Snow Leopard Quest
ABOUT THE SAFARI
This safari is a quest through the mountains of India in search of snow leopards in the wild.
Snow leopards are some of the most elusive big cats remaining in the world because they live in such remote areas of Central Asia. There are thought to be only between 3,500 and 7000 snow leopards left in the wild. This safari will take us to the remote places thought to have the highest density of snow leopards in the world. Sightings are rare, but we’ll have expert guides and local trackers along to increase the chances of seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. These partnerships also help support the local economy, which in turn helps serve to protect the animals in this fragile ecosystem. As with all of my safaris, conservation is a primary goal. Your tourist dollars go directly toward creating solutions for the human-animal conflict in this area.
Due to the rugged terrain of the Himalayas, most of the herbivores are related to the agile-footed sheep and goats. They can move easily through the mountainous regions of the Himalayas from one pasture to the next. During the winter months the ibex move down to lower altitudes where there is food and they are followed by the snow leopards and other predators like the Tibetan wolf. These ungulates form the primary snow leopards diet and it is through the movements of these ungulates and trails left by snow leopard moving across habitats that one can improve the chances of seeing the snow leopard in its natural environment. Every day we head out in different directions to track this Grey Ghost. Other than snow leopard, the area has a good number of species like yak (wild ox), ibex, Tibetan wolf, and red fox.
Arrive Delhi the capital of India. Our tour representative will welcome you at the airport arrival lounge.
Delhi, the capital of India, is a city that offers a glimpse of both ancient and modern day India. It is the third largest city in India and one of the fastest growing in Asia. This city is rich in culture, always changing with time but never hiding its splendid past. The various ancient ruins seen in the city are silent witnesses to its magnificent history. The city of Delhi is a blend of two different yet perfectly balanced parts, the Old and the New Delhi.
Overnight at The Pride
Day 1: DELHI – LEH
Morning transfer from hotel to the airport for flight to Leh. Meeting and assistance on arrival at Leh airport and transfer to hotel. Rest of the time at leisure for acclimatization to the high altitude.
Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas is one of the best areas to see the elusive snow leopard and this is where we run our snow leopard safaris. It is not only about the snow leopards as there are a host of other animals and birds to see, apart from the scenery and getting to know more about the people that live here.
Leh is situated in a very scenic part of India as it is bounded by two of the world’s biggest mountain ranges which are home to numerous monasteries. We will visit a few palaces and monasteries that will also be helpful for the visitors to get acclimatized with high altitude gradually before we start our snow leopard safari, which involves a good amount of strenuous trekking in Husing valley.
Overnight at Grand Dragon Hotel
DAY 2: LEH
A day at leisure for proper acclimatization. It is very important to move slower, drink lots of water/tea, and not to put much stress on the body. We want to be in proper shape when exploring the Himalayas.
If at all interested in walking, it should be a bare minimum. One can visit one of the several possibilities like Sankar Gompa, Shanti Stupa, and Leh Palace. Just before sunset, we’ll travel to Leh Palace in order to photograph Shanti Stupa from a distance.
Overnight at the Grand Dragon Hotel.
DAY 3: LEH – ULLEY
Drive west (2-3 hrs) today on the road to Kargil and Srinagar, generally following the Indus River. You pass through the small town of Nimmu—one of the most important in Ladakh, where the Zanskar River meets the Indus. After a little over an hour, you head north on a road marked to Likir—one of Ladakh’s famous Buddhist monasteries. This is all snow leopard country. The landscape here is even bigger, more expansive and open, until you turn off onto a dirt road, winding up a narrow valley, following a stream called the Ulley Chhu. Smaller valleys intersect and the guides have their heads craned at all times, scanning the hillsides and the skyline for any silhouette. This is excellent ibex country and there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male ibex standing vigil on some impossibly narrow outcropping, a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff. Ulley village, west of Leh is an area that is only recently being developed for snow leopard watching.
Overnight at Snow Leopard Lodge
You will be staying at Snow Leopard Lodge, which apart from being more comfortable than camping out in sub-zero temperatures, also puts money directly into local hands and strengthens the constituency of the snow leopard. This will be your base for your stay searching for snow leopards and other high altitude wildlife. The lodge is built separately from the main house with a dining room, lounge, and kitchen—all in the same low stone built building. For our clients, we bring in our own cook and camp staff with an assortment of important luxuries like extra gas heaters, warm shower, and bathroom, comfortable mattresses, linen, an assortment of coffees, teas, snacks etc that go a long way to alleviate the cold and the altitude. Add to this the interest of living with a Ladakhi family in the depths of winter and understanding their lifestyle and you have a very special experience in store—especially sharing the large and warm kitchens that are the heart of a Ladkahi home in winter and resplendent with brass, copper, and silver ornaments.
