2020 Summer Photo Expedition to Mongolia

Life Amongst the Eagle Hunters

A wedding we attended on last year's expedition

Travel photographer of the Year, winner, best image in category, shot on this trip

Dates: July 7th – July 21st, 2020

This year’s summer expedition will once again be an exceptional 2 week journey through far western Mongolia exploring the nomadic landscape and its people.  Your journey will be a photographic trip of a lifetime, specifically designed to give you intimate access to the many cultural experiences found in this remote corner of Mongolia.  These expeditions were originally inspired by the first trip I undertook here with the BBC nine years ago when we shot a film for Human Planet about Kazakh eagle hunters.

Now in their 7th year, these very popular trips have evolved each summer as we push deeper and deeper into the lesser known corners of Western Mongolia searching for new places and experiences. This year we have decided to focus all our attention on spending time in my favourite parts of Tavan Bogd National Park. Our itinerary will take us on an epic 500km journey through the border regions of this relatively unknown destination.  Along the way we will be spending our time immersing ourselves in Kazakh nomadic culture and daily life, visiting families and pitching alongside them at their summer camps.  Our journey will take us through 2 restricted access areas for which we have secured official consent and we can expect to witness and shoot the traditional Kazakh sports of Bushkashi and Tin teru as well as seeing horse races and wrestling at weddings and Naadams throughout the region.   Of course, one of the highlights of any trip to Western Mongolia is meeting the now infamous eagle hunters.  For that reason we will be visiting at least 2 different hunting families including spending 3 days camped in our own personal gers alongside my good friend Shokhan and his family who I join every year on their epic spring nomadic migration across the mountains of Tavan Bogd.

Eagle hunter, Shohan on last year's trip

Eagle hunter, Shokhan shot during one of our natural light portrait masterclasses

I have designed this trip exactly the way I would have done if I were shooting it on my own.  We won’t be visiting any eagle festivals or other tourist attractions, nor following any well trodden paths.  These expeditions are about meeting real people and connecting with them in their own environment. We will be using the same fixers and guides who organised our original expedition with the BBC’s Human Planet team… trusted friends who understand precisely the kind of opportunities that photographers and filmmakers crave.  We have limited the attendance to 8 people per trip in order to give everyone the chance to shoot great images without creating too much impact on our surroundings.  I will be travelling with you at all times and offering as much advice and help as you can absorb as well as guiding you through my methods of shooting, editing and image preparation in post production during photography seminars and natural light portrait sessions.

To give you an idea of the kind of things I like to get up to on these expeditions, please take a few moments to browse through this Facebook album of photographs from previous trips: https://www.facebook.com/pg/timothy.allen/photos/?tab=album&album_id=913102232088303

This is a photo expedition for the adventurous type.  The only times we will be seeing the walls of a hotel room will be on the first and last days of the trip in Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital and one night in Ulgii, Western Mongolia’s capital city. Other than that we will be staying in individual North Face expedition tents or traditional gers, bringing everything we need with us in our 4×4 vehicles including generators for safely charging all our gear.  This means that when we are camping out in the national park we will be living quite simply under canvas.  You can however expect ample hot food prepared by our cook and a hot shower every day but we ask you to please acknowledge the limitations of this kind of travel before you commit to booking with us.  Once we leave UB, there will be no turning back!

Arriving at the edge of Tavan Bogd National Park

Arriving at the edge of Tavan Bogd National Park

What is included in the price of this trip?

Everything except your international flight, personal travel insurance, Visa fees and the costs of the kind of things you would normally expect to buy with your own personal money supply (gifts, personal treats, plus we will not welcome or cover the cost of excessive alcohol consumption). Other than that, from the moment we pick you up at Ulan Bator’s Airport we will take care of everything for you.  Accommodation, 3 meals a day including drinks, internal flights to Western Mongolia, overland transport, tips, translators… anything you can think of, and probably a few things you can’t.

What kind of things should I bring?

The number one necessity is a smile plastered from ear to ear.. closely followed by an open mind.  Expeditions to remote locations like these can be susceptible to unforeseen problems which might result in last minute itinerary changes.  Rest assured however that photo opportunities will be foremost in our minds but we kindly ask you to be prepared to go with the flow if the need requires.  Cameras, laptop, outdoor clothes, a sleeping bag (we provide mattresses), head torch… these kind of things instantly spring to mind.  Once you confirm your booking with a 25% deposit, we will send you all the information you need to fully prepare yourself for this epic journey.

How fit do I need to be to join this trip?

