In Search of the Snow Leopard

A unique and immersive wildlife experience in one of Ladakh’s finest snow leopard habitats.  The snow leopard is one of the most elusive and endangered species in the world. Protected by the Snow Leopard Conservancy, this beautiful animal can only be viewed in the high elevations of the Himalayas from November through May. After that it becomes too difficult to spot.  

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Day 1

Upon arrival in Delhi, after clearing immigration formalities, collect your baggage and proceed to the exit.  Here you will be met by a Luxury Trips representative and transferred to your hotel.

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Day 2

Transfer to the airport for the scheduled flight to Leh. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.  The rest of the day is at leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude and rarefied air.

Leh is at 11400 feet and the flight up from the plains means that you have to acclimatize gently without pushing yourself. The 2 ½ days scheduled here is the minimum required as you will be going to a higher altitude and will be doing a fair amount of walking. At some point over the next few days in Leh, meet with staff from the Snow Leopard Conservancy for a briefing on the history of snow leopard conservation in Ladakh with insight given into the current threats to snow leopards and the strategy adopted to combat these threats

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Day 3

Leh is a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets and quaint bazaars. The main street is open and airy, with rows of shops on either side. Leh is very Tibetan; the national dress, ‘stove-pipe’ hats and felt boots with turned-up toes are much in evidence. The Royal Palace, which dominates the town, is very reminiscent of the Potala in Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, large chortens, prayer flags and mud brick houses with flat roofs are a dramatic culture change from the hot, teeming frenetic rush of Delhi. This morning you will visit the Snow Leopard Conservancy; here you will see the efforts made by the authority with the help of the local community to conserve the endanger snow leopard.

In the afternoon, visit the Thiksey monastery, the most picturesquely situated monastery in Ladakh, perched high on a hill above the Indus. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit.  From here one commands a magnificent view of the valley. The Gompa possesses a rich and beautiful collection of hundreds of hand-written or painted prayer books. A new temple contains a 15-meter tall Buddha statue, constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama. The statue, made of clay and covered with gold paint, is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh and took four years to construct. Inside, the statue is filled with the Kandshur and the Tandshur – volumes of Buddhist canonical texts. The statue was made entirely by local craftsmen and represents Maitreya, (“compassion” in Sanskrit) the Buddha of the Future. The prophecy made of the Future Buddha is that the world will be undergoing such chaos that He will teach compassion to the people. 

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Day 4

Today you set out for an extraordinary drive East heading towards Taglang La and the villages of Gya, Lhato and Meru. It’s a fantastic drive taking you away from the valley of the Indus up a subsidiary valley to an extraordinary area even by Ladakhi standards that marks the line where the Indian mainland collided with and drove under Asian land mass. There is some dramatic scenery here and you have a chance of sighting wildlife including Blue sheep, Golden eagles and Bearded vultures. Rafts of Red-billed Choughs perform synchronized aerobatics and in the fallow fields you have the chance of seeing the very beautiful Tibetan Partridge and the more common Chukor partridge. 

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Day 5

Drive west 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 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 some impossibly narrow outcropping, a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff. You will be based here for seven nights. 
 

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Day 6

Settle in on arrival and acclimatize to the higher altitude of Ulley. The advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped the first snow leopard destination – Rumbak. 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. Your naturalist and guide is an exceptional tracker and spotter whose entire being seems to be narrowed down to the field of vision of his binoculars

Over the next few days you explore the area on foot and SUV’s with your naturalist and guide tracking the snow leopard. The guides interact closely with local people and uses the network of local intelligence to narrow down the likely sites. In the process, there will also be plenty of opportunity for you to get insights into local folklore, as well as learn about local customs and traditions. 
 

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Day 7

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Day 8

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Day 9

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Day 10

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Day 11

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Day 12

After another morning out, after lunch you will be driven back to Leh town. En-route we visit the Alchi monastery if time permits (the morning can drag longer if there is good wildlife movement). Alchi Gompa is one of the oldest monasteries dating back to the 11th century. It is the only low land monastery in the region as it was built in a time of peace, before the marauding armies forced the monasteries to take shelter amongst the slopes and gorges.

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Day 13

This morning after breakfast you will be transferred to the airport to connect your flight to Delhi. Upon your arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred to an airport hotel.
 

 

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Day 14

This morning after breakfast you will be transferred to the International airport to connect your flight back home. 

Included

  • All meals in Leh and Ulley / Delhi based on bed and breakfast only
  • Return airport transfers in Delhi.
  • Transportation at the lodge for wildlife spotting.
  • Transfers to and from the lodge from Leh. 
  • All activities.
  • Spotter / Trackers.
  • Exclusive Naturalist guide from arrival in Leh until departure from Leh. 
  • Economy class airfare Delhi/Leh/Delhi – subject to change until booked and ticketed

 

Excluded

  • Meals, drinks, laundry, entrance fees, porterage, tours/excursions and transfers not specified;
  • Any scheduled flights and related taxes not specified;
  • Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance – which is essential;
  • Staff gratuities;
  • Any new gov. taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control;
  • Any items of a personal nature or anything not specifically stated as included;
  • International airfare.