The Altyn-Emel State National Park, the largest in Kazakhstan, is located among the southern spurs of the Zhungar Alatau Ridge on an area of 520 thousands ha. The unique natural formations and monuments from ancient cultures, being the eco-tourism features, are located in the park; the Singing dunes, the Aktau Mountains, forming a “lunar” landscape, and also five Besshatyr Barrows. Ancient rock drawings can be found in the gorges. Animal species, entered into the red Book of Kazakhstan, are found in the park. They are dzheiran and kulan, and also black stork, berkut, the bearded-eagle and others.
The Altyn-Emel SNNP
Here one can drink in the peerless beauty of multi-colored mountains of Aktau and sand mountains of Katutau. On the territory of the Park some historical monuments, like Scythian burial mounds of Bes-Shatir dated the 1st century BC and Tamgali-Tas with ancient rock drawings the earliest of which can be attributed to XVI-XIV centuries BC. Here, on the right bank of the Ili River, the famous Singing Dune is situated. On a safari trip, you will meet many animal: the Siberian mountain goats – teke, desert deer – jeran, kulan, mountain rams, wolves, foxes, such as birds as a golden eagle, mountain partridge – keklik and many others, the majority of which are included into the World and Kazakhstani Red Book.
The largest State Preserve “Altyn Emel” is located 150 km from Almaty (the biggest city in Kazakhstan). The sights of “Altyn Emel” the natural memorial “Singing Dunes”, reserved Katutau Mountains and Aktau Mountains and many other historical and archeological monuments of the VIIIth -lllrd centuries B.C.
The National Park covers the total area of 460 thousand hectares it is a unique place in which large mammals such as arhars, kulans, Middle Asian gazelles and other rare species entered in the international Red Book and the Red Book of Kazakhstan are found.
One can find great carvings on petroglyphs containing scenes of hunting and everyday life of the people who lives there thousands of years ago on black stones in the Terekti-Sai Gorge. In the Kyzyl-Auyz Gorge you can go on an excursion to the waterfall and the immense cave in which ancient cattle-breeders used to keep the entire flick of sheep. It is in this place that a unique “stone” tree grows its wood is so strong that it resists even to an axe.
Untouched, completely uninhabited places can be found in Altyn-Emel: Aktau (the White Mountains) an unprecedented beautiful land of amazing colors, with ancient marine deposits from the former Tethys Ocean. A fantastic landscape! Among these vast waterless places, there is an oasis, where, according to legends, groups of wild (snow) people lived; there is a cave, amongst the rocks, on the Floor of which
a cross is cut, to appearances, it is a Christian hermit’s shelter (traces of the Nestorian Christians can be found all over Central Asia, Mongolia and China).
Excursions can be arranged to: the Singing Barkhans, the Besshatyr Harrows, caves and rock drawings, the White Mountains, walk through the National Park and observe over the wildlife.
The Singing Barkhans
Another unique wonder of nature is the Singing Dunes, 182-km northeast of Almaty, on the right bank of the Ili river. In dry weather this sand dune emits a sound like an organ playing. The Singing Dunes make an unforgettable impression. The scarcely perceptible movement of sand sliding down the slope causes the humming and vibration. The friction caused by the movement of dry grains of sand, combined with the dry air, electrifies them, causing the vibration. Because of the surrounding favorable resonant conditions, powerful sound waves are produced which bouncing off the solid ground also cause the dune to vibrate. The sound can be heard from several kilometers away.
A very rare phenomenon in a landscape is located on a right Ili River bank, 182 km from Almaty, and is included in the Altyn-Emel SNNR. The sand makes sounds reminiscent of organ music, it is caused by motion on a sandy dune surface. The length of a sandy ridge exceeds 3 km, width – about 500 m, and the height is over 100 m. The singing sands usually happen in dry weather with a western wind. There are other such places on the Earth, but the Kazakh dune is the highest amongst all with similar properties.
The unique phenomena, the so-called Singing crescent-shaped sand dune is situated near this cliff between the Mount Big Kalkan and Small Kalkan. This sand dune is about 3 km long and 80 m high and is characterized by some specific features.
In summer under the influence of strong wind or caused by tourists sliding down its slopes the mount utters a powerful vibrating rumbling.
One can see various trees such as flat wracks, dzhighida, different bushes: willows, honeysuckles, Ili barberries. Nearby there is a spring where Chokan Valikhanov, the outstanding Kazakh educationalist and traveler stayed in 1856 on his way to Kashgaria.
Black saxaul grows in the steppes and there are thickets of white saxaul on the slopes of the Singing crescent-shaped sand dune.
One can observe a wonderful phenomenon taking place in the park: entire streams of the purest spring water flow out of the ground and feed the groves and riparian woodlands in the area. It is here that ancient elms which witnessed Chingiskhan’s warriors who drank water from the elms is over 700 years old.