Tsaatan Taiga Mongolia
There are two main areas where the Tsaatan community lives and herds reindeer, called the East Taiga and West Taiga respectively. Tsagaan Nuur village is conveniently located between these two areas, central to the entire Tsaatan community. Please note that the taiga areas are highly distinct ecological zones as compared to the steppe ecosystems found throughout Mongolia. When traveling from Tsagaan Nuur village to the Tsaatan’s herding camps you will pass from a steppe (grassland) ecosystem, into a taiga (boreal forest) ecosystem, delineated by a marked change in vegetation and topography.
From Tsagaan Nuur village to the East and West Taigas can be accessed by driving or riding by horse out of town towards the edge of the taiga, and then riding by horse to the actual Tsaatan camps.
West (“Barone”) Taiga is situated to the west of Tsagaan Nuur village beyond a steppe valley called “Harmae.” The West Taiga can be reached by driving or riding approximately 20 km from Tsagaan Nuur to the back of the Harmae valley, where the edge of the taiga begins. Portions of the West Taiga are in the administrative district of Ulaan Uul, Tsagaan Nuur’s neighboring village, or soum.
The West Taiga is notoriously rugged, with steep, wooded, mountainous terrain, rocky slopes, and rivers that can be impassible during portions of the year. With the exception of a few camp locations situated at the back of Harmae valley on the edge of the taiga, the West Taiga is only accessible by horseback, with average camp distances ranging from 10-40 km from the edge of the taiga.
The West Taiga is home to more than 20 Tsaatan households, who move in family groups composed of 1-10 households.
East (“Zuun”) Taiga is situated northeast of Tsagaan Nuur beyond a steppe valley called “Hogruk.” The East Taiga can be reached by driving or riding approximately 30 km from the TCVC towards Hogruk, crossing over the Shishged River. Alternatively, the East Taiga can be accessed from the village of Renchinlhumbe, Tsagaan Nuur’s neighboring administrative unit that includes portions of the East Taiga.
When accessing the East Taiga via Tsagaan Nuur, it is important to note that the Shishged River can only be crossed by ferry. The ferry is a simple log raft that can accommodate vehicles, horses, and pedestrians, and is operated on a fee-for-service basis by a private family in the area. In winter and early spring, the Shishged River and/or Tsagaan Nuur Lake are frozen, and it is possible to travel across the ice from Tsagaan Nuur to reach the Hogruk valley and the East Taiga. Ice conditions can be very dangerous, and all visitors to the area should consult with their TCVC guide prior to traversing the ice.
The East Taiga straddles the Mongolian-Russian border and contains diverse terrain and landscapes, from steppe-taiga valleys, to rugged peaks, to dense forest. Some East Taiga camps are accessible by vehicle during the cold months when mud conditions are mild or absent, though most camps, like the West Taiga, are accessible only by horse. Many routes into the East Taiga are muddy in the warmer months, which can affect accessibility and travel time significantly. Average camp distances from the edge of the taiga in Hogruk range from 6-40 km.
The East Taiga is home to more than 18 Tsaatan households, who typically move in two family groups. Reindeer Tour