Where the Flamingos Roam
I’ve had this draft post for a while and never managed to find time to fill it out. This is another great place to not too far from Astana: Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve. It’s a few hours west of Astana out the Kurgalzhino Highway. Getting there is a bit difficult because you have to go to Akmola Tourist Agency in Astana (in the Abay Hotel on the corner of Respublika and Seifulin) and either set up a tour with them or get a permit to go independently. You then have to go out to the village of Korgalzhyn and have your permit stamped by the regional officials before you can enter the Nature Reserve itself. If you go with your own car, you must stop at the main gate and a guide will get into the car with you and take you around.
Korgalzhyn is the northernmost point of migration for flamingos and you should definitely ask your guide to try to find some for you. But as you drive around, you’ll see hawks and eagles sitting on the ground or perched on electric wires. Swan and ducks swim in beautiful and picturesque lakes. Last time we were there we saw a dust cloud behind us that slowly but surely overtook our car, then suddenly swerved and passed us going the other way. The driver told us it was saigak, a native species of elk that can run over 80 km/h. The reserve really feels like being on safari, since you are in among the animals.
You can also see Kunayev’s guesthouse from when he was head of the Kazakh SSR and there’s some guesthouses and a small cafe as well. It’s definitely worth staying overnight to try to see as much of the reserve as you can.
GPS of Main Gate: 50.5259N, 69.6965E
GPS of Flamingo Lake: 50.6047N, 69.5388E
GPS of Hotel: 50.477N, 69.5429E
GPS of turn off the main road to get there: 50.6381N, 70.0475E