Nomadic Journey Through Mongolia's Altai Mountains
The Kazakh Eagle Hunters and Nomadic herders of western Mongolia have lived the same way for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Hunting with their Golden eagles, raising their families, and tending to their herds of livestock, they are on the move 3-4 times a year, always in search of greener pastures.
We will travel with them across some of the most beautiful winter landscapes with amazing photographic opportunities. We will document the entire migration, the animals, the families, and their interactions. We'll travel through tundra-like pans, on or around frozen lakes and rivers, and through mountain passes. You can expect cold, wintry conditions: temperatures will be in the range of cold to very cold (ranges of -7 to -15 C / 20 to 5 F, with wind chills colder). We'll be at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 meters. Don't worry, after many years and many workshops in Mongolia, we're fully outfitted, "Muench-style", of course! Each day our ground team will drive ahead in special 4x4 vehicles and setup our heated ger tents for sleeping and for dining. We will have 3 land cruisers with us all day every day, so that you can warm up, and take a riding “rest” as needed. While the migration will cover some 30 km each day, we will only walk a portion of that, as we'll be using our vehicles to get us in the best position for amazing photographs.
Before and after our migration days, we'll have exclusive opportunities for up-close and personal photo shoots with up to five eagle hunters and their families. We will cap off our western Mongolia adventure with two more full days of landscape photography in one of the most scenic and beautiful areas in the Altai Mountains. Here we'll have a lakeside ger camp set up exclusively for us. And then on our last day in the west, it's our very own private and exclusive Winter Eagle Festival. 30-40 eagle hunters and their families will come together to compete in the traditional eagle festival events for the day. We'll then fly back to Ulaanbaatar, and on our last full day in Mongolia we'll have a private photo shoot with the monks at the Ghandan Monastery.
Are you ready for quite possibly the most unique photographic and cultural experience ever? Yes, you need to be fit enough for the walking, but this experience doesn't require you to be a marathoner or weightlifter. It's more about your ability to handle cold weather and harsh conditions—and of course we'll get you prepared with the right clothing and gear. If you are tenacious, able to handle long days, can sleep on a bed in a yurt, use an outside bathroom, have a great mental attitude, and want a unique cultural photography experience, this workshop is for you. You'll be rewarded with photos that very few have, and an experience that even fewer have undertaken. Our group is exclusive and small, only six guests. Ready? Read on!
February 20–March 4, 2019
Itinerary and General Information
ITINERARY NOTE: While we don't expect it, we have learned to expect the unexpected! This itinerary is subject to change, but we intend to keep as close to it as possible. Also, not listed in the itinerary are the image reviews, critique, and post-processing sessions that we'll have over the two weeks. We schedule them when time and facilities best allow.
February 20, 2019: Arrivals in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (ULN airport code) anytime this day. We'll pick you up at the airport and bring you to our hotel in UB. Tonight we'll have a group welcome dinner and get ready for our adventure ahead.
February 21, 2019: We have an early flight from UB to Ulgii in western Mongolia. Once in Ulgii, we board our Toyota Land Cruisers and drive to our nomadic family's home in the Dund Uul region. Overnight at hotel in Ulgii.
February 22, 2019: We are with our nomadic family and three other Eagle hunters today. You will have an intimate photography experience of how the eagle hunters have supplied food and fur for their families for over one thousand years. At sunrise and sunset we will have the eagle hunters on horseback with their golden eagles, and we have a variety of photo shoots and portrait sessions planned over the day. Overnight at hotel in Ulgii.
February 23–25, 2019: We are walking with the nomads, following the nomadic family as they move to their spring camp. Each day our ground team will drive ahead in special 4x4 vehicles and setup our ger tents for sleeping and for dining. Our walking will be approximately 20-30 kilometers per day. While the walking isn't terribly difficult (it will be cold and there is a lot of walking), anyone who gets tired or simply wants a break can always hop into one of our vehicles. Photography from sunrise to well past sunset each day.
February 26, 2019: Our final day of walking, and arrival at the spring camp. Today in the early evening, we will arrive at our family’s spring camp in Dayan Lake region. Tonight will feature a feast and celebration of this epic journey.
February 27, 2019: After sunrise shooting and breakfast, we say goodbye to our nomadic friends and drive to our private camp by Lake Tolbo. Here we'll have a chance to settle in for for a day and evening of photography.
February 28, 2019. Another full day of photography (landscape & Eagle hunters) at Lake Tolbo. In the evening, drive to Ulgii and transfer to Eagle’s Nest hotel. Our private chefs will prepare a great dinner for us while you get settled in, relax, and have a hot shower.
