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Part 2 - Considering a trip to the Tsaatan community?

You are most likely reading this because you have an interest in visiting the Tsaatan (also called Dukha) reindeer-herding community in their home region of Tsagaan Nuur village, Hovsgol province, Mongolia. The area inhabited by the Tsaatan is known as the “taiga,” and will be referred to as such throughout this website.

Perhaps you are interested in engaging with a vibrant, nomadic community with rich and ancient traditions. Perhaps you are drawn to the taiga for its spectacular natural beauty and unspoiled wilderness. Perhaps you are a researcher, photographer, or journalist keen to visit the Tsaatan. No matter what has drawn you to this point, it is important to remember a few things:

1) First, the taiga is not a tourist camp and the Tsaatan are not a tourist attraction.

The Tsaatan are a real, vibrant community that wishes to sustain their way of life, protect their natural resources, and determine their own future. The Tsaatan chose to establish the TCVC as a community-based tourism initiative that provides livelihood opportunities compatible with their lifestyle as reindeer herders. But remember, the Tsaatan are not typical “tourism professionals.” They are herders, first and foremost, who wish to host you during your visit by providing goods and services for your trip as a means to support their community. Standards of service during your trip will be different than a vacation to a tourist camp or resort. Things will not happen on a perfect schedule, conditions will be very rugged, and you will likely be required to step outside your circle of comfort. Please base your expectations on this important point, and remember that you will be a guest entering into the home and life of an active community. As such, you are expected to respect the Tsaatan’s culture and environment.

2) Second, you will not be the first to visit the Tsaatan and there may be other visitors in the taiga during your trip.

The Tsaatan are not an “undiscovered tribe,” and you will not be the first or last person they have hosted. They are a modern people who have welcomed visitors from all over the world, and confront many of the same challenges as the rest of the modern world, including the need to earn adequate income. Their incredible hospitality, welcoming spirit, and the unforgettable moments you will share with the community are free, however the goods and services the Tsaatan provide through the TCVC are available on a fee-for-service basis. Revenue generated by the TCVC is one of the only sources of income the Tsaatan are able to access. The community requests that visitors respect the systems they have developed at the TCVC, furnish payments as appropriate, and avoid taking advantage of the community’s hospitality.

3) Third, taiga trips are physically challenging and involve significant travel costs and careful logistics coordination.

The taiga is cold, wet, and far away. To reach the Tsaatan you will need to drive off-road through muddy, bumpy conditions for a minimum of 12 hours, and then ride by horse for a minimum of 3 hours. You will be sleeping on the ground while in the taiga. Flush toilets, running water, and electricity are not available anywhere near the TCVC or in the taiga. Visitors should be in good physical condition and adaptable in challenging conditions. All visitors should also allow for sufficient time for their trip. You will need at LEAST seven days roundtrip from Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, for a trip to reach the Tsaatan. 10-12 days is ideal. To reach the taiga you will be traveling for 2 to 4 days each way from Ulaanbaatar, and will likely spend several hundred or even several thousand dollars just for transportation. The Tsaatan live far away from any major transport routes, requiring travelers to be flexible, adaptable, and ready for all conditions, weather, and circumstances.

4) Fourth, if your expectation is to be entertained or to have luxurious accommodations, the taiga is not the place for you.

If your expectation is to visit a community in a respectful manner in order to learn about a unique culture and their pristine natural environment, you’ve come to the right place.