To go looking for the Snow Leopard would appear to be the most forlorn of forlorn quests and yet, it is in the nature of such quests that the rewards lie as much in the journeying and the search as in the stated objective.
On the borders of Tibet is the Indian district of Ladakh – probably THE best place to see Snow Leopards in the world. Here in the high, desolate grandeur of arid mountains, tourism is being leveraged to protect Snow Leopards. The Explorations Company were amongst the very first to design and operate Snow Leopards treks in collaboration with the Snow Leopard Conservancy.
Our original light footprint, low impact model is rapidly being crowded out by cheap group tours that are now threatening the fragile high-altitude eco-system. As a result we have explored a completely new and remote location, working with local trackers and home stay owners trained by the Snow Leopard Conservancy.
Our groups are very small, accompanied by an expert guide and flexible using several trackers across many valleys. We stay in a local village home stay putting money directly into the economy but can switch to a field camp at short notice if required. And we are able to stay on site longer than the package tours.
And it isn’t just Snow Leopards that you may see here. This is also the home of wolves, Ladakhi Urial – a giant sheep, Himalayan Fox, Blue Sheep, Ibex, Marmots and much else. It is also the home of a warm and hospitable but hardy mountain people whose tough life style contrasts vividly with the gentle Buddhism they practise. You will have time to visit some of their great monasteries as also their picturesque villages.
The reclusive nature of the animal, the inhuman scale and vertical topography of the habitat, the relative sparseness of Snow Leopards on the ground all combines to frustrate the seeker. But the Snow Leopard does not occupy this environment alone, it sits at the apex of a rich and diverse pyramid and in searching for this master predator we will be exploring its environment and all that live in it in some detail.
Our search will not be a random one. However inaccessible the Snow Leopard’s habitat may appear at first glance, the predator is tied to its prey and in vast and inhospitable country, the prey is concentrated in the relatively few hospitable areas. This narrows and focuses the search.
Our expedition’s concentrate on one such area in the Hemis National Park in Ladakh, south of the River Indus. This is an area that has been the location for Snow Leopard research and filming in the past.
The bonus and for many the real reward, is the exploration of the natural and human landscape of Snow Leopard country. The mountains are rugged but indescribably beautiful, as streams and rivers that bring the area to vivid life, water the valleys that seam this barren but colorful vastness.
A number of factors have shaped our programme but the most important remains the Snow Leopard. While we have detailed a daily itinerary, this could change at the discretion of your leader who will base his decisions on maximising your opportunities to see wildlife. That, and not covering ground as in a conventional trek, remains the focus of the tour.
The search for the Snow Leopard in the high Himalayas is an adventure of a lifetime that one never forgets.
Day 1 : Fly to Leh
Upon Arrival at Leh Airport you are met and transferred to a small and charming family-owned hotel. Leh is at 11,400 feet, so the rest of the day is at leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude and rarefied air. The two–and-a-half 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.
Days 2 - 3: Leh
Spend 2 days at leisure in Leh. The town has winding streets, quaint bazaars and the Royal Palace, which dominates the town. Explore the picturesquely situated monasteries at Shey and Thiksey perched high on a hill above the Indus. You could also set out for an extraordinary drive east heading towards Taglang La and the villages of Gya, Lhato and Meru.
Day 4 : Leh – Ulley
Pass through the gorgeous village of Nimmu at the confluence of the Zanskar and the Indus, to arrive at Likir - all snow leopard country. Your two bedroom home stay offers superb views across the valley and, apart from being more comfortable than camping, puts money directly into local hands and strengthens the constituency of the snow leopard. This will be your base for the next week.
Days 5 – 10: Ulley
Relatively free of tourism Ulley has enveloped the first snow leopard destination – Rumbak Valley. Keeping Ulley as a base you explore three valleys on foot and using SUV’s with an exceptional tracker, gaining insights into local folklore, customs and traditions on the journey. Apart from snow leopards, the area is great for seeing urial, Ibex, wolf and Himalayan fox. Also included is an overnight stay at a snow leopard lodge.
Day 11: Ulley - Leh
This morning, after breakfast, say goodbye to your host and drive back to Leh town. En route you will visit the Alchi Gompa - a Buddhist monastery, known more as a monastic complex of temples. Built in the 10th century in lowlands, rather than on a hilltop as others, the creation of the monastery is accredited to the famous scholar and translator Rinchen Zangpo who established Buddhism in the Ladakh region.
Day 12: Delhi
You will depart Leh on an internal flight to reach Delhi where we suggest a top hotel located next to the airport, which means that you are in place for the early morning return flight to London.
Prices from GBP £4090 or USD $5720 per person.
(Prices subject to currency exchange rates and exclude international flights)
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore – Dream – Discover - Mark Twain - You can view clips of some of our own favourite discoveries here.
- Utterly designed and tailored around you and your requirements
- Totally unique every time you travel with us
- The very best hand picked guides which can make the difference between a good and an outstanding holiday
- Established over 30 years ago we have been around longer than most
- Our specialists come from, have lived in or travelled extensively in the regions we cover
- Unparalleled knowledge provides you with the best possible experience
- Philanthropy is our philosophy
- Our founding principle is to always ‘put something back’
- An amount from each holiday is donated to our selected conservation and humanitarian charities
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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