Altyn Emel National Park
Singing Dune & Aqtau Mountains
in 1961 with 73,300 ha the reserve numbers 137 species
of plants, 39 species of animals and 200 species of birds.
Referring to rare ones are red bear, snow leopard and
Turkestan lynx. In 2000 specialists counted about 7,000
Persian gazelles, 3,000 Teke goats, 700 Central Asian
Wild Ass, 200 Urial wild sheep and 200 wild boars in the
reserve. The reserve is also home to the endemic Turanga
tree which grows up to 20 m high and 1 m wide.
reserve proper includes a desert-like section of the valley
of the Ili-river known for its “singing sands” 150 m high
and producing a loud aeroplane-like sound when one moves
along their floaty slopes. Local legend derives the name
of the reserve (Golden horseshoe) from Jenghiz Khan.
The Singing dune lies
at the centre of the reserve and is about 500 m long.
Two more dunes stretch to the south.
The Aqtau mountains are some 48 km (3 hrs off-road) east
from the dune. Altyn-Emel nature reserve is partially
off-road 180 km from Almaty and can be visited on a day
trip or in combination with 1-2 day a trip to Charyn
Canyon. Entrance fees to the relatively well guarded
park are hefty and it is not recommendable to visit the
without guide and permission.