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Ladakh - A Snow Leopard Quest

Tour Code: IND27

An exciting and pioneering 14-day tour in search of Snow Leopards and other high-altitude winter wildlife in the mountains of Ladakh, north-west India.

14 days from £2995(inc flights) Land Only Price: £2495 SRS: £495


The magnificent Snow Leopard is the most enigmatic and elusive of all the world's large cats. A denizen of high mountain ranges, its presence is more often revealed by footprints in the snow but, as previous Naturetrek groups can verify, with planning and luck it is possible to see this mythical mammal. With the aid of local trackers and guides this adventurous expedition goes in search of Snow Leopards amid the mountains of Hemis National Park in Ladakh. This is a physically demanding holiday utilising basic local housing and camping but the rewards will be the truly spectacular mountain scenery of the ancient kingdom of Ladakh and a real chance of finding this high altitude predator as it follows the resident Bharal, or Blue Sheep, to more accessible lower elevations for the winter months.

  • One of the very few tours to offer a realistic chance of seeing Snow Leopard
  • 50% record of sightings success to date
  • Spectacular Himalayan scenery in the ancient kingdom of Ladakh
  • Magical land of Buddhist monasteries & ancient mud palaces
  • Bharal, or Blue Sheep, a favourite prey of Snow Leopards
  • Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon & Himalayan Snowcock
  • Spectacular trans-Himalayan flights to & from Leh
  • Enjoy traditional Ladakhi culture & hospitality
  • Accompanied by top local Snow Leopard trackers & guides
  • Expertly escorted by a Naturetrek naturalist

Food

All included in the price, except for lunches and dinners in Delhi. Allow £40.

Accommodation

Basic accommodation. On trek this will involve camping or a village homestay; please note that on trek only shared facilities will be available.

Snow Leopard (Fritz Polking)

Snow Leopard (Fritz Polking)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly London to Delhi

Day 2 Fly Delhi to Leh

Day 3/4 Leh

Day 5 Hemis National Park

Day 6/10 Trek/search in Snow Leopard country

Days 11 Leh

Day 12 Fly Delhi

Day 13 Delhi

Day 14 Fly London

In the depths of winter, the Bharal (or ‘Blue Sheep’) of Ladakh in north-west India descend from the high peaks to the lower slopes and valleys. They are pursued by hungry Snow Leopards, one of the world’s most charismatic and elusive mammals. This beautiful cat inhabits some of the most remote and mountainous regions of Central Asia, in its element at extremes of temperature and terrain. Few of you will have missed Steve Winter’s image of a Snow Leopard, making its way through a mountain pass at night, which won the 2008 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. On this tour we go in search of this extraordinary animal, going into the heart of the mountainous region where this photograph was taken and experiencing at first-hand a fascinating blend of rare, high-altitude wildlife, as well as isolated Buddhist communities.

This pioneering 14-day tour is, quite simply, one of the most amazing, original and wild trips you are ever likely to do! You may not see many birds on this tour, you may not see many mammals (except perhaps for the Bharal) and you may not even see a Snow Leopard. However, since we began operating this tour in 2009, our sightings success-rate has significantly improved. This is mostly due to our local guides' improved understanding of how and where to find them. Based on the success of our 2013 tour (on which we saw six different Snow Leopards – including a mother and cub – and watched them for a total of 16 hours), and our 2014 and 2015 tours (on which we saw five Snow Leopards), you stand a good chance of seeing one! In addition, the opportunity to visit the spectacular ancient kingdom of Ladakh, situated today within the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the middle of winter is not to be missed!

This is a very adventurous tour, and should not be undertaken lightly. Because our chief aim is to see a Snow Leopard, absolute flexibility is the key. If we are scheduled to spend the night at a guest house, but we hear that a Snow Leopard has been seen in another area where the accommodation is extremely basic, or in which it would be better to camp out in the open, we reserve the right to move the group there immediately. However, snuggling down into a 4-season sleeping bag in such a setting really is an unforgettable and magical experience.

We begin our tour with a domestic flight from Delhi, taking us over the great Himalayan range to Leh. The town of Leh is situated at a height of 3,500 metres and you will have time to explore its winding streets and bazaars while acclimatising to the altitude. An impressive 16th century palace towers above the town and during our first days we will visit nearby Buddhist monasteries (or ‘gompas’). One of the finest examples of Ladakhi architecture in the region is the gompa at Tikse. This is an incredibly atmospheric place and we will explore its artistic treasures, listening to the hypnotic chanting of monks as we walk round!

Having fully acclimatised to the altitude, we will then set off on our dedicated 6-day search for Snow Leopards in Hemis National Park. This is an incredibly scenic landscape and raptors such as Lammergeier and Himalayan Griffon Vulture make an impressive sight here, rising up above the high peaks. A variety of other hardy birds, including Brown and Robin Accentors, and Himalayan Snowcock also remain for the winter. The area is home to some other rare mammals including Wolves, Lynx and Tibetan Argali, though these are rarely seen. More common are the Red Fox, Pika and Woolly Hares which also brave the midwinter cold.

