Tugay forests

Tugay forests
Photo by Roman Bruehwiler.

The Tugay Forests of the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve represent one of the largest remaining tugay ecosystems, a form of riparian forest associated with fluvial and floodplain areas in arid climates.

The reserve is irrigated by the Vakhsh and Panj rivers, with numerous meanders and cut-off bodies of water. The natural landscape holds the sandy Kashka-Kum desert on one hand and tugay forest with numerous lakes on the other hand. The area is the habitat of salt-tolerant trees such as the Asiatic Poplar and wildlife like Bactrian Deer, Goitered Gazelle and Striped Hyena.

Community Perspective: Szucs Tamas tells about his ordeals to reach it, and concludes: DO NOT GO THERE. 

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Szucs Tamas

Hungary - 04-Sep-23 -

Tugay forests by Szucs Tamas

To get to Tigrovaya Balka you need quite a lot of preparation, stamina, private transport ( the closest sizeable city is Bokhtar/Qurghonteppa) , and at least a basic knowledge of Russian/Persian, but - believe me - does not worth the effort. First you need a good local connection/fixer, as you need - as we understood - two type of permits. One from the OVIR (Ministry of Interior), where it is clearly stated which part of the border area you want to visit.  A general "border pass" from the OVIR is not enough, Tigrovaya Balka has to be stated on the paper. On the other hand you have to get the permit from the office of the National Parks from Dushzambe (64 Druzhba narodov, near the Orthodox Church). Finally you have to register at the border protection agency in the nearest village (Dusti), and make a copy of your passport (the border guards do not have a photocopy machine). If you have an aforementioned good fixer, he can prepare these papers beforehand, and with these - after the registration - you can easily visit the site. We had a bad one who did not prepare the necessary papers so we had to wait three hours in front of a closed door, waiting for the proper papers to be sent there. During this time we visited the museum - it took not more than 20 minutes even if we read all the panels. It's only three rooms, some soviet era oversaturated photos, some stuffed animals, and long texts about the unique biodiversity. An elderly guy,  who spoke decent Russian promissed to show us some birds in case we can get into the park, but had not enough patience to wait for all the paperwork to be done. Finally we got into the park, and it was really underwhelming. Yes, there are forests and swamps - lakes, and you can go to some of moderately scenic points on dirt roads, but except for some birds (I'm not into bird watching, I do not know their type - they were grey and uninteresting), we haven't seen any wildlife. It may be due to the inappropriate timing - we were there in the early afternoon, in summer, when the whole park is hot like hell and dusty. The guy who accompanied us said, that early morning you can see deer.  The saddest place was a rotting, dilapidated cage where some birds were kept - ducks, pheasants, and a sad lonely female peacock. The guards told us, that the male one died some years ago, and they do not have enough money to buy a new one. And what about the tigers? In the 19th century there were plenty of them, the last living was seen in 1954, but two plastic ones are still visible on the way to the reserve, though their coulors are fading away.  In conclusion: the visitor experience is zero or even below. Unless you are a real enthusiast and want to bag another WHS (if it gets inscibed), DO NOT GO THERE.