March 1, 2019. It’s our private Eagle Festival day near Ulgii! The activities that you will witness and photograph are events where eagle hunter and golden eagle show how they have perfected their eagle hunting skills. You will also see wild horse riding, kockbar, and other local events that show off the prowess of horse rider and horse. At the festival we will also have our own private ger tent erected where the eagle hunters can come and relax that only you have access to. Being in the tent will give you the opportunity to photograph some of the 30–40 eagle hunters in an indoor portrait situation. Make no mistake, while this is a private eagle festival, the competition is fierce, real, and intense!
March 2, 2019: After breakfast we transfer to the airport in Ulgii for a flight back to Ulaanbaatar. We'll get to our hotel and rest.
March 3, 2019: Today we take the short ride to the Ghandan monastery. We will have the exclusive opportunity to photograph two monks for one hour in one of the temples at the Ghandan Monastery. We will then have a private tour and discussion on the history of the location of the monastery and religion as it exists in Mongolia.
After our morning photoshoot we will head back into downtown UB and visit the State department store where you will be able to purchase some of the finest cashmere in the world. After lunch, we will have our final image review, critique and post-processing sessions. Farewell dinner tonight at our favorite (and we think the best!) restaurant in all of UB.
March 4, 2019: Breakfast at your leisure in the hotel and then we'll transfer you to the airport. Flights home anytime this day.
Physical Requirements, Weather, Accommodations, Food, and Transportation
Physical: You must be reasonably physically fit, but this experience doesn't require you to be a marathoner or weightlifter. It's more about your ability to handle cold weather and harsh conditions. Most anyone can walk 10–15 miles in a day, with the right mindset. We do take lots of breaks. If you are tenacious, able to handle long days, can sleep in a yurt, use an outside bathroom, and have a great mental attitude, this experience is for you. And remember, there is always the option to "hitch a ride" for some of the migration!
Weather: It will be cold. Expect temperatures to be below freezing every day. This means, the high temps could be say, 20F/-7C and the low temps could be -20F/-28C. Prepare for the coldest temps. We set you up with layers (you will get instructions from us) and with the right clothing, you will be warm. Remember we will be physically active during this workshop. Expect wind, snow, and ice to make the weather feel colder and walking more difficult than you are used to.
Accommodations: In Ulaanbaatar (first night and last two nights), we are at a 5-star hotel with all the amenities you would expect: beautiful rooms, en-suite bathrooms, Wi-Fi.
On the migration, we sleep on beds in heated ger tents (see photos below). One tent for gents, one tent for ladies. You will need a 0 degree F sleeping bag, bring your own or we can rent one for you. Separate, camp-style outdoor toilet facility in a private, stand-up tent (see photo below). No showers, but you will have the ability to wash and freshen up each day. We'll have a generator on hand so we can charge up our camera batteries and laptops.
In Ulgii, we are in a 2-star hotel (it's the only hotel!). The rooms are clean and heated, the beds twin beds. We bring our own chef. There is Wi-Fi, hot showers, and en-suite facilities.
Food: 4-star and 5-star restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, with a choice of local and internationally-known foods. With our nomad family, on the migration, and at our hotel in Ulgii, we have our own private chefs along, and they will cook food you know and like in the traditional Mongolian ways. Beef, chicken, lamb, pastas, vegetables are all featured. We can accommodate food allergies and most any dietary requirements throughout the workshop in all locations, no problem.
Transportation: We have two commercial in-country flights aboard Fokker twin-propeller aircraft. Your camera backpack will fit in the overhead bins, but larger roller bags will not fit and must be checked. When off road and when out at the nomad family, we are in Toyota Land Cruisers, again 3 guests to a vehicle with plenty of room for you and your gear.
- Double occupancy lodging (Single available, just ask)
- All meals and tips during the workshop
- All ground and air transportation during the workshop
- Photographic guiding and instruction from Andy Williams
- English speaking local guide throughout the workshop
- Fun, inspiration, amazing images, and a great time!
What’s Not Included?
Air travel to/from Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, passport and visa fees (if applicable), items of a personal nature such as laundry, alcoholic beverages. Medical Evacuation Insurance (required). Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended). Anything else specifically not listed as included.
Your deposit of $4,000 will hold your place in this workshop. A second payment of $4,000 is due by August 1, 2018. The balance of $3,995 is due not later than November 1, 2018. All payments are non-refundable which is why you should have Trip Cancellation Insurance. All of our standard terms and conditions apply.
Are you ready to experience ancient cultures and the winter migration in the exotic land of Mongolia? This workshop is limited to a small group so don't delay, click the "Sign Me Up!" button and we'll see you in Mongolia!