Turkmen Eco Lodge in Iran's Golestan National Park

Turkmen Eco lodge  in Golestan National Park
Turkmen Eco lodge  in Golestan National Park

The sound of the ‘gukal’, an exotic instrument made from deer horn, can be heard when traveling to the Turkmen Eco lodge between September and October during the deer mating season.

The person playing the Gukal is a hunter turned environmentalist. It only takes a couple of minutes before a deer will appear before you, drawn to the lodge by the sound of the horn.

This is just one of many programs that await visitors who choose Turkmen Eco lodge as their destination. It is located in a small traditional Turkmen village of Tootly Tamak, Kalaleh County – Golestan Province.  

It is a new place dedicated to nature, heritage, hospitality, and cooking, on the foothills of the Baylee Mountain, and walking distance to the Golestan national park, a 92,000 hectares nature reserve. The lodge is the perfect place in the heart of this ancient land where the relaxing pace of life, the flavors, tradition and heritage are all to be relished.

The main aim of the lodge, apart from providing tourists with a second to none authentic ecological experience, is raising awareness about Golestan National Park and the necessity and importance of safeguarding National Parks and ecology in general by promoting responsible tourism as a new trend in Iran.

It also supports the local community by creating jobs, thus preventing them from damaging nature for their livelihood, and through environmental education, transforms local residents from foes to friends of the rich ecology of the Golestan National Park.

 Responsible tourism activities

They reach their objectives through a number of activities including: a wildlife tour (e.g. Red Deer call and Persian Leopard), wildlife photography walks, trekking, eco-safari, hiking, rural museum, kids eco-camp, etc.

In the four years since it began, the lodge has hosted 1500 visitors. As Kamran Anvari and Forugh Vahab-zadeh put it, “responsible Ecotourism may not be the most profitable profession, but aside from the income, we hope to increase people’s awareness of this type of tourism.”

Responsible tourism goes far beyond just not littering the environment. Responsible tourists observe codes of conduct, and avoid adverse impact on the residents as well as the park. For instance, they do not wear eye-catching bright colors and do not speak loudly as it may disturb some of the animals sharing the National Park as habitat. They respect the culture of the native residents and try to benefit the locals by purchasing local products.

Turkmen Eco lodge has been active in this area as well. They themselves observe the code of conduct and work hard in promoting it. They recycle, compost, and work with residents to reuse plastic and glass bottles. The lodge’s own garden provides vegetables and fruits, which are grown without using fertilizers or pesticides. More than 50 local people work with the eco lodge and provide a variety of services including, making hand crafts, cooking, and acting as local guides or animal trackers.

They work in a manner to build the trust of villagers in order to boost collaboration with the lodge activities. Visitors are not allowed to enter the village or farms without a local guide and unauthorized photography is not permitted.

The name of Turkmen Eco lodge has been recently registered in the Lonely Planet travel guide book.