Gobi desert motorcycle tour in Mongolia

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2017: 16 Aug
Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Gobi desert motorcycle tour in Mongolia

Motorcycle riding on roads in Mongolia requires off-road experience because outside Ulaanbaatar hardly any roads are black topped and may be classed as “off-road”. We follow the tracks used by local vehicles which are usually pot-holed hard-pack or rocky trails with few bridges to aid river crossings. We follow routes which are sometimes off the map, passing through remote parts of the country which are little travelled.

Travelling by motorbike means that you will take yourself through this country, directly exposed to the terrain and the weather conditions. You can breathe the pure mountain air as well as the dust of the Gobi Desert. When you meet local people you do so on the same level, not just as foreigners passing through in the relative comfort of a vehicle, but as someone who has chosen to experience the real thing. Yet unlike cycling, horse riding or hiking, you can get to see an enormous part of Mongolia in a relatively short space of time.

We have a strict set of guidelines, enforced by our experienced staff, which are intended to minimize negative environmental impact caused by motorbikes. Each person booking on the trip must read and agree to follow our “Guidelines on Motorbike Tours”. This includes the following section:

Our off-road motorcycle trips are intended to be a positive experience for all involved. The tour is not a race or competition and dangerous riding will not be tolerated. All participants are expected to respect the culture, nature and people of Mongolia.

It is our duty to travel through Mongolia without damaging its pristine environment, nor disrupting the lives of the local population and their animals. Sometimes we will be riding through National Parks and Natural Reserves where flora is protected by law. Sharp braking or spinning wheels will be frowned upon by the locals and damage the reputation of the Company. Arrival at camp signals the end of the riding day. Please do not continue riding round the area wasting petrol and damaging the ground.

Most of the roads we travel on are not black-topped, but clear trails are obvious. Straying away from the tracks risks damage to the environment and the motorcycle. Places which are or have been inhabited by nomadic families are likely to be surrounded by rubbish such as metal or bones which can easily damage the tyres. Additionally, if you divert from the trail to an area that cannot be accessed by the support vehicle, it will be difficult to rescue you in case of accident.

Despite the rules and regulations, this is a really fun tour and an opportunity to see how people manage to survive in this harsh environment. There are sure to be many opportunities to meet local people along the way and they will be as fascinated by you, your clothing and motorbikes as you are by them. They will have as many questions about your job / salary / marital status as you will have about their way of life. Mongolians are not impressed by wealth or beauty and well-travelled tourists will be interested to see that age is respected above race or profession. For example, if we are invited into a family home for tea, it would be normal for the older Mongolian driver to be served before the young English doctor / tourist. This is an old tradition based on family values and respect for the wisdom that comes with age.

The tradition of hospitality and sharing of news by passing travellers is such that a visit like this is quite normal within the culture and not viewed by the hosts as an imposition. We suggest to our clients that they bring photographs of their own homes to show and small gifts such as souvenirs from their own town. According to the situation, we may give a suitable amount of money to the host family. This would be done by the tour leader only and is taken to be a gift rather than payment for services given.

The group size will be small, not more than 9 people. This reduces the impact we have both socially and environmentally.

During the tour all nights are spent at ger camps, authentic ger tents set up for tourists and furnished with beds and a stove, with toilet and washing facilities on the site. The ger camps are owned, and have been developed by local entrepreneurs and the staff are all people from the vicinity or students from town, who benefit greatly from the opportunity to get a modest cash income during the short tourist season. Some of the ger camps use solar power to heat water for hot showers. Each ger has a wood-burning stove which staff will light if requested. We encourage our clients not to use this facility if it is not very cold because the fuel used is trees cut down in the nearby forests.

One or two places that we go to in the Gobi, for example Yoliin Am and Bayanzag, are the highlight of any tour to the Gobi and have quite a number of tourist visitors each day. This has encouraged a few local people to station themselves at these places and sell small souvenirs that they have made, for example wooden carvings or felt handcrafts. These make wonderful reminders of your holiday and in buying them you can be sure that you are making a positive contribution to the family who is selling the items. These people live in an almost cash-less economy and have little opportunity to make money to buy essentials such as flour and tea.

When passing through certain areas of Mongolia we are obliged to pay a “Protected Areas Service Fee” on behalf of each tourist (already included in price of tour). The fee contributes towards the following services: (i) introduction of the activities of the information centre and eco-ger and provision of information on legislation and security activities of the protected areas, (ii) regulation of camping places in these areas, (iii) to provide tourists with information, brochures, booklets and warnings, (iv) garbage disposal.

The staff on this tour are all Mongolian and their salaries make a considerable financial difference to their families since unemployment in Mongolia is high and for those employed by the State, salaries are low. People joining this tour will enjoy the riding, the country and the people in the knowledge that they are making a positive contribution to the local economy.

The company is owned and run by Mongolians with small offices in Mongolia, UK and Germany. The itinerary for this trip, and indeed the whole brochure, can be downloaded from our website, reducing the need for printing in most cases. Upon booking a tour, clients are given a Tour Dossier which includes a section on attitudes and behaviour. We explain some of the most important issues so that tourists will not be embarrassed nor locals offended. During the tour, the leader or interpreter will educate the group on the more important points of Mongolian etiquette so that everyone feels more comfortable when we enter a local home or temple.

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