Stunning photos of the Tsaatan reindeer herders of Mongolia, a dying culture

Tsaatan (31)Courtesy of Pascal MannaertsBaagii, a Mongolian reindeer herder, wearing the Tsaatan traditional dress.

Pascal Mannaerts
is a Belgian photographer whose work has taken him around the globe for the last 10 years.
He’s hung out with Qasqhai nomads in Iran, seen the bull jumping ritual of the Hamer tribes in Ethiopia, and visited an ancient Kurdish town that is about to disappear forever.

A recent trip saw him getting to know nomads in Mongolia — reindeer herders that live in northern Khövsgöl Aimag and are said to be a dying culture.

Keep scrolling to see breathtaking photos of this vanishing tribe:

The Dukha people, also known as the Tsaatans, have lived in the deep, remote forests of Mongolia for thousands of years.

Their lifestyle hasn't changed much in that time.

The nomads move from one pasture to the next every few weeks, between five and 10 times a year.

They depend on reindeer for almost everything: from cheese and milk to transportation, but they also use them to make clothes and tools.

However, they do not usually eat their animals, unless they are no longer capable of travelling.

That's because the connection between the Tsaatan and their reindeer is a spiritual one, too.

Reaching the tribe wasn't easy for Mannaerts.

In fact, he described them as being at the 'end of the world.'

It took two weeks to reach Khövsgöl lake by Jeep, where he met a Tsaatan nomad. From there, Mannaerts travelled on horse for another two days.

'The road on horse was not easy at all. We travelled first through deep and never-ending forests, then, once on the mountains, we passed through snowy mountain passes with snow storms, even though it was the middle of June'

'You can imagine how happy we were when we saw the first reindeers on the horizon, at the bottom of the valley,' he said.

Mannaerts spent a week with the nomadic tribe.

'I thought that the perfect coexistence that is between them and their animals and environment was so amazing,' he said.

'The Tsaatan people have evolved an extraordinary and unique way of life, dependent both on their reindeer and the forests where they hunt,' Mannaerts said.

They are one of the last tribes of their kind, and are considered a dying culture.

Once hundreds of families strong, only an estimated 40 remain today.

'I found it extraordinary that despite the different elements that would push them to change their nomadic way of life to go to live in the cities (more comfort, new generations wanting a more 'modern life'), the family where we were staying wanted to stay nomad against all odds,' he explained.

'We had a discussion with Bolorma, the mother of the family (we were staying with). We asked her what made her happy in life, and she simply replied that it was her children, her husband, and her animals. She was really moved by telling us that. It was so simple and beautiful.'

He said that the tribe welcomed him with open arms, and that they were incredibly hospitable.

'The whole experience was just amazing. It was really incredible to be lucky enough to meet them -- an unforgettable life experience.'

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