Responsible tourism – in recent years, it has developed many labels and is now a widely-used selling tool in the tourism industry. Even in Mongolia. But, what does it mean? Although there is no real clear definition, it has to be more than ensuring that we collect all of our rubbish, asking before taking a photograph or being aware of the cultural norms. That’s what we should be automatically doing anyway and is ‘tick-box’ responsible travel.

For me, Jess – the founder of EL, this is about our responsibility to Mongolia. Travel can, and should be, a positive experience for both you, the visitor, and for Mongolia – its natural environment, people, culture and traditions. I believe that travel has to be beneficial to all concerned. This for me is responsible travel.

When I set up Eternal Landscapes, I wanted to have responsible travel goals that were realistic and attainable – ones that we could actually achieve. I also wanted to be able to show real evidence of our practise.

Eternal Landscapes is not an NGO or a charity.  Neither are Turuu or I philanthropists. However, our love of Mongolia is genuine and our involvement is long-term. We are a micro-business so our level of support may be relatively small in the grand scheme of things but we think that it does help to make a visible and significant difference.

‘The responsible travel value is a true value to Eternal Landscapes and core to what you do. It is not merely a nice term which you just give lip service to. I do feel that our trip was low impact. If any impact was made, it is a positive, financial one to the local communities we passed through.’

Sarah Cutler, Australia, Untamed Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar Support

Nogoon Nuur Community Space

A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s 1.3 million (ish) population live in the ger districts that surround the central downtown –approximately 60% of the population actually.

There are few safe community spaces within the ger districts – especially community spaces where children can play. But, Nogoon Nuur (Green Lake) is bucking this trend.

Nogoon Nuur was a quarry. Then a waste dump site. It is now a thriving community space made possible by a committed individual, Ulzii, who since 2012 has been working to restore Nogoon Nuur and develop a public park.

In the summer, he offers pedalo boats for children (and their parents) to use. In the winter, it converts to an ice-skating rink. In the spring and autumn, the focus is on developing the site – such as maintenance, planting trees and construction of the indoor community space. Long term residents include a pair of ducks, doves anda rabbit.

What is most noticeable about the whole area is the lack of rubbish. Surprising in Ulaanbaatar. The local children that visit are encouraged to respect the area and to help protect it.

I love this community area immensely and we now include a visit on our free city walking tour – making a 5000MNT donation per EL guest per visit. On our family trips, we arrange and fund for the visiting children to purchase and donate reading books to the Nogoon Nuur community space.

Mongolian Quilting Centre – New Way Life NGO

The Mongolian Quilting Centre is known more formally as the New Way Life NGO – established in 2005 to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women. They are trained in the art of quilting, textiles and embroidery and use their skills to generate income for their families by crafting products to sell. Not only do the women of NWL make everyday items such as tote bags and tablecloths but  also individual pieces of fabric artwork made from discarded and recycled material such as their stunning quilts.

Every EL guest receives a welcome gift tote bag that we have made by the Mongolian Quilting Centre as a way of providing support. We also work with the Mongolian Quilting Centre offering one-day quilting experiences. We offer the services of an EL trip assistant for free so that the full payment for the experience (100,000MNT) goes directly to the MongolianQuilting Centre.

Felting Classes With Erdenetsetseg

Our one-day felt workshops are arranged through B. Erdenetsetseg – a retired Associate Professor and member of the International Feltmakers Association. Erdenetsetseg was struggling to make ends meet in Ulaanbaatar and through a colleague, she has set up workshops. Held at her home in UB, these workshops are informal andrelaxed and help to provide Erdenetsetseg with an extra income.

We only ask our guests to cover the cost of a translator for this day. The rest of the payment goes directly  to Erdenetsetseg.

Rural Mongolia Support

Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project

Gobi Oasis is a small, family run, non-profit conservation project that has been operating since 1975 in Mandalgobi, Dundgobi Province. Their main conservation work is the planting of seedlings and nurturing them into trees. Although trees in Mongolia have a long growing period (Mongolia, on average, experiences only 90-120 frost free days a year), within a couple of years and with constant care in their early  development, many will have become established. They help to bind the loose soil and thus are effective against erosion, help reduce wind, dust and desertification, attract rainfall and help build suitable conditions for biodiversity – all very important in the (increasingly) desert environment of Mandalgobi.

Each group typically plants a tree at the nursery – EL and our guests have now planted over 108 of our own trees which represents around 3% of the total number of trees planted at Gobi Oasis. A single young tree can absorb 26 pounds of CO2 per year so we’re (very) slowly doing out bit towards managing carbon emissions (as well as making small financial donations when we can).

Annual Terkhiin Tsaagaan Nuur National Park Community Clean Up

What’s it all about?!

Mongolia is frequently sold by tour companies as being a pristine untouched wilderness. It’s not. But, with Mongolia’s scenic beauty and wilderness experience being key points behind why people visit Mongolia, preservation of these values is a prerequisite for sustainable travel here in Mongolia. Much of Mongolia’s tourism sector, in fact, depends in the long term on the preservation of the country’s cultural and physical landscapes.

Unfortunately in Mongolia (as with elsewhere in the world), there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of rubbish that is discarded. A majority of our clients commented on it so I decided to do something about it…..and make it part of our philosophy and a feature of the EL calendar. For the past four years, Turuu and I have arranged for members of the Tariat community to spend two days clearing the north-shore (and surrounding area) of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park.

Why Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park?

We picked Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur due to the strength of our contacts there. We wanted a community involvement and Jargaa and Batbold (our hosts at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and owners of Surtiin Tulga Eco Camp) are at the centre of their local community.

Batbold and Jargaa outside their home, White Lake, Mongolia

Batbold and Jargaa at their home – the Surtiin Tulgan Eco Ger Camp. Together with their delightful grandson Anand and Jess of EL.

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur is popular with Mongolian families making the most of the five-day annual Naadam holiday. And this is where rubbish, human waste, and campfires had degraded the environment over the course of several years as visitor numbers have increased. Discarded rubbish is a major issue for the local rural communities as many of them lack the funds and resources to collect the rubbish.

That’s the basic combination that inspired Turuu and I to arrange and facilitate a trial clean-up in 2014 at the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park and then to repeat it in 2015, 2016 and 2017. We wanted to see the differences. And gladly there were.

The 2014 Eternal Landscapes rubbish clean up team. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, Mongolia


The 2015 Eternal Landscapes rubbish clean up team. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, Mongolia


The 2016 Eternal Landscapes rubbish clean up team. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, Mongolia


The 2017 Eternal Landscapes rubbish clean up team. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, Mongolia


Working Together

Our suggestion of two-days dedicated to cleaning up waste were welcomed by the administration of the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park back in 2014 and the joint effort was planned. It is still warmly welcomed and we meet with the governor of Tariat sum – Altan Ochir to discuss the event.

As with each year, we pay a small financial incentive to each person involved – including unemployed locals and nomadic herders who make their home in the area who volunteer to come and join us. We are also joined by the protected area rangers. We obtain the local town (15-ton) rubbish truck and pay for the fuel and the driver. We provide a cooked lunch on both days as well as urns of tea. AND! Between us (each year) we fill the rubbish truck. The end of clean-up party was rather monumental – sorry, the vodka was flowing so we have no photos. But, we have been awarded our first EL Өргөмжлөл – Certificate of Merit or Tribute. An extremely proud moment. And here’s evidence of what we achieved in 2017.

Rubbish collected on our 2017 rubbish collection, White Lake, Mongolia

There is no way we can ‘jazz’ up this image to make it more attractive! This is mid-way through Day Two on our 2017 two-day rubbish collected

We’ll be returning to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur in 2018.  We will also be extending our rubbish collection to Erdenedalai in the middle Gobi – the home region of most of the EL team and also the inspiration behind our Mongolian business name – Gobi Gua Undur.
This experience is open to our guests – an opportunity for active involvement in community conservation work. Why not consider joining us and make the most of an opportunity to take experiential travel to a new level by contributing with time and effort to a good environmental cause? (We will cover the costs of the days spent on the rubbish collection itself).
Interested? Dates to follow but get in touch for more details!

Association Goviin Khulan

The Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus) is one of the 5 recognised sub-species of the Asiatic Wild Ass and represents the largest population of this species in the world. As a result, Mongolia is an important place for the conservation of this species. Since 2008 the Association Goviin Khulan has worked in the eastern part of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert to enhance protection of the Mongolian khulan (Mongolian wild ass) and its habitat in partnership with local protected areas’ staff and communities.

Since 2015, we have worked in partnership with Association Goviin Khulan offering conservation and research expeditions to the eastern Gobi. This allows our guests to experience grassroots conservation in Mongolia and how Association Goviin Khulan works collaboratively with rural communities. A donation of  €500 is made per trip by us to Association Goviin Khulan. We also pay them each spring to undertake conservation and wildlife training with the EL trip assistants (as well as making small financial donations when we can).

Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh

The Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh focuses on working with yak herders in Arkhangai Aimag in central Mongolia. Their members produce spun yak wool, providing them with an alternative to diversify and increase their income. An alternative form of income is provided by hosting visitors and in 2016 we have stayed with the Dondov, Mandakbayar, Batbileg, Tulga and Galbadrakh families. Our visits arranged specifically through Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh which make sure the families receive 100% of our payment.

International Support

CAMDA – Cambridge and Mongolia Development Appeal

CAMDA is dedicated to supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders. We make a yearly donation to CAMDA towards their well-refurbishment project. Our 2015 CAMDA donation went to the construction / renovation of 1.5 of the 7 wells that CAMDA worked on in Ovorkhangai Province.

Why the well-refurbishment project? Herders can access the wells in the winter when the streams and rivers are frozen. In the summer months, it also means (with more wells) that grazing is spread out rather than focusing on just around one water source. This helps with degradation of the pasture. The wells are created using local labour and materials and when the well is complete, handed over to the local authority with a designated person for maintenance.

In the words of CAMDA, funds are not spent on ‘handouts rather on a means to bring resources to low income herders.’


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