The Tsaatan community lives and herds reindeer in two main areas: the East Taiga and West Taiga. Conveniently located between these regions, White Nuur village is central to their community. Traveling from Tsagaan Nuur village to the Tsaatan’s camps leads you from steppe to taiga ecosystem.
To reach the East and West Taigas from Tsagaan Nuur village, one can either drive or ride a horse out of town towards the edge of the taiga. From there, continuing by horse to the actual Tsaatan camps is necessary.
West Taiga: The West (“Baruun”) Taiga, situated west of Tsagaan Nuur village, can be reached by driving or riding approximately 20 km from Tsagaan Nuur to the back of the Harmae valley. This marks the beginning of the taiga. In this region, the terrain is notably rugged. It includes steep wooded mountains, rocky slopes, and rivers that can be impassable during certain parts of the year. Except for a few camps located at the back of the Harmae valley on the taiga’s edge, the West Taiga is accessible only by horseback. Average camp distances range from 10-40 km. More than 20 Tsaatan households reside here, moving in family groups composed of 1-10 households.
East Taiga: The Eastern (“Zuun”) Taiga, situated northeast of Tsagaan Nuur beyond a steppe valley called “Hogruk,” can be reached by driving or riding approximately 30 km from the Tsagaan Nuur Visitor Center towards Hogruk. To access this area, one must cross over the Shishged River. Travelers must note that they can only access the East Taiga by ferry when crossing the Shishged River. Operated by a private family in the area, the ferry is a simple log raft that accommodates vehicles, horses, and pedestrians. During winter and early spring, the Shishged River freezes, allowing travel across the ice from Tsagaan Nuur to the Hogruk valley. However, ice conditions can be extremely dangerous. Therefore, it is essential for all visitors to consult their Tsagaan Nuur Visitor Center guide before attempting to traverse the ice. The East Taiga straddles the Mongolian-Russian border, displaying diverse terrain and landscapes, from steppe-taiga valleys to rugged peaks and dense forests. While some Eastern Taiga camps are accessible by vehicle during the cold months when mud conditions are mild. However, most camps, like those in the West Taiga, are accessible only by horse. Routes into the East Taiga can become muddy in the warmer months, significantly affecting accessibility and travel time. Camp distances from the taiga’s edge in Hogruk range from 6-40 km. The East Taiga is home to more than 18 Tsaatan households, typically organized into two family groups.