Explore and photograph the rugged landscape and natural grandeur of the Himalayas in search of the majestic snow leopard.
Day 1 - Delhi
Day 2 - Leh
Acclimatise too the new high altitude environment and enjoy settling in to your comfortable guest house with a mountain view.
Day 3 - Leh
Visit local ancient buddhist sights and meet the passionate team behind Ladakh’s Snow Leopard Concervancy.
Day 4 - Sham Valley
Travel overland, following the frozen Indus River west to the Sham region.
Day 5 - 13 - Snow Leopard Quest
Daily hikes to the best vantage points alongside naturalists who are the best in the business. You’ll be scanning ridge lines, tracking prey and scat for that once in a lifetime opportunity of spotting the ever illusive snow leopard.
Day 14 - Leh Cultural Immersion
Explore the quaint and beautiful mountain capital Leh; a town steeped in the rich history of it’s past and take a short hike to Shanti Stupa for the incredible view of Leh and the valleys beyond.
Day 15 - Depart Leh
Arrive in Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport. Your guide Aje will meet you and transfer you to your hotel in the centre of New Delhi. Depending on what time your flight arrives you may want to explore the bustling markets of New Delhi for any last minute shopping before meeting the rest of your group at the hotel around 6 PM for a welcome dinner and expedition brief.
Make the short transfer to Delhi Domestic Airport in the early hours for the flight to Leh - a comfortable and scenic one hour journey over snow capped mountains. January is the middle of winter in Ladakh and Leh is situated at an altitude of 3500m above sea level. It is important to 'take it easy' this day with lots of rest and rehydration to acclimatise to the high altitude conditions and freezing cold temperatures. Noticeably warming Tibetan culture & cuisine is for sure to bring smiles and joy during your time in Snow Leopard country.
After a healthy Ladakhi breakfast, you'll visit the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Pioneers in snow leopard conservation in the region, you will get an opportunity to meet the biologists and conservationists to learn first hand the latest in Snow Leopard conservation. In the afternoon you will journey to the incredibly picturesque 14th century buddhist monasteries of Thiksey and Matho to pay respects to the traditional custodians of the land and soak up the ancient Buddhist culture.
After breakfast, we'll head West following the frozen Indus River as we make our way to the Sham region of Ladakh. The incredibly vast and expansive valley is bordered by jagged peaks on all sides making it one of the top places for spotting snow leopards and wolves. You'll notice your guides will have their eyes peeled all the time, scanning the skyline for any silhouette throughout the journey to the village of Ulley. Ulley is centrally located in the Sham range and is convenient if there happens to be a snow leopard sighting in the neighbouring villages of Saspochey, Yangthang and Hemis Shukpachan. Your accommodation in Ulley will be in a modest and comfortable Ladakhi homestay owned and operated by local people. You will stay overnight and get to experience warm Ladakhi hospitality first hand.
Day five will see you waking up to incredible views of the Sham range. Your guides would have already begun scanning the ridge lines and passes for blue sheep, main prey for snow leopards in the region. With short hikes to close-by vantage points, we will establish an ideal location to scan the mountains 360 degrees. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with endless cups of tea will all be served at comfortable times throughout the day to keep you warm and in the zone.
Days six through twelve will have you rising with sun and gathering your gear before hiking to the days vantage point. Depending on the observations from the previous day, the location to establish the 'waiting spot' will be decided. Research by the Snow Leopard Conservancy has identified that from January through March snow leopards are on mating patrols covering vast distances in search of a mate. It is possible to hear snow leopard mating calls echoing through the mountains during the early hours of the morning and at dusk. Tracking snow leopard's prey is the best way to get close to a snow leopard. Our local guides are the best in the business and have decades of experiences in observing snow leopards in the wild. Lammergeier's, Golden Eagles and Himalayan Vultures are sighted regularly in this region making the area rich in wildlife. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and endless hot cups of tea will be served at comfortable times throughout each day and will keep you well nourished and hydrated for the duration of the Expedition.
By now, you'll be well accustomed to life in the mountains and have your expedition routine down pat. Today is the last day you'll spend hiking to the best vantage points and if you've already spotted the phantom cat, adrenaline will be full power.
By evening you'll be travelling back to Leh after what will have been an incredible quest in search of the endangered snow leopard. By the time you reach Leh you'll be ready for a good feed, hot tea and a comfortable sleep ready for the final days of tour in Ladakh.
After a comfortable sleep and a delicious breakfast served at your guest house in Leh, you'll get ready for a final morning of cultural activities. Leh Monastery is picturesquely situated atop a mountain providing incredible panoramic views of the quaint city as you reach the top. You'll also take a short hike up to Shanti Stupa, one of 80 peace pagodas built around the world by Japanese Buddhist monk Gyomyo Nakamura. The Peace Pagoda mission was a journey to build these unique monuments to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds and to help unite them in their search for world peace. The afternoon will be at your leisure. You'll be able to explore the narrow streets of Leh's main bazaar, relax with some hot tea or feast on some hearty Ladakhi thukpa in one of the restaurants hidden upstairs in the marketplace.
An early flight will have you up and awake as the sun rises and bids you farewell on your last morning in the small mountain city. Your guide will accompany you to the airport to make the short transfer back to Delhi. Upon arrival back to Delhi, depending on your return flight home you'll have another afternoon to explore the bustling streets of Paharganj or simply sit with a cup of chai and watch as the chaos of the developing city unfolds. Again, depending on homeward journeys, you'll also enjoy one last night at your hotel along with a final evening meal together before the tour concludes.
With high altitudes, Arctic temperatures and modest living conditions, this expedition is not for the five star or luxury traveller. Instead, this tour is for those who thrive out of their comfort zone, who don't mind bathing with a bucket and are up for some rough terrain camping experiences. While we will endeavour to provide guests with the highest possible chance of sighting the elusive snow leopard and have had great success in the past, the nature of the situation is that there is a 70 percent chance. To us, that's a pretty amazing opportunity, but we cannot guarantee a leopard sighting.
The 'Snow Leopard Expedition' tour is inclusive of all accomodation, transport and food as well as all camping equipment, spotting scopes and tour guides. The tour price does not include the cost of flights to Delhi, domestic flights to Leh, visas or insurance. However we can assist with getting you the best deal.
Tour costs $3400 AUD per person with a non-refundable deposit of $800 to be paid upon registration. Balance must be paid no later than 3 weeks prior to departure.
Passport - must be valid no less than 6 months after the day of arrival to India
Visa - 30 day tourist visas can be granted at the airport upon arrival, however you will need to pre-fill an application online. Visa information will be sent to guests after registration.
Travel Insurance - travellers are advised to purchase comprehensive travel insurance prior to departure. At the bare minimum, insurance should cover medical. Our travel insurance company of choice is World Nomads, however there are countless companies offering competitive rates. Again, we can assist if needed.
Elevation levels range from 3500m - 5000m. Allow yourself time to rest and be ready for a significant work out
Weather is unpredictable in the mountains. Expect temperatures ranging from 0 degrees celsius to -25 degrees celsius with wind chill making the colder days seem a lot colder!
Level of physical fitness - Moderate to Strenuous. This expedition is doable without reaching your physical limits if you have previous hiking experience and/or are reasonably fit (you exercise 2-3 times a week at least and don't have any pre-existing health conditions). Stamina is most important
Right mindset. Be mentally prepared to confront the Snow Leopard Quest with an open mind and willingness to go out of your comfort zone when it comes to toilets, showers and food options.
Visitors coming from lower altitudes must take special care to acclimatise and avoid altitude sickness. The tour allows enough rest days for you to acclimatise, however if you experience altitude sickness: