Korgalzhyn eco-tours provide authentic and affordable travel experience

ASTANA – The Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, one of Kazakhstan’s major attractions, occupies almost 550,000 hectares in two regions about 130 kilometres southwest of the capital. It is included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

Flamingos Photo credit Vechernaya Astana

The vast lands of the reserve provide the necessary living space for Asia’s largest population of water birds. The wildlife community consists of more than 60 rare species of plants and animals, including flamingos and the Shrenk wild tulip, listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red Book. The pink birds come to this northernmost part of the world once a year and as a result, it has become a desirable tourist destination.

The Pana (Shelter) Guest House in Korgalzhyn village has operated since 2007. Weekend tours are especially in demand, said host Bibinur Amanzholova.

“Many foreign tourists from Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, South Korea and the U.S. come to visit us. We introduce them to the national customs, traditions and music. We invite the Dudarai folklore ensemble for a concert programme. The season lasts from April-October, as flamingos arrive and tulips blossom,” she said.

The guides also organise excursions to the reserve and the museum is across the road. The guest house accommodates up to 20 people and lodging in yurts or small houses with three meals a day costs 10,000 tenge (US$30).

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The Ptichyi Rai (Bird’s Paradise), which provides all the necessary information and tours around the reserve, is seeking to become an environmental education centre not only for the local population, but also for visitors.

The centre offers a three-day, two-night ecological route for a maximum of 20 people including excursions to the ALZHIR museum and memorial complex, Korgalzhyn village and Balmyrza equestrian sport centre in Birtaban. Tourists can also visit the Batygai Mausoleum and Kanykei sacred site. Hotel accommodations with three meals a day are 8,000 tenge (US$24).

The eco-route is a perfect opportunity to enjoy bird watching at Lake Birtaban. From mid-April to September, many species visit the shores to breed. Flamingos usually arrive in Korgalzhyn for the entire spring and summer.

Swimming in the lake, boating and sailing catamarans are offered by the host and ice fishing is popular in the winter months. A variety of souvenir items made by local craftspeople is available at the kiosks.

All visitors must register at the administration and pay the fee before entering the reserve. Citizens of Kazakhstan and the Commonwealth of Independent States must have a copy of their ID, while tourists from other countries should provide a document proving their identity.

A one-way bus ticket to Korgalzhyn village costs 1,000 tenge (US$3); taxi fare is approximately 4,000 tenge (US$12).