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Tigrovaya Balka

It is two hours' drive south of Kurgan Teppa (around 70km)  and 167 km from Dushanbe to Tigrovaya Balka (Tiger Valley) that takes its name from the tigers for which the area was once famed. They are, sadly, long gone, but equipped with a reliable 4x4 (and preferably the services of a guide) it is still possible to see Saiga deer, wild boar, jackals and other wild dogs.

This is a well-managed National Park of 50,000 hectares of riparian woodland with 10 lakes next to the river Vakhsh. In 1898 the geographer W. Rickmer Rickmers visited the area nearby on a hunting trip. He reported "I always had a man with a 577 express at my elbow, for tigers are very plentiful, as I plainly saw from their tracks". There are none now. The last one was seen by park staff in 1954. However, it is claimed there are 45 species of animal, 214 types of birds and 480 plants.

There is a rich variety of animal life, including Bukhara and Saiga deer, hyenas, jackals, lynx, porcupine and wild boar. It is an excellent place for bird watching, particularly for hawks, falcons and waterfowl. There is a breed of flat fish unique to the area that grows to 100 kilograms. The habitat is a mixture of woodland, savannah, reed beds around the lakes and the great river Vakhsh is 400 m wide at this point.

There are 60 km of reasonable dirt roads within the park - a four wheel drive is to be preferred, particularly in the autumn wet season. There is a museum outside the gates containing tableaux of stuffed specimens of the species to be found in the park. The best time to visit is the spring and autumn.

It is not possible to gain entrance to the park without a permit. This can only be obtained from the office of The Protection of National Parks in Dushanbe at 64, Druzhba Narodov, near the Russian Orthodox Church, on Aini Road, the main road going east from Dushanbe to Kafirnihan. Tel: +992 372 262421 and +992 372 2261243. The cost of a permit is a steep 150 somonis (about US$40) and it is best to allow at least three days for it to be processed.

The park can done in a same day trip from Dushanbe, but to appreciate the park it would be worth travelling to Jilikul, staying a night at a homestay and visiting the park the following day.