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Visiting the Reindeer People (Dukha)
of Mongolia's Northern taiga

The reindeer herders of northern Khovsgol aimag, Mongolia are a small, tenacious group who strive to maintain their way of life and culture in the face of great challenge.  They are called Tsaatan, tsachin or Dukha.

The Reindeer People  are in two main groups, the Western Taiga and the Eastern Taiga.  Both are most readily reached from the town of Tsagaan Nuur (generally reached by car) or from Renchinlhumbe (generally reached from Lake Khovsgol by horse or foot). 

Map of northern Khovsgol

The Reindeer People don't need to be "discovered" or "saved".  If any of those are your motivation, please reconsider your visit.  On the other hand, if you wish to meet a fascinating people with ancient traditions and religion who welcome the thoughtful and considerate traveler, read on.

To visit the Reindeer People your first step is to "knock", as it were; send an email describing:

  1. purpose of your visit
  2. the number in your party
  3. your anticipated arrival date
  4. your firm departure date to:

This information goes to two Mongolian based NGO's, one in Ulan Bator and the other in Muren so that it can be forwarded by phone, telegram or word of mouth to Tsagaan Nuur and the taiga.  It will be an imperfect system at the outset, so you may or may not receive a response from the taiga, but you will receive an acknowledgement of your email from one or the other of the NGO's, Taiga Nature or Reindeer Cooperative.  Feel free to go forward with your visit if you don't hear back, but if you do hear back and a request is made to alter the purpose of your visit, your dates, the size of your party or duration of your stay please respect that request. 

You may also receive a request to assist with transporting supplies needed in the taiga, which, as a considerate visitor we assume you will be happy to fulfill.

There is no fee to visit the taiga but a prudent visitor will consider these guidelines:
1. Don't take alcohol as a gift.
2. Be self contained with your own food and tents.  Do NOT expect to be fed and housed in their homes.
3. Over the counter medicines for pain, allergies, eye drops, diarreah, colds plus medical supplies like disinfectant soap, bandages are always welcome.
4. Cigarettes, reading glasses, batteries, salt, flour, candy are also welcome.
5. Take photographs only on your second day in the taiga.  Put away your camera until you have invested the time to get some sense of life there.  And ALWAYS ask first. 
6. If your visit's purpose is commercial (tourist company, media) it is appropriate to negotiate some kind of compensation before arrival.

An article of interest about the Reindeer People from National Geographic: