The biggest reserve in Kazakhstan is the Korgalzhin National Park. Situated about 130 kilometers away from the capital city of Astana, Korgalzhin National Park is most popular for its vast feather-grass steppe that is more than 250,000-hectares wide. It also covers 198,000 hectares of water-land with water that is 5-6 times more mineralized than the Ocean saltwater. The park’s water-land area alone is larger than the Zheneva Lake. Stretching to connect two large lakes, the Tengiz and Korgalzhin, Korgalzhin National Park is the home of 82 species of birds, 33 of which are included in Kazakhstan’s “Red Book” of endangered animals. These birds needing protection are the crane, black lark, great bustard, gyrfalcon, steppe windhover and the beautiful pink flamingo.
If not for the Korgalzhin Village, Korgalzhin nature reserve should have completely been just an enormous open area. Many tourists do not consider the almost-barren landscape as an attraction at all. Nature lovers, however, understand the importance of steppes in maintaining the balance in nature. Nature aficionados are fascinated by the sight of a wide grassland area that changes its shades through the seasons and as grass flowers bloom. The park is so huge that passersby could be driving for two hours through nothing but dry steppe, which is exactly what Kazakhstan is known for. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world, with the ocean about 3,000 kilometers away. Known as “The Giant of Central Asia,” Kazakhstan is the largest former Soviet Union state; it is so huge that its major cities of Astana, Almaty, Atyrau and Karaganda are hundreds of kilometers and hours of train travel apart. Aside from the steppes, the country features mountains, the most popular of which is Tien Shen Mountain, forests, nature reserves, lakes, caves, hills, springs and canyons, particularly the Charyn Canyon which many compare with the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.
Sharing borders with Russia, China and other countries in Central Asia, Kazakhstan stretches north to freezing Siberia and south to arid Middle East. Korgalzhin National Park is located somewhere in the middle where it is neither extremely cold, although it sometimes drops to -17°C in winter, nor extremely hot. Average temperature in summer is 20°C. It is also near Nura River, the only water artery running across the country. Within the tireless plain landscape of the park is a lake that is often visited by migrating birds; an oasis in the middle of nowhere. For six months each year, the park is quiet, undisturbed and almost in a state of drought, disturbed only by the sound of the wind and occasional wailing of wolves. Korgalzhin, however, lights up in spring as tulips, irises, geraniums, onions and buttercups begin to color the landscape. The best months to visit the park are April and May.
In 1974, the Ramsar Convention on the Protection of Water Fowls confirmed the importance of Korgalzhin National Park that it is not at all just a boring open space. In 2000, UNESCO acknowledges the importance the biggest Kazakhstan natural reserve, specifically its two lakes, Tengiz and Korgalzhin as two “living lakes” in the Global Nature territory of Kazakhstan. The lakes’ marsh lands are rich in fish and animals, and visited by 26 species of water fowls.