The Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve is the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia. It is located in the southern province of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It covers the north-western mountain chains of the Tian Shan. Its name is derived from the biggest river in the area, the Aksu, and the mountain chain Zhabagly which is located in the northern part of the area.
The Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve is located in the western mountains of the Talasskiy Alatau, in the western Tien Shan mountains. Its eastern border is delimited by the Kyrgyz Republic, the southern border by the valley of the Maidantal river and the Uzbekistan. In the West, the area is surrounded by the Kyzyl Kum, and in the North, by the Karatau Mountains. The Tien Shan mountains extend further to the East and South. The territory lies within the administrative region of the Tyul’kubaskiy- and Lengerskiy-Rayon, in the South Kazakhstan Province. The Nature Reserve stretches over an area of 131.934 ha., occupying elevations of 1100 – 4236 m a.s.l. Major mountain ranges are the Zhabagly in the North, the Talasskiy Alatau in the central part, the Baldybrektau and the Ugamskiy Alatau in the South. They form steep slopes as well as gentle plateaus. Peak Sayram, in the southern region, is the highest peak in the Reserve. The mountainous area is divided by the Jabagly, Aksu and Baldyrbek rivers, that all drain in a western direction into the Syrdarya that in turn flows into the Aral Sea. The Aksu river formed Aksu Canyon which is 500m deep, and can only be crossed in the southern part of the reserve by walking over a narrow pedestrian bridge.