There are a lot of photos in this post (and the previous one of our trip here from the soum center), partly because when I was online before my departure researching the Great Gobi A SPA there was very little available, either in images or information. Very few people go there (or to any of the Strictly Protected Areas for that matter), mostly researchers and sometimes filmmakers who want to film the wild bactrian camels or the bears. In fact, a lot of the images to be found in a Google search for “Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area” are from this blog and most of those are from Takhiin Tal, which is actually in Great Gobi B. So I’m hoping that this post might be of use to someone else who is planning to go to Great Gobi A. It’s also what I felt would best tell the story of our time at this remote but compelling place.
Bilgee explained to us that the bear’s favorite food, wild rhubarb, had already sprouted and grown faster than usual. So the bears had dispersed from the areas of the feeding stations for the year. I was happy to know that their natural food supply was in good shape, but it did reduce further our chances of seeing any. The Expedition was timed with the hope of catching the bears after they had emerged from hibernation and were using the feeding stations and before their main food was readily available, which would cause them to scatter out over a wide area.
Ok, well, most people won’t get excited about seeing animal poop, but in the interests of science and completeness, here it is.
So, yes, we drank the water. In the United States it’s extremely unwise to drink from streams, rivers and even springs in some cases. I’ve learned that in Mongolia there is no giardia present in the water, which is the problem in the US. But rivers and streams can still be contaminated by livestock. On a case by case basis, I will drink from springs there and once have drunk from a river. It was explained to me by the Mongols I was traveling with that the water had to be swiftly flowing over rocks for them to drink it, so I went ahead and had some. It was delicious! (If anyone reading this has additional information or corrections, please leave a comment)
So, no, we didn’t see any Gobi bears, but it was exciting to see their tracks (and scat). It would have taken quite a stroke of good fortune, given their rarity and the fact that they had already dispersed for the summer, and I knew the chance was small when I planned the Expedition. However the chance was zero if we didn’t go at all and with wildlife you never know. You start by showing up and then seeing what happens. But we experienced their habitat, got to camp in it and explore it and learned a lot firsthand about how they live, something very few people will ever be able to do.
Next week we head back north to a very different destination and ecosystem.