From the house and its terraced fields you command a superb view across the valley and are almost certain to see ibex from here and if you are lucky much other wildlife including wolf, Himalayan fox and perhaps even snow leopard. Settle in on arrival and acclimatize to the higher altitude of Ulley. You will be based here and the advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism. The other advantage is that from here you explore three valleys, which, apart from snow leopards, are great for finding urial, ibex, wolf and Himalayan fox. Norbu is an exceptional tracker and spotter whose entire being seems to be narrowed down to his binoculars’ field of vision. Booking in at the Lodge is the simplest way of looking for snow leopards, allowing you complete flexibility as to the number of days you want to spend searching and requiring none of the elaborate preparations needed for camping out. Add to this the exceptional tracking skills of Norbu and his team and the exclusivity of the location, which makes for a truly superb high-altitude wilderness experience. Over the next few days, you explore the area on foot and vehicle with Norbu tracking the snow leopard. You will be amazed at the sheer dedication and commitment he brings to his trade and the effort he makes to ensure that his guests leave happy. Norbu interacts closely with the local people and uses the network of local intelligence to narrow down the likely sites. In the process, there will also be plenty of opportunities for you to get insights into local folklore, customs, and traditions. DAYS 4-10: ULLEY We’ll be searching for the snow leopard from our vehicles. If and when one is spotted by our guides and trackers, we’ll then go on foot to the site. During our search, we will also take in the beauty of the Himalayas and look for other native fauna—sheep, goats, Tibetan wolves, red foxes, ibex, and many more beautiful creatures. Overnight at Snow Leopard Lodge Day 11: ULLEY – LEH Drive back to Leh. Upon arrival in Leh, check into the hotel. Rest of the day at leisure Overnight at Grand Dragon Hotel Day 12: LEH – DELHI – RAIPUR After breakfast on time transfer to Leh airport for flight to Delhi/Raipur. Leh, Delhi Air India departure TBA / arrival TBA. Upon arrival at Delhi airport and transfer to airport hotel The Pride, room until departure. Late evening transfer to Delhi International airport for flight home.
The Pride (Deluxe Room), New Delhi
Grand Dragon Hotel (Deluxe Room), Leh
Snow Leopard Lodge (Standard Room), Ulley
Check out the latest updates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to determine what immunizations you may need before visiting India here.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for entrance into India. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after our date of return. Visa’s will be obtained upon arrival in Delhi.
The cost of the trip includes:
- Accommodation on double/twin sharing basis at hotels mentioned above or in a similar category.
- All meals included
- All transfers as per the itinerary
- National Park / monuments / monastery fee
- Ladakh Environment entry fee (subject to change)
- Ladakh hill counsel fees
- Meeting/assistance on arrival/departure at both airports & hotels
- National parks entry fee, activities and all trekking excursions with your expert naturalist guides and wildlife experts, local guide
- In Kanha National Park: Safaris will be as mentioned in itinerary inclusive of the entry fee to park, resident naturalist services
- Govt. Service Tax
The cost of the trip excludes:
- Services of a tour leader
- Any meal other than what is specified above or anything not mentioned in inclusion above
- Any expenditure of personal nature like tabled drinks, laundry, telephone calls, soft/ hard drinks
- Any sudden increase in price due to steep hike in park Entry Fee, steep hike in fuel cost, change in government tax policy or for any reason beyond our control like acts of god, natural calamity, law and order situation, riots etc and any forced change in itinerary for any unforeseen situation or reason beyond our control.
- Any expenditure of personal nature like tabled drinks, laundry, TIP, telephone calls, soft/ hard drinks, still/video camera fee (if any) etc
Please bear in mind that due to the nature of this tour and the area visited, there might be the possibility for schedule / itinerary changes.
Wildlife viewing: Please note that seeing a snow leopard is not in any way guaranteed. In fact, it must be regarded as a great privilege to even catch a glimpse of one, such is the elusiveness of these creatures. They are wild and by necessity, elusive creatures with no fixed routine and finding them requires not only the skill and patience of the trackers/guides but also considerable luck!