the park where we hope to find species such as Daurian Partridge, Amur Falcon, Saker Falcon and Meadow Bunting. The park is also very good for mammals and we will look for Daurian Ground Squirrel, Corsac Fox and the famous re-introduced  Przewalski’s Horses. Though there is a healthy Wolf population in the park with fairly regular sightings, we still need some luck to have a sighting. However, we will certainly make a night visit to the park where we will look for Corsac Fox and with luck, Steppe Polecat or maybe Daurian Hedgehog. Overnight Tourist Ger Camp Hustai NP

Przewalski’s Horses, Khustai National Park by Chris Townend

DAY 13: Tuul River – Manzushir Forest
Our final morning will be spent on the edge of Hustai NP where we will still have some time to look for any species that we may be missing. The arable areas on our route back to UB should reveal good views of Mongolian Lark and maybe Eastern Short-toed Lark too. Once back at our hotel near the Tuul River we will spend some time to find the key species of this area which should include Azure-winged Magpie, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Azure Tit, Long-tailed Rosefinch and maybe Mandarin Duck on the River.
Our final afternoon will be spent in the pine forests to the south of UB and a very different landscape to end our tour. Here we will be looking for migrants that may include Siberian Rubythroat and Pine Bunting as well as mammals such as Red Squirrel and Siberian Chipmunk. Overnight UB Hotel

Snow Leopard by Chris Townend

DAY 14: Transfer to Airport
We will take the 20 minute transfer to Ulaanbaatar airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader & local guides
Included in cost: Accommodation in a mix of hotels, tourist Ger Camps and tents, all meals, bottled water, ground transport and services of leaders.
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £299
Transport: Toyota Landcruisers throughout the tour
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
A good level of fitness is required as walking will generally involve walks up steep scree tracks. Particularly when looking for Snow Leopards we could trek for up to an hour in mountainous terrain. Plans need to be flexible dependent on the most recent information on the animals movements.
Climate: Very mixed! Generally warm with typical daytime temperatures typically around 18 – 25 degrees Celsius and lows of around 10 degrees Celsius at night. Of course as with so many places in the world the weather is very unpredictable at this time of year and these should be taken as a general guide only!
Tour Start Point: Ulaanbaatar airport, Mongolia
Tour End Point: Ulaanbaatar airport, Mongolia
Suggested Airlines: Aeroflot

Khustai National Park by Chris Townend