• Mongolia

Program Details

Apartment Guesthouse


Starting Price
Price Details
Projects range from USD 500 to USD 4,400 per person excluding travel to and from the rendezvous. The price of each project, which we call your contribution, covers your food, accommodation, on-site travel (not airfare), emergency medical and medical evacuation insurance, and all of the various costs of field research (field permits, equipment, etc.). These costs may vary for each expedition and individual team.
Dec 05, 2019
Jul 11, 2023
6 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Explore the lives of grassland animals, from the hedgehog to the Siberian ibex, to help conserve their wilderness home. You’ll travel to the research site by train, through the mountains of the north, to the semidesert steppe, giving you a chance to enjoy Mongolia’s vast landscapes that remain largely free of fences and paved roads. Once at the field site, you will track wildlife by collecting radio-telemetry data, capture, study, and release argali and ibex, hike to survey vegetation and wildlife behavior, track and record the location other wildlife of the area.

You'll hike four to six miles a day, accompanied by members of the project’s large, friendly team of Mongolian experts and students. You'll also get to visit nomadic families and see the traditional Mongolian lifestyle firsthand.

Program Reviews

5.00 Rating
based on 3 reviews
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  • Impact 5
  • Support 4.7
  • Fun 5
  • Value 5
  • Safety 5
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing and unique experience to explore a beautiful and remote region, contribute to scientific research, and connect with incredible individuals

Earthwatch’s Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe was my first expedition with the organization, and I must say, I wish I had known about Earthwatch years ago! After this incredible experience, I am now determined to join many more of their expeditions in the future. I found out my impression was not actually unique. One volunteer in my group has joined Earthwatch 9 times, and another has joined 7 times!

I have always been drawn to adventure and exploring unique corners of the world, as well as connecting with inspiring, like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds. Earthwatch has provided me with the perfect opportunity to combine my love for travel and adventure with my passion for volunteering and environmental conservation. I was thrilled to learn and actively contribute during the expedition.

The focus of Earthwatch Mongolia is particularly intriguing as they aim to study the impact of climate change on the ecosystems and wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe. Our group, consisting of six volunteers, was fortunate to have Mary-Jo, an expert in cinereous vultures, as one of our group leaders. Another group leader Rentsen Oyunbat (Remo), who is the director of the Mongolian Conservation Initiative and an expert in small mammals, consistently radiated positivity and upbeat energy to organizing activities and life around the camp. In addition to studying the near threatened cinereous vultures, we worked alongside students and researchers who were conducting studies on small mammals, the endangered argali sheep, ibex, lesser kestrel birds, the endangered marmots, insects, and plants.

Thanks to Earthwatch and the camp manager (thank you Uujgii!), the camp exceeded my expectations in terms of comfort, with modern-like amenities like sun showers and sinks in our gers (traditional Mongolian tents). The teamwork and camaraderie among the volunteers, students, and staff were exceptional. We all enjoyed working together in the field (thank you Remo, Jak and Ulmaa for taking us safely to and from the fields!), and having our meetings and meals together in the dining ger. The food was tasty and always prepared fresh (thank you Babu and Oyunaa!). And our gers were cleaned everyday! (thank you Ari!).

The range of activities during the expedition was diverse and exciting. We participated in setting up traps for small mammals and insects, tagging captured mammals, monitoring lesser kestrel and marmots activities, observing vulture nests, and hiking long distances to monitor argali sheep and ibex. We also conducted plant surveys and used the opportunity to strengthen our counting in Mongolian! During the entire 11-day expedition, we had no internet, no mobile signal, and no TV. Surprisingly, I found this lack of connectivity to be incredibly peaceful. We embraced early bedtimes, early mornings, and marveled at the vertical expanse of the Milky Way in the middle of the night. The culture day on day 7 was particularly special with a delightful Mongolian barbecue lunch, followed by a visit to the ruins of an 18th-century monastery and unique rock formations, mini bazaar by locals showcasing their art crafts, and demonstration by one of the students, a skilled competitive archer, who shared his knowledge of this traditional Mongolian sport. For those concerned about communication, I recommend downloading Google Translate for Mongolian, which can be used offline. While not perfect, it proved to be quite helpful.

Mongolia is a country steeped in history, and this expedition allowed me to fully immerse myself in its culture, interact with its people, and learn more about the country's rich heritage. The Mongolian people are warm-hearted and deeply passionate about their country.