Led by extremely experienced local, and Naturetrek, guides and researchers we will scan the mountain sides, valleys and gorges in areas that Snow Leopards are known to frequent in the winter. It is the best time of year for sightings and our movements will be dictated by signs of feline activity. If we find a kill we will sit and wait, hoping to see the Snow Leopard return to its meal. If we find fresh tracks, we will follow them and you will need to be prepared to trek through light to medium snowfalls for up to several hours a day, though it could be much less. There is no greater wildlife thrill than seeing a Snow Leopard — whether at a kill or making its solitary way up a remote mountain pass, blending into the wilderness in which it is totally at home and which to us seems so inhospitable!

This tour is not luxurious, and you will need a high level of fitness to enjoy it. What it offers you is a wonderful opportunity to experience a genuine wildlife adventure and the chance of seeing a Snow Leopard, one of the rarest and most beautiful animals on our planet!

Rumbak Valley, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Ladakh Scenery (Raghu Kulkarni)Stupa in LadakhWoolly Hare, Ladakh (Russell Scott)White-browed Tit Warbler, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Blue Sheep or Bharal (Alain Verstraete)Royle's Pika, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Blue Sheep (Russell Scott)Blue Sheep (Russell Scott)Cat paw prints and tail, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Snow Leopard spottingScenic rest point in Ladakh (Gerald Broddelez)Indus RiverChukar tip-toeing (Russell Scott)Naturetrek group (Gerald Broddelez)Ladakh landscape (Gerald Broddelez)Taking a high vantage point to scan (Russell Scott)Valley where first Snow Leopard of 2013 was seen (Russell Scott)Naturetrek group searching for Snow Leopards! (Russell Scott)Snow Leopard and cub, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Snow Leopard and cub, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Snow LeopardRobin Accentor, Rumbak, Ladakh (Russell Scott)Moonset on a peakLadakh architecture (Raghu Kulkarni)Ladakhi man in traditional dress (Raghu Kulkarni)Stompa, LadakhCampsite in Ladakh (Russell Scott)Scanning the valley for Snow LeopardsBlue SheepWrapped up and ready to go!Snow Leopard returning to her cub after a hunt (Tim Stowe)Snow Leopard tracksSnow Leopard female hunting Blue Sheep (Tim Stowe)Snow Leopard female hunting (Tim Stowe)Snow Leopard (Tim Stowe)Blue Sheep (Russell Scott)Blue Sheep (Russell Scott)Ice gameCampsite in Ladakh (Russell Scott)Domestic YakOn the trail of the Snow Leopard (Russell Scott)Naturetrek group in Ladakh (Russell Scott)Horses exiting a gorge in Ladakh (Russell Scott)Hemis National ParkBharal (Himalayan Blue Sheep)Snow Leopard (copyright Russell Scott)
J.G.
Hertfordshire
Nick Acheson is a fantastic leader. Not only is he amazingly knowledgeable, speaks several languages, but has great people skills. The group was really pleasant and we all got on well. Nick made sure that we were all up to date with what was going on and looked after me when I was affected by the altitude to start with. It was truly amazing to see Snow Leopards in the wild and all the other creatures, too. I was awed by the splendour of the mountains, and although it was tough going at times, I'm so glad I was able to do it.
N.B.
London
A stunning experience, Ladakh in Winter is a remote, beautiful and emotive place. Camping wild in the mountains in sub zero temperatures is raw and exciting. We had views of four Snow Leopards, plus quite a few other mountain animals and birds. These are memories to treasure. Nick Acheson is a perfect tour guide, knowledgeable, passionate, socially adept. The local Ladakh guides are willing, dedicated and essential.
P.C.
Leicestershire
First and foremost, it was an absolutely brilliant trip and I loved everything about being in Ladakh, although it will take something special to top a snow leopard; seeing this will obviously live with me for ever. The team on the ground in Ladakh was fantastic - not just the main guides, Jigmet and Tashi, but every one of the team worked so hard to make our dream come true. I can’t thank them enough.
J.L.
Surrey
Good sightings of Snow Leopards. First class UK guide plus local spotters. For me - lifetime ambition to see Snow Leopards.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 15th February 2018 - Wed 28th February 2018

6

£2995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £2495 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Thu 14th February 2019 - Wed 27th February 2019

YES

£2995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £2495 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: India

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Rajan Jolly
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01962 733051

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MammalsTrekking

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Tour Reviews

Nick Acheson is a fantastic leader. Not only is he amazingly knowledgeable, speaks several languages, but has great people skills. The group was really pleasant and we all got on well. Nick made sure that we were all up to date with what was going on and looked after me when I was affected by the altitude to start with. It was truly amazing to see Snow Leopards in the wild and all the other creatures, too. I was awed by the splendour of the mountains, and although it was tough going at times, I'm so glad I was able to do it.
J.G., Hertfordshire