Back to category Published: 11 july 2022 Author: Zhanna Mukhatzhanova

Karagiye-Karakol Nature Reserve


Karagiye-Karakol Nature Reserve was founded in 1986 in the Mangystau Region to preserve the wildlife of the Karagiye Trench and Lake Karakol. The reserve’s flora is not very rich, as it encompasses mostly deserts. However, the reserve is home to many rare, endemic, and endangered animals such as Ustyurt argali, goitered gazelle, sand cat, Brandt’s hedgehog, Indian crested porcupine, black-bellied sandgrouse, and little bustard.

Lake Karakol

Lake Karakol is artificial – it was formed as a sump of the Mangystau nuclear power plant in 1967. The plant discharges clean warm water into the lake, so it does not freeze even in the coldest winters. As a result, Lake Karakol became inhabited by zooplankton, algae, crustaceans, and different species of fish. They eventually attracted migratory birds. Every spring and autumn, about 80 species of birds flock to Lake Karakol. Among them are mute swan, whooper swan, Dalmatian pelican, great white pelican, ruddy shelduck, great cormorant, heron, and glossy ibis.

Lake Karakol is mostly known for hosting pink flamingos. The lake was first visited by them in the autumn of 1970. Since then, the birds stopped there twice every year. In spring, they arrive in late February – early March and stay until late April – early May. In autumn/winter, the birds arrive in late November – early December. In November 2020, a flock of hundreds of pink flamingos visited the lake on their way from Lake Tengiz. Then they flew to the Hazar Nature Reserve in Turkmenistan and further to Iraq.

Фламинго на озере Караколь

How to get there?

Lake Karakol is located 10 km (6 mi) southeast of the city of Aktau, on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, northwest of the Karagiye Trench.

Karagiye Trench is a bit further from the city – 50 km (31 mi) away. From Aktau, drive towards the town of Zhanaozen. After you pass through the village of Mangyshlak, you will see a circular intersection where you need to choose the first exit. After 29 km (18 mi) there will be a turn to the trench. It should be borne in mind that the descent to its bottom is quite steep and rocky. The road there from Aktau will take a little over an hour.

Since the lake and the trench are protected territory, hunting is prohibited there, and tours are strictly regulated. The best way to visit is to book a tour. The organizers will take care of all necessary permissions and will show you the best spots for birdwatching. An experienced guide and a driver are also necessary because the terrain around the Karagiye Trench is full of dangerous crevices.

Other tourist attractions near the Karagiye-Karakol Nature Reserve:

   •    Caspian Sea
   •    Mangystau Nuclear Power Plant
   •    Stigl Beach Resort
   •    Tree of Life Beach Resort
   •    Sunset Beach Resort

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