In summary, my experience with Earthwatch's Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe expedition was nothing short of amazing and truly unique. It provided me with the opportunity to explore a beautiful and remote region, contribute to scientific research, and connect with incredible individuals. I am eagerly looking forward to my future endeavors with Earthwatch and the adventures that lie ahead.

  • adventure and exploring unique corner of the world
  • connecting with inspiring, like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds
  • learn and actively contribute during the expedition
  • There should be clearer explanations on the research questions that the project seeks to address, including how the data we collected helps achieve research goals
31 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Life on the Mongolian Steppe

Mongolia was truly a unique experience. Certainly one of the best Earthwatch projects I have done. The Mongolian people are lovely and passionate about their country. The national park that we were in, Ikh Nart, was wonderful.

The rendezvous was at a guest house in Ulaanbaatar and it is definitely worth arriving early to spend at least a day in the city sightseeing.

Travelling to the camp involved a 7-8 hour train journey which was a wonderful way to see the countryside and a further hour and a half's drive on from the station. We were so well looked after by the project staff and I had no concerns about the remoteness of the area.

There were 6 volunteers and we were really lucky to be at the camp at the same time as the Assistant Curator for Birds at Denver Zoo who was there to try to capture Cinereous vultures. Mary-Jo had 4 radio transmitters that she wanted to attach to the backs of 4 adult vultures. Capture was never going to be easy and I have to say that vultures are wise birds! We spent many hours sitting waiting near nest sites but were not successful. One day we were out for 14 hours.

As well as the vultures there is research being done on the Argali sheep, snakes, Lesser Kestrals, small mammals and hedgehogs. There was plenty of bird life too. One evening we had a talk by the hedgehog researcher and and watched as he fitted a long earred hedgehog with a radio transmitter.

Life around camp was very civilised. Our Gers were very comfortable and wood burning stoves were lit on the coldest nights. Showers were taken in the afternoon/evening using sun showers. Everyone ate together in the dinning room/classroom Ger and there was certainly no risk of going hungry. Boiling water was available all day for hot drinks as well as snacks.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this project to anyone and would love to go back for the argali round-up in the future.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Mongolian Magic - Earthwatch style

The long train ride snakes away from the bustle of grey concrete Ulaanbaatar into the Mongolia of the imagination, dotted with the occasional ger that marks civilization--we call them yurts. Lazy hours on the train give way to a bucking ride in The Boneshaker, a weathered grey van that can travel over ANYTHING to camp, a collection of gers that will be our home, nestled amidst outcroppings of tall rocks with a stream rustling through, our only source of water.
Earthwatch is not for the slothful. There are armies of traps to be laid, and baited and checked twice daily. There are Argali sheep to be monitored, which means hiking kilometers up and down over rocky terrain, accompanied by a youthful Mongolian scout who is years younger and much fitter than I have ever been. Some teams actually snare these sheep to mark them, taking part in an old fashioned roundup with Mongolians on motorcycles as well as the traditional horses. Radio tracking hedgehogs sound cute and pastoral? Not when the little guy in question is a traveler, moving 10 km in one night. There are plants to be surveyed, mysterious clumps with Latin names, and counted in Mongolian! Sometimes there are young condors to be measured; some babies! The wingspan matches or exceeds the spread of my arms! After all this, there are sun showers to be had, and the absolute quiet of the Gobi desert. Occasionally we visit our neighbors, kilometers away, with their herd of horses and spotless ger, which can be dismantled quickly when they move on. In a nod to the 21st century, there are also motorcycles, the occasional pickup truck, one solar panel and a satellite dish. The scientists and staff are outstanding. Smiling pantomime is sometimes the only means of communication. Nonetheless, the meals are tasty, based on fresh goat prepared in every possible way, and the fellowship amazing. No phone, no TV, and no internet mean that we talk, we sing together, we play games, and we enjoy a true person to person experience, sharing our diverse cultures.

What would you improve about this program?
Some people will find the outhouse experience, plus the daily drawing and filtering of water off putting. A vegetarian would have a tough time. I relished the solitude of the Research Station and the challenge of the physical activity. A key person who normally would have done much of the translation was missing from my trip because of illness. This may have made things easier had she been there, but as an experienced traveler, enthusiastic to learn and participate, one learns to cope and ultimately interact in unexpected ways. As it turned out, the experience was incredibly varied. Some might thrive on routine, but one of the most exciting things about science is the variety of the experience. I am not a scientist by trade and I had a spectacular time.
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