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Home » Altyn-Emel national natural park. Аmaty province. Southern Kazakhstan.

Singing dunes.

Excursion trip on Singing barchan in park the Altyn-Emel.

А nother unique wonder of nature is the Singing Sands, 220 km north-east of AImaty, on the right bank of the Ili River. In dry weather this sand-dune emits а sound like an organ playing. The Singing Sands make an impression.
The humming and vibration are caused by the scarcely perceptible movement sliding down the slope. The friction caused by the movement оf the dry grains of sand, combined with the dry air, electrifies them, causing the vibration.
Because of the surrounding favourable resonant conditions, powerful sound waves are produced which, bouncing off the solid ground, also cause the dune to vibrate. The sound can be heard from several kilometres away.
The dune does not "sing" in wet weather. There are two sandstone hills, Big and Littel Kalkan, whic hare over 120 m high and 4 km long. Despite the looseness of the sand and the strong winds, the singing dune does not move around the plain but has remained in the same place for millennia. Its south-western slope is smooth while the opposite north-eastern side has several ridges with gentle inclines.
The dune has а sharp ridge with several protruding peaks, so it is actually possible to ski down it. They аге called the Singing Dunes, since if оnе walks along their summits, оnе can hear а humming and droning sound which reminds оnе of an aeroplane about to take off of an organ being played in а monotonous way, the sand "works".
Although not all tourists treat the place in а respectful manner (there аге even snowboard contests organized on its slopes), it is not eroding. Тhе phenomenon is being explained by winds from different directions that meet at this spot, and continue to leave sands from remote desert lands on it.
The dunes аге situated on the right bank of the Ili up from the Kapshagay reservoir, at the foot of Mount Ulken Kalkan in the national park of Altyn Еmel (Golden Saddle). It is here where Dzhingiz-Кhan with his hosts is said to have broken through in the year 1219.
In dry weather this sand-dune emits a sound like an organ playing. The Singing Sands make an unforgettable impression. The humming and vibration are caused by the scarcely perceptible movement of sand sliding down the slope.
The Singing barchans, landscape nature sanctuary, is one of favorite visiting places of tourists. It is located between mountains Small and Big Kalkana. Similar natural phenomena in the world can be met no more than ten in China, Russia, Arabia and America.
During many years geographers try to guess the origin of the sandy barchans that are unnatural for local rocky-steppe area. Some people assert that it is grains of sand from the Ili River; others suppose that the barchans are result of strange game of a wind rose.
Sounds, which are uttered in dry weather by the sandy mountain, which height is 150 meters, are for scientists a riddle. The sound reminds sometimes organ music, sometimes a rumble of a jet plane. Physics try to explain sounding of the barchans by friction of dry sand grains because of a wind and crystal electrization. But local inhabitants have own versions.
According to one of them soul of a malicious spirit pines inside the barchans, other it is ostensibly bewitched beauty. There is a tradition, that at a person who will rise on top of drift sands, a treasured desire will come true; if someone from travelers lost here his/her way, he/her is a great sinner.
Directly at bottom of the barchans there is a well-known spring with crystal clear water. Among people it is famous as sacred spring that has healing force and cures many illnesses. In this place Chokan Valikhanov stopped during his travel from Russia to Kashgaria to halt. So the surprising oasis has appeared in his notes, and was named later as Valikhanov.
The friction caused by the movement of the dry grains of sand, combined with the dry air, electrifies them, causing the vibration. Because of the surrounding favourable resonant conditions, powerful sound waves are produced which, bouncing off the solid ground, also cause the dune to vibrate. The sound can be heard from several kilometres away. The dune does not "sing" in wet weather.
There are two sandstone hills,big and Little Kalkan, which are over 120 m high and 4 km long. Despite the looseness of the sand and the strong winds, the singing dune does not move around the plain but has remained in the same place for millennia. Its south-western slope is smooth while the opposite north-eastern side has several ridges with gentle inclines.
The dune has a sharp ridge with several protruding peaks, so it is actually possible to ski down it. After having passed the small forest, оnе саn already see the dunes оп the horizon. The easiest way to climb the dunes is along their northern slope. Оnе has аn impressive view over the steppe, the multi-colored mountains, the Ili plain and the dunes themselves.
When the soil is dry and the wind blows from the west, оnе can hear the sand sing. In order to reach the Singing Dunes оnе can also take the Taldykorgan road over the pass of Arkharly (190 kilometer) till the village of Saryosek and from there another 80 kilometer along the road to Zharkent, over the picturesque pass of Altyn Еmel to Basshy, а village on the right side of the track, about ten kilometer after the pass. Here is also the direction of the national park; in an annexe there is also а small hotel.
Оnе pays one's entry and passing а camel farm one follows the simple track for about 50 kilometer to the dunes. This road is longer, but somewhat more comfortable. Оnе should also hire а guide who skillfully leads the way through the vast area and оп the way shows the rare kulans and dzheyrans.
The way to the area goes along much of that to the Singing Dunes, passing Sarybek and Basshy - only from there towards the southeast. Since the road is far from simple, оnе should not hesitate to hire а guide from the national park.

Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.Singing dunes in Altyn-Emel park.

Authority:
The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick.   Publishing house "Odyssey".2010. 

Photos
 Alexander Petrov.