Snow Leopards of India
• Rare and unique opportunity to see the elusive snow leopards in their natural habitat
• Visit the Snow Leopard Conservancy
• Living with a Ladakhi family in the depths of winter
• Excellent trackers and spotters for superb high-altitude wildlife experience
• 12 land days
• Starts and finishes in Delhi
• All meals included (starting on Day 2)
• 2 internal flights included
• Combines with Lions and Tigers tour
• Activity Level: 3
FROM: $7,495 USD
Comfortable lodge with
en-suite bathrooms in twin-bedded rooms. En-suite bathrooms
have no running water due to constant freezing temperatures. Toilets are western style with ‘bucket flush’.
Rooms have electric heaters and at night hot water bottles are used to warm up the beds.
1 - 2 hours of walking distributed
throughout the day (some hilly terrain) at your own pace • 3 days at 11,000 ft/3400 meters & 6 days at 13,000
ft/4000 meters • Day time temperatures 5C/35 F • Nighttime temperatures 0 to -15C/32F-5F
India - the land that evokes flights of imagination and curiosity, a canvas of spectacle and color ruled by a succession of native kingdoms, and often overrun and inhabited by invading armies of Central Asian origin, followed by the Mughals and finally the British. Transformation has been never ending and the results are deeply and visibly etched in today’s milieu.
As winter sets into the Trans-Himalayan region, we cast our sights on Ladakh in search of the elusive ghost of the Himalayas – Shaan in Ladakhi a.k.a. the snow leopard.
Like the tiger, it’s a territorial feline. Watching two snow leopards fighting ferociously with one another is a once-in-a-lifetime moment — a true collectible for a wildlife lover or photographer’s treasure trove. But regardless of whether you capture it with the naked eye or with your lens, this feline is captivating. As it raises its head to look at you, you’re transformed.
Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya, is one of the best areas to see the elusive snow leopard and it is from here that we set out. 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.
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DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DELHI
You will be met upon arrival in Delhi and transferred to your hotel.
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.
Overnight in Delhi.
DAY 2: FLY TO LEH
After breakfast, transfer to Delhi airport for our flight to Leh. Remainder of the day is at leisure for acclimatization to the high altitude. We have just landed at 11,000 ft/3400 meters, hence no matter how fit you are, young or old, Day 1 and 2, have to be taken at a very slow pace. If your body allows, a stroll in the markets of Leh post lunch, as it is important that we keep the body moving to a certain extent for blood to circulate.
Overnight in Leh.
DAY 3: LEH
A day at leisure for proper acclimatization. It is very important, to move slower, drink lots of water / tea, and not to put too 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 bare minimum and one can visit one of the several possibilities like Sankar Gompa, Shanti Stupa & Leh Palace. There will be an opportunity to visit Thiksey Monestary in the morning and possibly participate in the morning prayers. We say possibly, because it all depends on how your body acclimatizes. Near the monestary there is opportunity to do some birding and possibly look for the ibis bill.
We will also visit the Snow Leopard Conservancy, who we proudly support in the Ladakh region. Their exceptional work to reduce human animal conflict in snow leopard country has been remarkable. We will get a brief presentation on their work.
For those interested in photography, we will head over to Leh Palace right before sunset in order to photograph Shanti Stupa from a distance, especially when it lights up in the evening.
Overnight in Leh.
DAY 4: LEH - ULLEY
Today we drive west (2-3 hrs) on the road to Kargil and Srinagar, generally following the Indus River. We 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 we 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 all the time, scanning the hill sides 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 an 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.
You will be staying at Snow Leopard Annex, which apart from being more comfortable than camping out in sub-zero temperatures, 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 Annex is built with a dining room, lounge and kitchen – all in the same low stone built building. We will have 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.
Overnight at Snow Leopard Annex.
DAY 5 - 9: ULLEY
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 between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild.
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 leopard diet and it is through the movements of these ungulates and trails left by snow leopards 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 leopards, the area has good number of species like the yak (wild ox), ibex, Tibetan wolf & red fox.
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, many other wildlife species including wolves, red foxes and perhaps even snow leopards. 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.
Staying in at the Snow Leopard Annex is the simplest way of looking for snow leopards, allowing you complete flexibility as to the number of days you want to spend and requiring none of the elaborate preparations that you need to camp out. Add to this the exceptional tracking skill of the guides, and this makes for a truly superb high-altitude wilderness experience.
