Wildlife and tourism in Tajikistan

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Home Tourism in Darshay

Darshay at a glance

While the Wakhan Corridor during the years became a famous tourist destination the side valleys of the Wakhan are still off the beaten tourist routes. Darshay offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy the Wakhan more intensively and to enjoy its nature and culture.

The conservancy of the local NGO “Yokuti Darshay” (taj. “Rubin of Darshay”) was established by former informal hunters of Darshay village which became concerned about the decline of the ibex population and the virtual extinction of urial, which sometimes still can be observed at the opposite slope in Afghanistan. The conservancy is assigned to the NGO as game management area by the State Agency for Forestry and Hunting. At present the NGO is supported by the project in the process of becoming recognized as voluntary rangers by the Committee for Environmental Protection.

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The members of the community group so far protect the area voluntary and have got some equipment from the project. In the future it is hoped that strictly controlled trophy hunts on single specimen of ibex can provide the necessary means for nature protection and social-economic development of the nearby located community. The latter will ensure the necessary support by the entire communities to the protection of the rare species in the area. As long as this is not yet possible due to legal constraints, the conservancy relies on sponsoring and revenues from tourism.

The NGO has initiated a project for reintroduction of urial in the conservancy. It is planned to construct a breeding enclosure in a suitable habitat and to release from there groups of urials to the wild. The animals for establishing a breeding group will most likely have to be obtained from Afghan Wakhan, which requires the fulfilment of a bunch of formal obligations. The establishment of a reintroduced population of urial would be as an important means for conservation of this endangered wild sheep. The animals in the breeding enclosure and the released animals would serve as a spare population and reduce the risk of extinction in case of worsening situation at the Afghan side (increase of poaching, transmission of disease from livestock, forage shortage and others).

Tourism opportunities

The conservancy, in particular Darshay Gorge, provides excellent trekking, alpinism and wildlife observation opportunities. The conservancy is located in the Wakhan at the main road from Khorog and Ishkashim to the East and can be visited on the way to the Eastern Pamirs (via Hargush Pass).

(c) Munavvar Alidodov

“Yokuti Darshay” plans to offer as well hunting tours on ibex. The approach is to conduct regular population monitoring and to use only a small percentage of mature males above the age of seven years. Thus it will be guaranteed that the population will not suffer from overexploitation and selective take-off. And hunting tourists will have a good choice of trophy size old ibex males. All tours will be organized strictly on the basis of official permits the NGO will obtain for their guests by the responsible state authorities. First tours will be supported by specialists provided by the project to ensure the required quality of hunts and related services.

What to experience?

The wide Wakhan Valley is on of the most beautiful sites in Tajikistan’s Badakhshan and is famous as well for its historical sites and its hot springs. Darshay Gorge has a variety of landscapes, steep cliffs and gently slopes, small birch groves, small willow forests as well as alpine meadows in the higher altitudes. You will have a nice vew on the Pyanj Valley, neighboring Afghanistan and the snow-capped high mountains of the Hindukush Range.

In Darshay village an ancient holy shrine (“mazar”) is decorated with skulls of ibexes and huge Marco Polo sheep from the Eastern Pamirs. Above the village remnants of an old castle stay above a narrow gorge cut deep into the rocks. Along the trail you will find petroglyphes – rock drawings of animals and inscriptions in Persian language. To pass a steep cliff at one site the narrow trail is hanging in the rocks. This “ovring” is well maintained by the local community and thus there is no need to worry while passing it. The hot spring at the other side valley is difficult to access and so far a bridge is made only in winter, when water level is low. Up in the mountains ruins of an ancient village testify about the long history of human settling in this area.

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If you are accompanied by a guide form “Yokuti Darshay” you will be shown the historical sites and you have good chances to see some wild animals, especially ibex and birds of prey. Wolf is common in the valley and while they never attack humans, you have to care that donkeys used for carrying luggage are not eaten overnight! The snow leopard is hardly seen, but its presence sometimes is shown by pugmarks, scrapes and other signs. There are plenty of various birds. Most often you will see dippers, various wagtails, Guldenstedt’s redstart, red-fronted serine and bullfinches.

For people interested in trekking and alpinism Darshay Gorge provides good opportunities. Via the gorge you can reach Peak Mayakovskiy (6,095 m). Or you can walk via the Darshaydavan pass (4,941 m, open June-November) to Shohdara Valley, which you will reach via Bodomdara Gorge, famous for its lapis lazuli mine.

In the village Darshay, you will be met by the members of the group running the conservancy with warm hospitality and you will have an opportunity to stay in the traditional Pamiri houses and to learn about the traditions of the local Wakhi people.

The nicest time is in summer, from June until End of September. Earlier the Wakhan Valley is already worth a visit, but the upper ranges of Darshaydara Gorge might still be blocked by snow. For observation of ibex late November/early December is a good time due to the rut.

Practical Information

How to get there?

The conservancy is located close to the River Pyanj, approximately 30 km east of Ishkashim. It includes the Darshaydara Gorge and two neighbouring gorges.

You can go by car to Darshay Village. From there you can hire donkeys are available for carrying luggage or for riding.

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Coordinates: 36.7946 N // 71.9963 E

Where to stay

Members of “Yokuti Darshay” provide home stay in their houses, e.g. at Munavvar Alidodov. He would also care that different NGO members can profit from tourism. There is a simple toilet and you can take a shower with hot water from a bucket in a simple bathroom. The food offered is of local Tajik style. In the mountains you can sleep in your tent or just enjoy the night under the stars. Good sights for camping are at the riverbanks where green meadows provide excellent grounds for tent. Clean drinking water is available from many springs and streams.

Guides

It is recommended to hire guides from “Yokuti Darshay”, but for simple trekking it is also possible to go by your own. The collaborators of “Yokuti Darshay” are excellent trekking guides and are able to show you the rare wildlife. For carrying the luggage they are usually able to assist you in hiring donkeys.

What to bring with you?

Bring with you trekking equipment including good shoes, binocular and photo equipment. For taking wildlife pictures you will need a large lens. The local guides also have binoculars and one spotting scope, which is essential for enjoying wildlife observations at long distances.

People provide local cuisine, but bringing some food is recommended as there is no shop.