Latest posts by Mitra Gholami (see all)
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My Experiences of Iran Wildlife Tours
I had already heard of Iran’s wildlife and the many protected areas in the country from some of my friends and their stories had quite pushed me for the decision to set out on this journey and make my own memories out of it. The experiences you get to have in the heart of nature are essentially unexpected and that is why this journey was mesmerizing to me. The interactive opportunities that I had with rangers and with those people concerned with wildlife conservation were of the precious features of my adventure in the protected areas and national parks of Iran. I owe much of my exciting experiences to those dedicated people.
Part One: Golestan National Park
In the first hours I was spending in the wild frontiers located in the north-eastern corner of Iran, I was stunned to see the beautiful sceneries and landscapes within; I mean, Golestan National Park was really a surprising mixture of any landscapes you could think of. Although encircled with many villages, the park itself and everything within the circle of its territory was left quite unspoiled and untouched. The whole place was actually a safe haven for the wild animals taking shelter among these wild frontiers and that’s all because of the dedicated rangers living their life in this park far away from their families. About 40 wildlife rangers are guarding the Golestan National Park and fortunately, about 30 more guards are volunteering for the job.
Moving further I saw red deer, wild boars, wild goats, and even the footprints of Persian leopards. The time I set out on this journey coincided with the greenery and blessing of the spring and the time I could see the baby gazelles playing with each other. The ranger I was wandering with was a youth volunteered for the job and his name was Peyman. As we were roaming through the plains, I suspected to see a gazelle jumping up and down. Peyman told me that it’s a mother goitered gazelle trying to distract our attention from her little fawns that are hidden behind the shrubs. With Peyman’s help, we kept ourselves hidden and the fawns, feeling safe again, came out and danced with the sound of nature.
Reaching out to even higher plains I was mesmerized by the mixture of greeneries and oceans of clouds. In the way, we could see even more wild animals, birds, raptors like the golden eagle, and the legendary Huma bird (Bearded vulture). It was really interesting for me to learn that the bearded vulture has found a culturally important place in Persian literature and history as a blissful creature. Once or twice, Peyman showed me deer and urial sheep from a long distance. At first, I was not actually able to observe them through my binoculars. However, Peyman’s eyes were trained to notice these wild creatures concealing themselves in the hands of nature and helped me focus my binoculars on them.
Tales of the Rangers
I should mention that one of the feelings I most enjoyed during my experience was the intimacy I had found in getting along with my horse. Roaming with the rangers, you can choose to ride on a horse to wander in the national parks. It wasn’t my first time to ride a horse, but it can be a nice, challenging experience for someone who has not tried it before (the rangers will provide beginners with some training if they’re willing to). Cars are also the other option, and I must say that parts of this travel must be carried out with the cars, not on horses. Later, I asked Peyman about the conflicts and concerns of a ranger in Iran. He told me that their main concern is illegal poaching in protected areas.
Later that day, we made a camp and drank mountain tea while watching the sun sinking down. Peyman told me about himself and his passion for wildlife and its preservation. Thousands of stars twinkled at us and every once in a while a starlet flashed upon the sky. There are a number of ecolodges in the park but we spent that night in Peyman’s camp and tent. Still, before sleep, my thoughts were obsessed with the difficulties of rangers. I actually admire their courage and passion for the job despite all the troubles.
The next day, Peyman told me about the mating season in autumn as we were wandering in the mountainous areas of the park. On this day we saw more urial sheep and Persian ibexes. Peyman told me about the Urial rutting season and how its accurate time relies heavily on the weather. During the ten days of the rutting season, these male creatures run a big fight over females and the strongest and biggest ones win more females to mate with. He told me that this instinctive battle is a good opportunity for the rangers to take a census. On the other hand, their job is going to be a bit difficult since the poachers are also taking advantage of the situation. Peyman said that hearing the sound of big horns crashing into each other and seeing these customs among these creatures is a great pleasure of his job. I was also eager to experience as he was narrating it.
Further, I was astonished to see a great herd of urial sheep from a distance of four hundred meters. Peyman suggested moving closer and I couldn’t be more willing to accept. Eager to see these beautiful creatures, I followed as Peyman told me to do. We had to take lighter steps and make no sound while moving against the wind so that they won’t hear and smell us. It was a memorable experience for me to see hundreds of them from a 50m distance. I then wondered if the delicate charms of being a ranger and the close relation he has with the wild nature.
Peyman had told me that we might see a Persian leopard if we’re lucky enough. As we were passing through the grasslands, we saw another footprint of a Persian leopard. Obviously, it’s not very probable to see one of them. As we went on and I was enjoying the scenery, Peyman pointed out a particular spot between the juniper trees and told me that he has an interesting video of the same spot on his phone. Curious enough, I asked him to show me the video. He had recorded a brown bear with its two cubs jumping over each other in the long grasses and it was really interesting to watch. In the next few hours, we heard gunshots and found out that a ranger had attempted to arrest one of the poachers and was fortunately successful to stop him. Later, we heard that the rangers found a goat’s flesh and head in his house and I wondered why on earth would people do such a cruel act to animals!
Part Two: Tandoureh National Park
Throughout the night, we hit the road toward Tandoureh National Park and met our destination in about 5 hours. I discovered much more about the wildlife of Iran in Tandoureh National Park and I was even more surprised this time to see how nature and steppes had remained pristine and unspoiled; there were no house buildings and no extra land use. Tandoureh National Park is known as the home to the largest population of Persian leopards.
We decided to rest for some time in a conservation camp. Here, Peyman introduced Mohammad to me. Mohammad told me that he’s one of the researchers at the University of Oxford and he’s here doing more research on the Persian leopards. Peyman said that Mohammad has also collaborated with Visit Our Iran and together, they aim for protecting wildlife through the development of sustainable tourism. I was honored to keep his company throughout the day and hear his recent memory of a Persian leopard. He narrated that one night, he and his friends were close to the field where the horses were kept, and they suddenly realized that a Persian leopard was in ambush for the horses. He said that they decided to stay in the car and keep its light on the leopard so that it would know that they’re there and prevent its attack on the horses. It was really interesting because he said: “ The Persian leopard was also trying to trick us by pretending to have fallen asleep. As long as we turned off the light, it would raise its head to see if we’re gone. Our night passed watching over the horses and we couldn’t sleep much. we had to make sure that the leopard is not going to hurt them.”
That night, I was actually very sad to acknowledge the end of this journey. Still, I’m sure that I’m looking forward to experiencing more of this wild, unknown lands with all their emotional and exciting stories. In my adventure in Golestan and Tandoureh National Park, I heard about many other protected areas and national parks in Iran and I wish to explore those as well. Iran has definitely a lot of hidden treasures to be discovered.