It all started when i contacted Nick Bondarev, a Russian expedition photographer who often travels to remote destinations. I saw that he had planned an expedition to Mongolia to photograph and interact with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters, so i decided to reach out without much expectations to see if there was any chance in which i could join.
Turns out the day after we did a Skype call and he was happy to make me part of the group. I met Nick at the airport of Novosibirsk in Siberia, three months later. We stayed one night there to get to know each other more, and the morning after we left for the Mongolia.
We drove 1000 km crossing part of Siberia and the Altay Region to reach the border with Mongolia. After two days of what it seemed like an endless car ride, we finally arrived to Mongolia.
I’d like to introduce you to Arman, he is one of the last eagle hunters left in the world. There are no more than 200 hunters left in the world and most of them are concentrated in this area.
During the expedition I had the opportunity to be invited as a guest into a traditional Kazakh’s Yurtha ( a typical mongolian tent), in the middle of the remote Ulgii region.
Spending time with them opened my eyes to what is left from the fascinating Kazakh culture. After sharing a traditional meal prepared by them, the lighting seemed ideal to capture a portrait.
What amazed me the most about the eagle hunters is their determination to keep the cultural custom of hunting with eagles alivewithin our ever-changing world.
Their relationship starts from the moment these hunters capture the eaglet from it’s nest, and develops into a 5 year training, forming a bond I find unexplainable in words.
The hunter and his eagle usually remain united for as long as 10 years, until the moment the birds are set free to nest and live their expected remaining 20 years in freedom.
With this picture I tried to capture the intimate bond between the eagle and the hunter.
The cap you see the eagle wearing in this picture is used to keep them calm when they are not hunting.
The horses are the last essentials a Kazakh nomad needs. These 3 allies gallop the mountains of Mongolia hunting with their skills in perfect harmony.
The eagle hunters usually trail in small groups of approximately 3, striding around the ridge of the mountains in order to have a more prominent view.
Once the prey is spotted by a hunter, he removes the eagle’s ‘’cap’’ and she immediately understands it is time to charge.
If the eagle manages to catch the prey, before it even has a chance to eat it, the hunter will take it from her. Once properly ‘’skinned’’, the hunter will then give the meat back to the eagle as a reward, thus solidifying their inspiring relationship.
Driving in Mongolia was not easy. As most of it’s roads are unpaved, driving there means following tracks of cars that have previously passed that same path, meaning it is not hard to get lost.
Our travel companion was an old Toyota Land Cruiser that never failed us throughout more than 3 thousand kilometres traveled under the unpredictable Mongolian weather, which would drastically change from clear skies to a blinding sub-zero snowstorm in a matter of minutes. I learned how it is crucial to always be prepared in situations like these to face the unexpected.