There are some nooks of the primordial nature in Kazakhstan which can capture the heart at once and for ever. «Altyn Emel» is one of such wonderful places and the biggest national natural park in Kazakhstan, situated in Almaty region.
Protection of the wild nature by creation of national parks is considered the most perfect form. Precisely such parks successfully combine the wildlife protection and tourism, which known worldwide as eco-adventure.
More than two thousands national parks are created in more than hundred countries. In our republic we have ten national parks.
National parks as reserves are considered as the nature conservation and scientific information institutions, but herewith they have additional recreational, tourist and limited economic functions. The main targets and tasks of national parks are conservation, restoration of natural and historical complexes and objects representing special ecologic, recreational and scientific importance.
National park has organized several informational tourist trips for informational and advertising purposes. Kazakhstan s journalists as well as journalists from fifteen foreign countries participated in these trips. There are three television films about the national park «Altyn-Emel», these films have been successfully broadcasted on the leading TV channels of Kazakhstan, and on Russian First Channel and Caspionet. The park has also its own web-site: www.altyn-emel.ort.kz.
According to the General plan of the infrastructure development there are planing to create two visiting centers, a hydropathical place, a hotel, a tourist camp for aquatic sports, a building with wharf in Kapchagay town, a tourist recreational complex «Mynbulak», Fisherman House and an ornithological station, an open-air historical and archaeological museum «Besshatyr», a dinosaurs’ park and a paleontological museum in the mountains Aktau, a tourist campsite and an ethnographic village.
The name «Altyn Emel» has Mongolian origins, and can be translated as «golden saddle». According to the existing legend, in summer 1219 Genghis Khan’s troops moved through this valley for conquest of the Central Asia. At sunset the great commander had seen mountains, covered with the yellowed grass, and exclaimed: «Golden saddle!» If you look hard, the pass really resembles a saddle.
The national park «Altyn Emel» is a pride of south Dzhungarian Alatau, the symbol of the virgin, wild nature. The flora and fauna are rich in hundreds of the plant and animals’ species, many of them are recorded in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and International Red Book.
The state national natural park «Altyn-Emel» was created in accordance with the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1996. Actually it is one of the biggest parks of the Republic, its surface amounts more than 520 000 hectares. The park is located in the Ili hollow, it is limited on the north by southern spurs of Dzhungarian Alatau, and on the south by the Ili river and Kapchagay water storage reservoir.
Flora of the national park «Altyn-Emel» amounts approximately 1800 higher species of plants - from the mountain coniferous species till to the semi-arid plains plants. The park is blossoming from early spring till late autumn. Alpine lawns get covered with abundance of flowers: primroses, violets, buttercups. A bit later yellow and white «clouds» of fluffy rosaries appeared, supplementing a motley carpet of blooming herbage and bushes by mat-grass, scarlet poppies and tulips. Closer to autumn the ash-berry clusters turn red in mountain light forests. Annual saltwort and wormwood break into bloom in desert in September and even in October. There are some endemical and rare plants, recorded in the Red book of Kazakhstan, for example, the famous «iron tree» or Esa Caucasian, IN barberry; totally more than 30 species. Some endemics like Chesneya Dzhungarian can be found nowhere, except this place in the Sholak mountains.
Fauna of the national park is rich and diverse. There are more than 260 species of vertebral animals. There are 32 species of fish in the lli river and Kapchagay water reservoir, 18 of them have been specially settled from other basins (carp, catfish, asp, bream and others). Ili’s marinka and Balkash’s perch are recorded in the Red book of Kazakhstan. There are less of amphibians here, however there are such rare species like Danatian toad and Siberian frog. There are many ducks in basins, and many predators in riparian forests. Among them there are many rare and disappearing birds, such as black stork, demoiselle crane, hou- bara, serpent eagle, imperial eagle, steppe eagle, golden eagle, eagle-owl and others. Eleven species of mammalians from seventy eight are recorded in the Red book of Kazakhstan. They are: stone marten, marbled polecat, river otter, Pallas’ cat, kulan, goitered gazelle, wild ram, Asian barbastelle, Bokharian deer, Central Asian lynx, Tien-Shan brown bear. Populations of rare animals, under the threat of extinction, are in safety here. In the 80-s of the last century 27 Turkmen kulans were brought here from the Barsa-Kelmes island (in Aral sea), there are more than two thousands of them now in the park. The most beautiful goitered gazelle in territory of Kazakhstan in a plenty can be seen only here. Recently the fauna of the national park has been replenished by two new species: Przewalski’s horse and Bokharian deer, which are under the threat of extinction.
Przewalski’s horse It is considered to be a separate species of a horse because it differs from domestic horses by the number of chromosomes and their configuration. This is the unique primitive horse which survived till our days. By nature it couldn’t be trained and couldn’t be broken. The Przewalski’s horse gains almost the same speed as a kulan
Turkmen kulan. Smaller and thicker than the domestic horses, kulans are the fastest representatives of horse generitypes. They can gain speed up to 70 km/h in a very short period of time, and move for a rather long time with a speed of 50 km/h. Even a cheetah which has forces only for one short throw, can’t compete with a kulan in terms of speed and endurance.
