You’ve heard of people hunting with hawks and falcons, of course, but what about eagles? In Kazakhstan and other nearby countries, hunting with golden eagles, called berkutchy, is an ancient tradition that goes back centuries.
However, it’s also a tradition that’s become very rare. According to this article on the Epoch Times, there are only about 50 professional eagle hunters left in the entire country. When the Soviets took control of Kazakhstan, people’s traditional nomadic way of life was disrupted and eagle hunting was banned.
Now, Kazakhstan is independent. Given how fast the country has modernized itself, you might not expect a traditional sport like eagle hunting to be making a comeback, but you would be wrong. Eagle hunting is one way for the Kazakh people to keep in touch with their nomadic past, and it is actually growing in popularity.
Government official Yepemes Alimkhanov told the Epoch Times that during the Soviet era, there was “Hunger, repression, collectivisation. People had no time to worry about their eagles. It was a tragedy. But the tradition is coming back. Our sons and daughters have inherited it.”
The hunt itself is an amazing spectacle. The eagles, which can have wingspans that measure more than 6 feet across, can dive for prey (usually rabbits or foxes) at 190 miles per hour.
To the see the golden eagles hunt, you must visit Kazakstan, preferably during winter. US citizens need both a valid passport and a Kazakhstan visa. You must apply for your Kazakhstan visa in advance-they are not issued at the border. Here are the documents needed to get a tourist visa:
- One Kazakhstan visa application form
- 1 passport-sized photo
- A cover letter detailing your travel plans and dates in Kazakhstan. Applicants can write this out themselves if they are staying for less than 30 days. For longer stays, your host must get an invitation letter for you from the Kazakhstan department of foreign affairs.
Also, keep in mind that you may need a visa if you stop in another country along the way, even if it’s just in the airport. RushMyTravelVisa.com can help you research your trip and apply for your Kazakhstan visa, as well as any other visas you require.