Eight kilometres south of Kizyl-Bas/Say-Utes is Sor Tuzbair, a salt marsh stretching for 15 km along the edge of the Western Chink Ustyurt. Along with Boszhira, it’s one of Mangystau’s most recognisable and visited natural landscapes.

Wide view of Sor Tuzbair from the plateau.
The far western end of Sor Tuzbair.
© Matthew Traver
Satellite image showing Sor Tuzbair in relation to Kaydak Bay and Ushtagan.
Map Data: Google, © 2021 Landsat / Copernicus

The most defining feature of Tuzbair is its vast expanse of salt flats backed by water-worn, chalk-white cliffs. Until 21 million years ago, the area was part of the Tethys Sea. If you poke around the slopes and rock faces, you’ll find belemnite, ammonite shells and numerous other fossilised marine organisms. There are even shark teeth to discover, such as from the Parotodus mangyshlakensis, which is an extinct genus of the mackerel shark and highly sought after by fossil collectors.

Small shark tooth.
Small shark's tooth.
© Matthew Traver
Small piece of petrified wood.
A small chunk of petrified wood.
© Matthew Traver
A belemnite fossil.
Cross-section of belemnite.
© Matthew Traver

From the Western Chink Ustyurt –which extends from the Karynzharyk Depression in the south to northern Kaydak Bay– there are three dirt roads leading to the salt marsh. The closest is near to Kertt salt spring and the other two, in the Bagda and Baurbas ravines, are 15+ km to east. Don’t venture onto the salt flats with your car, unless you’re an experienced off-roader, as the area is prone to flash flooding and it’s easy to get stuck in sections of thick mud.

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  • Sor Tuzbair (KAZ—Сор Тузбаир): 44.02484708292503, 53.1969727039733
  • Kizyl-Bas/Say-Utes: (KAZ—Қызыл-Бас / Сай-Утес): 44.10611506736469, 53.20010426441373
  • Kertt salt spring (RUS—Родник Кертты): 44.0332291125017, 53.410060428240456
  • Bagda ravine (RUS—Овраг Багда): 43.94889324747654, 53.61312634547545
  • Baurbas ravine (RUS—Овраг Баурбас): 43.93919803390092, 53.6922197508533