Argali or Tjan Shan wild ram is one of the biggest wild sheep specimens. Both male and female animals have horns; however male animal has bigger and more impressive horns, they are twirled in spiral with tips directed up and out. The horns can represent up to 13 percent of the total body weight and reach till 190 cm at length.
Goitered gazelle When goitered gazelle runs, it raises vertically the tail and its black tip stands out sharply against the white «mirror». Therefore Kazakhs apply a nickname of goitered gazelle as «karakuyruk» (black tail). Goitered gazelle is extremely keen and cautious. The slightest anxiety makes gazelle to rush. It can gain speed of 62 km/h, but endures such gallop only several minutes.
Unique stone steles «Oshaktas» Unique stone steles «Oshaktas» are located not far away from the cordon Mynbulak. According to one version, it was a signal tower where the fire was kindled in case of enemy approach. The smoke from fire could be seen on other signal towers which are very numerous in Semirechye. According to another legend, Ghengis Khan ordered to install steles Oshaktas. In 1219 soldiers of the great commander were disposed here and they placed a giant pot on the steles for cooking. The spring with crystal clear water is situated right at the foot of the dune. People say that it is saint, has a healing property and can cure many diseases. Precisely this place was a bivouac for famous scientist and voyager Shokan Valikhanov, who traveled from Russia to Kashgaria. So the wonderful oasis was described in his notes, and later it has been called after Valikhanov. The grove of relict Asiatic poplar spread out in several kilometers from the spring.
«Singing Dune» - is the state landscape nature monument and favorite tourist’s sight. It is situated between the mountains Kyshi- and Ulken-Kalkany. There are no more than 10 similar natural phenomenon, just in China, Russia, Arabia and America. For many years geographers have been trying to understand the origin of the sandy dune, very unnatural for the local terrain of rocks and steppes. The sounds let out by the sandy mountain of 150 m height in a dry weather also represent a mystery for scientists. Sometimes these sounds resemble organ music, sometimes the rumble of a jet airplane. Physicists explain it by a friction of dry grains and crystal electrization. However, locals have their own versions. According to one of them, the evil angel is languishing inside the dune, according to another version an enchanted beauty is living there. There is a superstition: a cherished dream of the person, who succeeds to climb the top of the dunes, will come true; but if the traveler loses his way, he is a great sinner.
The chalk mountains Aktau are situated slightly eastward of Katutau. They are pressed from various rocks. White sand as chalk, red clay, bordeaux rocky ground. The nature has created here the most beautiful gorges from many-colored layers of rocks: from green and red at the bottom up to motley and white at the top. The height of strata is more than thousands meters.
The traces of extinct subtropical plants, petrified bones of ancient animals, giant rhinoceros inhabited the Earth 20-50 millions years ago were found in the clefts. The first paleontological open-air museum in Kazakhstan is founded exactly in this part of the park.
The Katutau Mountains, situated on the east of the national park, are the most arid, empty and dark, they differ by their steep slopes and numerous gorges. The appearance of the mountains is like Martian lifeless landscape, which is known from cosmic pictures. The mountains were formed in the result of volcanic activity. Burning hot underground lava has hardened and formed the giant fantastic figures. The greatest number of argali and ibexes can be marked here, and some observant tourists may see them.
Seven-hundred years old willow. Several old-timer willows grow in the national park, however the oldest one which age amounts to 700 years, grows on the Kosbastau cordon. Five persons joining hands can encompass this tree. The willow’s branches have been bowed down with their own weight, and resemble thick trunks.
Tourism in the national park is developed first of all as an ecological one, all the trips follow appointed itineraries with the necessary amenities, accompanied by the guide who not only tells about historical and natural value of the park, but also see to observance of the rules by tourists. There is no mass recreation as in the other national parks; due to this, the territory of the national park differs by exceptional cleanness and maintenance. There are seven hotels of euro style for tourists, some of them are combined with cordons, ten observation points, eight bivouac glades and camps, six parking areas, summerhouses, toilets. Prices at the hotels are oriented toward visitors with different levels of income; food can be prepared upon the order. Tourists can fish on the coast of the Kapchagay water reservoir, and foreign hunters can take part in the amateur hunt for wild ram in the Sholak, Matay and Degeres hills. The number of tourists in the national park increases yearly, this year more than 3000 persons visited the park.
Preservation of unique landscape and biological diversity of the national park needs permanent monitoring of natural complexes and park’s ecosystem. Scientists of the park observe climatic factors, state of vegetable cover, pasture performance, state of hoofed animals population and birds, and evaluate the influence of human activity.
Received information is thoroughly processed and recorded in the annual Chronicle of nature of the national park «Altyn-Emel». Every year gives a surprise. In summer 2004 during the zoological survey of Zhantogay, the new for the Hi hollow specimen was founded - a small rodent-hamster of Eversman.
Actually the unique experiment is carried out in the park: return of Przewalski’s horse to the wild nature. Przewalski’s horse is a rare animal species, disappeared from the face of the earth. This idea aroused when specialists from French Institute of animals, Russian and Kazakh zoological Institutes visited «Altyn-Emel». The horses were brought from the Munich zoo, and their first wild population has been already created.