This trip will involve a couple of days with some trekking (about 3 hours round trip, slow pace). All of the other places we visit will be accessible in our trusty Russian 4 wheel drive vehicles.   Shooting the eagle hunters on hill tops might involve a little trekking to get to good vantage points and at a couple of points on our journey it may be necessary to walk alongside our vehicles so that they can ascend particularly steep terrain.  Be aware: There are absolutely no tarmac roads where we are going. Please bear this in mind before you book.

If you choose not to come with us when we travel on foot, don’t worry, there will be plenty of other things to occupy your time back at camp since we always set up alongside local families who are happy to have visitors.  In the past people have had some very unique experiences by choosing to do this.

The summer weather in Western Mongolia has been unpredictable of late.  Whilst the norm at that time of the year is mild sunny days, 3 years ago we woke up one morning to find our camp covered in snow, so please bear factors like this in mind if you are contemplating joining us.

Joining in at a 'house' warming party

Joining in at a ‘house’ warming party

Can I join this trip as a non photographer?

Sure!  If your significant other wants you there by their side then be our guest! Similarly, if you just want to come alone without a camera then don’t feel that you need to be into photography. This expedition is designed to be an immersive experience for everyone, so if you don’t want to shadow us when we’re shooting, we will certainly be able to find plenty of other things for you to do.  If you’re feeling adventurous you could pop off with a translator on a horse riding excursion or just spend a quiet day with a local nomadic family joining in with their day to day tasks.  It’s up to you. This part of Western Mongolia has great fishing too, so feel free to borrow a rod and spend the day catching our lunch if you like!

Come and meet the locals!

Felt making

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Day 1 After arriving from your international flight, a driver will bring you to our hotel in the centre of UB.  During the day will be visiting the money changers, black market and Gandantegchinlen Monastery. We will have a ‘meet and greet’ at the hotel at 5pm for those people arriving late.  In the evening we will enjoy a traditional meal at a local restaurant.
Day 2 Catch the early morning flight to Ulgii arriving at 9.30am, This is the largest town in western Mongolia. After a quick breakfast we will drive 6 hours directly to our first camp in a remote valley on the edge of Tavan Bogd National Park.
Day 3 Today after presenting our permits at the last army post before the border, we will drive 6 hours and make a riverside camp next to our first Kazakh family where we will be basing ourselves for 3 nights.
Day 4 A day spent shooting daily life including horse wrangling and milking of mares amongst other things.
Day 5 Today we will trek for a couple of hours to spend the day with a nomadic family who live in an incredibly remote valley near the Chinese border which is not accessible by vehicle.
Day 6 Drive south along the border for about 5 hours depending on conditions.  We will pitch our camp in a glacial valley next to our first eagle hunter and his family
Day 7 A day spent with our host and his family shooting daily life and set-up portraiture.  We will split into smaller groups for the portrait sessions.
Day 8 Today we intend to walk up to a location near this valley’s glacier in search of a Balapan (young hunting eagle) in a cliff face nest, however, we won’t know where the nests are until we get there.  
Day 9 Drive to our second eagle hunter family’s summer camp 5-6 hours away.  Our host and his extended family live in an exceptionally beautiful valley near the Chinese border.  He is a fantastic horseman and eagle hunter and we will spend 3 days as guests of his family.
Day 10 Camp Day 1 –  We hope to visit a mini Nadaam or wedding party in this area which will include traditional wrestling, horse racing and other Kazakh sports.
Day 11 Camp Day 2 –  After a location reccy the focus of our day will be to travel with our eagle hunter to one of the beautiful peaks around this valley to capture an epic ‘eagle hunter on horseback’ shot.  The best time to shoot will be sunset and dusk so we will time everything precisely.
Day 12 Camp Day 3 – A day of environmental portraits including a natural light portrait masterclass with our eagle hunter. 
Day 13 Today we will make a long (9 hours) drive back across the mountains to Ulgii, where we should arrive by early evening.  Stay the night in a local hotel.
Day 14 Take the early morning flight back to Ulan Bator. In the evening we will have a final supper at my favorite restaurant in UB… then get a well deserved night’s sleep back at our 5 star hotel.
Day 15 Tearful goodbyes as our driver drops you off at the airport to connect with your international flight.  Have a safe trip!

Note: Whilst this itinerary will form the back bone of our route during the expedition. It is highly likely that our plans will change a little in order to be able to visit local weddings and horse races etc.  Until we arrive in the mountains each year we cannot know precisely where these events will be happening, however we have chosen the dates of the trip to maximise the likelihood of encountering such events.

A pack of wild wolf cubs that we encountered on last year's trip

A pack of wild wolf cubs seen on this trip

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A typical road in Western Mongolia.

A typical road in Western Mongolia.

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A maximum of 8 places are available on this trip. Places allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Trip Dates: July 7th – July 21st, 2020

Price  SOLD OUT 

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