Over the next few days you explore the area on foot and vehicle with tracking guides.
Overnight at Snow Leopard Annex.
DAY 10: ULLEY - LEH
After a leisurely breakfast, we drive down to Leh (2-3 hrs).
Overnight in Leh.
DAY 11: LEH - DELHI
After breakfast, we transfer to Leh airport for our flight to Delhi / Jabalpur. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel in Delhi.
Overnight in Delhi.
DAY 12: DEPART DELHI (or continue on to Lions & Tigers of India tour)
Depart Delhi for international flights home or continue on to ElderTreks Lions' and Tigers of India tour.
HOW BIG ARE THE GROUPS?
Each group is limited to 16 participants. Small groups are an important ingredient in adventure travel. They allow for more interaction and more personalized service throughout the itinerary.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICE?
All accommodations throughout on a double/twin sharing basis; all meals, starting with on day 2 and finishing with breakfast on departure day (i.e. the last day of the tour); bottled drinking water throughout the trip; internal flights, transfers and transportation, Indian Tour Leader, trackers, wildlife experts, local guides, tips (except for Indian Tour Leader), national parks, monastery and entrance fees.
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!
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICE?
International flights, tip to Indian Tour Leader, alcoholic drinks, visas and travel insurance. It is encouraged to make a contribution to the Snow Leopard Conservatory who help work with communities in the Himalayas to secure snow leopard habitat. We will have the opportunity to witness their work first hand in Ladakh. (Suggested amount $200 pp – or whatever amount you are comfortable giving.)
ARE THESE “EDUCATIONAL” TOURS?
Yes, in the broadest sense of the word, “educational”. We visit a remote region in northern India and stay with a family in Ladakh during their winter season. Our guides and spotters provide ample information about the Snow Leopard and surrounding wildlife. But this is only a portion of the educational experience. We believe that it is equally educational to meet local people on a non-commercial basis, stay with an Indian family and even try
to learn a few words in Hindi. Sometimes the most “educational” moments are spent sipping a drink in a street market.
HOW DO WE TRAVEL DURING THE TOUR?
All local transportation, including 2 domestic flights, is included in the land price of the trip. Most of the transportation is by bus.
WHAT ARE OUR ACCOMMODATIONS LIKE?
We stay in good accommodations in Delhi and Leh. We have the unique opportunity of staying at the Snow Leopard Annex. The Annex is built with a dining room, lounge and kitchen – all in the same low stone built building. We will have 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.
WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER?
We will be visiting this remote region in the winter time. Expect daytime temperatures around 5C/40F and nighttime temperatures of 0 to -15C/32F-5F
WHEN IS PAYMENT DUE?
A non-refundable deposit of $500 USD (plus insurance if you require it) is due at time of booking and will reserve your place on the tour. Payment of the full land cost is due 120 days before departure. Cancellation charges are applicable and are outlined in the “Terms and Conditions” section of our brochure.
IS MEDICAL INSURANCE REQUIRED?
Insurance coverage is not included in the cost of your trip. Please note that medical insurance is not required for this adventure but is recommended. ElderTreks offers comprehensive travel insurance with Manulife for Canadian guests, and John Hancock for American guests. Please CLICK HERE to view and purchase your insurance policy today. If you are purchasing insurance elsewhere, please ensure you provide the details to ElderTreks as soon as possible.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE ON THE TOUR?
There is a detailed “What to Take” list in our Trip Kit, which we will send to you after you have booked the trip.
WHAT MEALS ARE INCLUDED?
All meals during the itinerary are included, starting on day 2 and finishing with breakfast on departure day. We eat a variety of local foods in Leh and our cook prepares local dishes while at the Snow Leopard Annex.
CAN YOU ARRANGE MY FLIGHTS?
We would be happy to take care of your air arrangements. ElderTreks offers personalized flight itineraries — not group flights. Stop over en route, come in a few days early, or extend your stay. Call us for a customized itinerary.
WHAT IF I WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION?
If you have any further questions about the adventure, please call our office for more details. A Trip Specialist will be happy to answer your questions. A Trip Kit containing further details on the destination will be sent to you once you have booked the trip.
Dates & Prices
All prices are currently listed in USD
*Single Supplement is the additional amount applied to the cost of the trip to those who are travelling solo and do not wish to share.