• Rhizaldy Manalo

The Singing Sand Dunes

The Altyn Emel National Park, such an amazing place!  Anyone can imagine the voyages of Kazakhs, of Genhgis Kahn and his armies, traveling across these open lands, the travels of B.C.E traders across the silk road passing through this dry and vast desert in Central Asia. The rivers that flow from the mountains give life for these colorful rust-red plains. The antelope and wild asses - both of which can run like the wind, attracts predators and tourists alike, good luck catching their movements when they speed up though.  Although, of course, you may only take pictures of them from afar and because these animals are deftly aware of the ferocity of humans they’re already running by the time you noticed them. 

Altyn Emel Nature Reserve - Singing Sand Dunes
Sand Dune at Altyn Emel Nature Reserve

Even though this wilderness is usually associated with its wildlife, it is also the land of the famous singing sand dunes, forests, mountains and rare animals on land, almost twice the size of Luxemburg. 

The Atacama Desert in Chile and Peru, Great Victorian Desert in Australia, even the Sahara do not have a candle in comparison to the beauty of Altyn Emel.

The Kazakh government, in an attempt to preserve its pristine nature and biodiversity, as well as archaeological and historical monuments, made the land a national park on April 10, 1996.

Altyn Emel is the largest reserve in Kazakhstan and part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) world heritage. Approximately 260 kilometers north of Almaty. It covers an area larger than most metropolitan cities in the US. The large spectacle of its canyons and cliffs were bored through the rocks by ancient long-gone rivers.

Altyn Emel Nature Reserve Rock Formations
Rock Formations at Altyn Emel Nature Reserve

Southern Kazakhstan rich in eco-tourism destinations reminds visitors of scenery from science fiction movies, akin to martian terrain. The colorful clay mountains with white, red and orange bands lying across the Aktau Mountain range provide spectacular vantages. Paleontologists have discovered 56 species of Early Miocene flora such as spruce, birch, alder, linden and ailanthus in the mountains, as well as remains of ancient animals like crocodiles, turtles and giant rhinos with an estimated age of 25-30 million years. Imagine seeing this beauty millions of years ago and now you’re actually walking through what used to be a riverbed.

The Altyn Emel steppes change to singing sand dunes approximately 1.5 kilometers long and up to 120 meters in height.

Altyn Emel National Park Sand Dune
Man Walking On Top of a Sand Dune

When the wind from the west hits the sands at just the right angle, you’ll hear a beautiful cacophony of vibrations, unreal and surreal at the same time, that echoes across millennia. Scientists suggest friction electrifies the sand in dry hot weather to create the mysterious vibration.

Altyn Emel flora has nearly 1,800 species. As for fauna, 260 species live in the park, 56 of them are rare. The park is home to endangered amphibians such as the Siberian toad and rare and endangered birds like the black stork and imperial eagle. There are also our own families of mammals such as manul, gazelle, argali, lynx and Tien Shan brown bear.

Altyn Emel National Park - is definitively a plain surrounded by mountains full of wonders. Its signing sand dunes, lively forested areas and, beautiful rivers remind us that difference can indeed live amongst each other. From volcanic formations of the rocky Ak Tau mountains, composing bands of white, red and orange horizontal terrain landscape, to a 700 years old Willow, which is fed up by underground waters forming a lake next to it. You can find almost anything in this vast and beautiful park.

CentrAsia Tours guides travelers and tourists through the Altyn Emel.


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