To the west of Lake Khovsgol, from the Khoridol Saridag mountain range to the Russian border, there is a mountain area that is very difficult to access. The Tsaatan, the last reindeer nomads, live with and from their animals in this region. Other ethnic groups resident there are the Khalkh Mongols, Buryats, Uriankhai and Darkhad. Shamanism is still most widespread in the area. The administrative center is the small town of TsagaanLake. The Darkhad Basin, a valley with a lot of trees and lakes, extends from north to south through the area. 200 out of 300 lakes of the Khovsgol-Aimags are located here. Compared to the rest of Mongolia, it is very rich in water. It rains a lot, especially in summer, which is why it is teeming with mosquitos.
A slope leads from Murun via the towns of Bayanzurkh and Ulaan-Mountain into the Darkhad basin to Renchinlkhumbe. Wooden houses dominate the place instead of the usual yurts. Siberia is not far, you can see that in the architecture. In order to put the economically poor region on a new foundation, efforts are being made to make it attractive for tourism. For some time now, tours to the extremely remote reindeer nomads, the Tsaatan, have also been offered. TV and photo reports that are shown in many countries are intended to arouse the corresponding longings. One should think carefully about whether one would like to become part of this sensational tourism.
Only a few Tsaatan live in Mongolia, the tribe is threatened with extinction. The name comes from the Mongolian word for reindeer, tsaa. The Tsaatan are part of the Tuwa, an ethnic group from Russia. They live in their tipis, which are archaically composed of birch sticks tied in the middle, which are covered with a white cloth. In the past, reindeer fur was used for this. They are reminiscent of the Indian tents in North America. The Tsaatan live on and with their reindeer, which mainly feed on moss and lichen. The animals are rarely used as a food supplier, but mainly as a means of transportation. The Tsaatan rarely eat reindeer meat because the animals are so valuable to them, they prefer to stick to hunting prey such as marmot and deer meat, which they also like to offer to guests. The Tsaatan fish a lot. Especially in winter, when they have their camps in the forest zone, they chop ice holes in the lake in order to get to the water and make prey. In spring, from April, they leave the forests and move to the flat areas south of the Shishgid river, where their reindeer herds can calve and find sufficient food. In July, because of the many mosquitos, we go back to the mountains beyond the tree line. At least five times a year, the reindeer nomads move on with their belongings in search of new pastures. If you want to save yourself the long journey to the taiga, you can meet the Tsaatan at Lake Khovsgol in summer. Some families then camp on the lake behind the Ger-Camp Toilogt.