Posted by Selena Travel / 05 16, 2019
Hustai Nuruu National park is a gem in the outdoor spaces of Mongolia. It’s a National Park especially established to preserve the last wild horse on earth – the Przewalski’s Horse. In setting aside land for these animals, the park is an oasis of natural life. While the open spaces surrounding Ulaanbaatar are usually free of obstructions, wildlife has concentrated and flourished in Hustai Nuruu under the watchful protection of the caretakers of the land.
Hustai Nuruu is the place where visitors to Mongolia can most easily find the takhi, or Przewalski’s Horse. It’s close to Ulaanbaatar, around 2 hours by car The Tuul river, which flows through Ulaanbaatar, also flows through the park. A more adventurous route can take longer, but requires a suitable car. Inside the 50,600-hectare park, there are no paved roads. If you like off-roading, it can be a great time. If you get motion sickness easily, prepare to sit in the front and ask the driver to go slow.
The park contains some of the Khentii Mountains, and is part of the Western edge of the Mongolian steppe. There is an old Russian van that shuttles between the park and Ulaanbaatar. However, the shuttle runs mostly for the people who work at the park. You can arrange transportation in advance, but don’t rely on it to take you back without a plan.
Your best bet to see the horses is at dawn or dusk. Bring your binoculars if you can, though sometimes rangers will let you look through the telescopes they use to monitor the animal’s health The park is a good taste of the open steppe though, and seeing a herd of these animals in the distance and knowing just how close they were to extinction and how hard zookeepers and Mongolian conservationist worked since 1992 to bring these animals back to their homeland and set them up for success.
Hustai is also home to many other animals as well. When I visited in spring, I saw dozens of little voles darting across the roads. Birdlife is abundant, and the souvenir shop offers a book to help identify local species. I mostly saw sparrows and jackdaws as they darted around our car. Of course, if you’re patient, you can see eagles lazily riding updrafts. If you see them up close, their size can be really impressive.
There are numerous marmot holes, and on a sunny day, you can catch a couple sunning themselves. They are very cute when they notice you and dart away. There are also ground squirrels that are easy to spot.
A little rarer for people to see are the Pallas cats. These shy creatures have some of the most expressive faces in the animal kingdom. They are smaller than a housecat, and well camouflaged. They generally live near abandoned marmot holes. In the winter, their coat is a more contrasted. By the time the summer rolls around, they are a more uniform gray. The cats are quite solitary, but seeing one is a wonderful surprise.
The main buildings at the center of the park have a lot of amenities. There is a visitor’s center, which explains the history of the park. There are many exhibits of the wildlife as well. The information provided is in both English and Mongolian and does a great job of showing the complexities of steppe wildlife. There is a gift shop as well, with local artisan products. There is a lot of art, and cashmere, and takhi themed gifts that make great souvenirs. The best part is that the purchases go straight to helping preserve the park.
They have a ton of other activities. They offer horseback riding over the rolling hills. You can also practice archery, darts and even do mountain biking. If you’re on a business trip, the resort offers two conference rooms.
Hustai Nuruu makes a great weekend trip. If you drive out in the morning, you can get there before too long. There are a couple of sleeping options, including rooms in the main building, gers and maybe even a cabin. The best way to experience the park is to stay at a nice ger at the camp and enjoy the decent options at the restaurant. The lunches are usually a buffet, with both Mongolian and more Western fare. For the adventurous, you can even volunteer to provide help at the park for extended periods.
When I visited Hustai, it was a beautiful, sunny day, with only a 20-minute trip on bumpy dirt roads. The Prius I was in handled it well. We had to drive around a bit to find the horses. Park rangers track the horses all day to make sure they are ok and not in need of medical attentions. The herds are relatively small, but they are very cute, especially the foals. Seeing them graze on the rolling hills at Hustai is something special.