Meet Our Members
Learn the stories behind the people you'll meet.
Destination South Shore is more than an organization — it’s a community-led movement to use tourism as a force for positive change and preservation of cultural traditions in this region of Kyrgyzstan. The members of the South Shore community have created a growing tourism industry that benefits the entire community while also giving tourists a unique chance to experience rural life and living cultural traditions in Kyrgyzstan. Meet the founding members of this organization who are making a difference.
Destination South Shore Founding Members
President and Founder, Salbuurun Federation
After reaching the highest levels of achievement in wrestling, Almaz Akunov decided shift his passion to researching and practicing Salbuurun. This is an ancient and traditional form of Kyrgyz hunting that involves three animals: golden eagle, horse, and taigan dog. For a decade, Almaz assembled information from elders, archives, notes, and memories — information that many had assumed been lost during the era of the Soviet Union. From that extensive research, Almaz restored traditional methods of animal breeding training, as well as archery. In 2006, Almaz registered the Salbuurun Federation, which now has more than 200 members and regularly organizes national and international competitions in traditional hunting, falconry, and archery.
Jyldyz founded her Felt-Art Studio after the fall of the Soviet Union. Before that, she graduated Tynystanov University in Karakol with a degree in art, and taught art at a vocational school in Bokonbaevo. She is a strong social advocate for women's rights and rural development, particularly through tourism and small business entrepreneurship. She has gained international recognition and support for her skill in the traditional crafts of Kyrgyzstan, particularly shyrdaks, the felt rugs and wall coverings you see throughout the country. She regularly attends crafts workshops in Europe and the U.S., and also represents Kyrgyzstan’s strong cultural history at international tourism events.
Owner, Manjyly-Ata Yurt Camp
Bakyt has a deep passion for environmental advocacy work and he is one of the driving forces behind South Shore’s ecological and biocultural diversity preservation efforts. After graduating with a degree in economics from his university in Bishkek, Bakyt promptly returned to South Shore. He has devoted his life to researching the local ecology, preserving traditional knowledge, and increasing tourism to important sacred sites in Kyrgyzstan, but also across Central Asia. His yurt-camp is located in the beautiful Manjyly-Ata gorge and near the sacred site of Manjyly-Ata hill.
Founder, Altyn Oimok Crafts Studio (Golden Thimble)
In 1998, Janyl founded Altyn Oimok (Golden Thimble), an NGO organization dedicated to preserving traditional crafts by employing women from economically vulnerable communities. More than 30 women from the region produce high-quality felt shyrdaks and exclusive souvenirs that her NGO exports globally. She holds a UNESCO Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts, which honors her exquisite work in felted crafts. She has also participated in crafts fairs all over the world, including a USAID BGI-funded trip in 2017 to the world’s largest annual folk art festival, the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Manager, Community Based Tourism Bokonbaevo
Saltanat graduated with a degree in pedagogy and worked as a school teacher until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Looking for new possibilities, she ran a café and became interested in the tourism sector. Three years ago, Saltanat began managing the Community Based Tourism (CBT) initiative in Bokonbaevo, and she has helped grow CBT into one of the strongest institutions in the region. During her tenure, Saltanat has shifted the local CBT office to a strong focus on sustainability and brought it increased financial prosperity. Her managerial experience contributed significantly to establishing Destination South Shore — she was an early supporter and founding member.
Owner, Jaichy Ranch and Yurt-camp
Baatyr graduated from vocational school in Naryn and is one of the most knowledgeable agronomists and cattle-breeders in the region. For the past ten years, he has run the Jaichy Ranch and Yurt Camp, which has quickly become famous in the region for its focus on organic food and its merino sheep shearing classes each spring. Additionally, Baatyr hosts the Birds of Prey Festival every summer at his ranch in Bokonbaevo, which attracts hundreds of tourists from over 20 countries.
Owner, Yurt Camp Bel-Tam
Aida graduated from law school in Bishkek and worked as a promising lawyer, even once her family moved to South Shore. She strove to balance her career while setting up a family house. Her passions eventually changed, and 17 years ago she founded Yurt Camp Bel-Tam on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, with a goal to make the camp a special environment. Guests enjoy clean nature, mountains, rivers, and remoteness from civilization — all of which make it easy to relax and emotionally rest. In 2017, she won ‘Best Yurt Camp’ at the Kyrgyz National Tourism Awards.
Gulmira Tilebaldy Kyzy
Owner, Guest House EMILY
Gulmira worked as a university teacher in Bishkek until she married Almaz, a wood crafts master, and they decided to move back to their native village, Bokonbaevo. They built a house and furnished it with Almaz’s hand-made furniture. And since there are few employment opportunities in the area, besides cattle breeding and agriculture, Gulmira and Almaz decided to host tourists. They modernized their family household into a guest house and for three years now, Guest House EMILY has hosted travelers from all over the world.
Owner, Meiman Ordo Yurt Camp
Urmat has degrees in both economics and law, which have played a pivotal role in helping him found a network of successful tourism businesses. He established and owns a number businesses throughout the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, included a café, shop, hotel, and yurt camp. Urmat focused his businesses on achieving high rates of client satisfaction by using quality products and offering strong service standards. Hundreds of tourists book his yurt camp and hotel each season, and their feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with many planning to stay there on their next visit to Kyrgyzstan.
Trekking Manager, Community Based Tourism Bokonbaevo
After graduating from Bishkek Humanities University, Alybek returned to his native village, Bokonbaevo, and joined the CBT. He has worked as a guide in the region since 2012, and through his work he has led treks and traveled through most of Issyk-Kul, Kochkor, and Naryn. Because of his impressive knowledge, guiding skills, and fluent English, Alybek was promoted to CBT Trekking Manager. Alybek is a certified guide, and also an instructor for trekking, skiing, and horseback riding. He has vast experience in tour product development, tourism promotion, and has significant tenure at international trekking institutions. Alybek also helps his family run the Guljan Guest House and hostel.
Founder, Kyzyl-Tuu Craftsman Village
Tolosun has a number of positions and responsibilities at various organizations in South Shore. He manages the Min Kiyal Public Crafts Foundation, leads the Kyzyl-Tuu Craftsmen Village, and also coordinates crafts and yurt-building classes for tourists. After the World Nomad Games in 2016, he and his team became famous for their impressive speed yurt- construction show. They also have a worldwide reputation for manufacturing high-quality yurts. He successfully uses ethno-cultural tourism to assist in the preservation of traditional crafts. Tolosun plans to open a small ethnographic museum in the village to contain pieces of Kyrgyzstan’s unique cultural heritage.
Executive Manager, Destination South Shore
Begimay has a master’s degree in marketing and professional experience in event management and advertisement. She was unanimously elected as Executive Manager of Destination South Shore by its members. Under her direct supervision Destination South Shore was officially registered as a public union. She has helped design and develop tour products and has worked extensively with local and international media. She is committed to using the destination’s cultural heritage assets to increase tourism and to ensure that this increase lifts the economy for all communities throughout South Shore. Begimay speaks fluent Russian and Turkish, and speaks intermediate English.