14 days from £3495pp plus international flights.
A rare opportunity to search for the beautiful and endangered snow leopard. These elusive creatures are perfectly adapted to life in the mountains of Central Asia, and on this holiday you spend time trekking through this terrain with a specialist guide and spotter, to give you the best chances of memorable wildlife sightings.
The holiday begins in Delhi, though you soon leave the hustle and bustle behind you as you fly up to the remote region of Ladakh, looking down at snowy Himalayan peaks before landing in Leh. It's a dramatic setting bounded by mountains, and sets the scene for your wildlife adventure. Having acclimatised you set off for Hemis National Park. The park is best known for its population of snow leopards and is the main focus of your holiday. Over the course of several days you get to know this rugged terrain well and, aided by the natuarlist guide, you learn to recognise the signs of leopard activity, and with luck you'll be rewarded by the sight of this stunning cat.
This holiday takes you to a remote part of the world, where you feel far removed from the trappings of everyday 21st century life, and where you can instead concentrate on observing the world around you. It's an increasingly rare experience in this digital age, and one to treasure.
"Every aspect of this trip was brilliant. Seeing snow leopards in the wild has been a long-held ambition of my wife and me and this trip delivered big time, with no less than four separate sightings. Expectations were low given the difficulties involved and the rarity of the animal but they were well exceeded."
"Everything was awesome but if we had to single anything out it would be our homestay in Rumbak - a delightful family in a great community and with accommodation that was a privilege to be able to share with them. We heard that the Indian govt is considering a ban on continued residence in the National Park and we think that would be a real shame, and counter-productive from a conservancy point of view."
"The team of expert naturalist guides, drivers, pony support and hawk-eyed local animal spotters was awesome and really made the trip for us. We felt at all times safe (despite some very difficult access roads and a few hair-raising journeys) and well looked after."
Social / Environment
"Ladakh and the Indian central govt have been very supportive of snow leopard conservancy but without income from tourism would not be able to devote enough resources to it. I suspect that without trips like this, sensitively organised, we would not be looking at a great future for the wildlife of the region. Or indeed the local communities who have no other sources of income."
Your flight arrives into Delhi international airport where you are met by a local representative and transferred the short distance to your overnight hotel, Lemon Tree Premier. The remainder of the day is free, allowing you to rest after your journey. Hotel facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, spa, restaurant, bar and 24-hour coffee shop.
It's an early start as you are transferred to the domestic airport for the morning flight to Leh in Ladakh. Flight time is around 85 minutes, and you should get some stunning views of the Himalayas. On landing you are met and transferred to Leh's best hotel, the Grand Dragon. Nothing has been arranged for the rest of the day so you are free to take it easy at the hotel as you acclimatise to the altitude, or to venture out to explore the market. Breakfast, dinner
After breakfast at the hotel you depart for a guided tour of nearby Hemis Gompa, the largest monastery in Ladakh. There are beautifully painted murals and thankas, stupas made of gold and silver and a statue of Lord Buddha, and the building is a good vantage point from which to survey the Himalayan peaks. In the afternoon there's an opportunity to go for a walk along the Indus River and do some bird watching before returning to the hotel in Leh. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Have an early breakfast before setting off for the drive to Ule. After about 2 hours you reach the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, where you can stretch your legs with a half hour walk on the frozen Zanskar River, followed by lunch. Keep your eyes peeled as the drive resumes: you're likely to spot urial and argali (wild sheep), Tibetan antelope and wolves. The region is home to snow leopards, though sightings are rare. On arrival in Ule you are taken to a homestay where you spend the next 2 nights. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
You have a full day to explore Ule with your guide. The snow leopard, known locally as shan and also named 'the ghost of the Himalayas', is at home in this mountainous landscape. Insulated by a thick coat of fur and with wide feet that act as natural snowshoes, they are adapted to the climate, and their powerful legs enbale them to jump high into the air and across ravines. They are elusive, but your guide will help you look for signs such as tracks amd spoor, aided by spotters using high-powered scopes and binoculars. The presence of Himalayan blue sheep, the snow leopard's preferred prey, is a promising sign, too, as they are likely to attract leopards. At the end of the day you return to your homestay. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
This morning you have another chance to explore the area around Ule and continue the search for snow leopards and other wildlife. You return to Ule for lunch and are then driven back to Leh, a journey of about 5 hours, and your town centre hotel. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Following breakfast you set out for Hemis National Park, for the next phase of the holiday, a multi-day trek. The park is famous for its snow leopard population: there are estimated to be some 200 leopards here, and while they are your main goal, there are plenty of other animals to look out for including ibex, lynx, Eurasian brown bear, red fox, chuka partridge and Tibetan wolf. It also has a wide range of bird species. Your guide leads the first stage of the trek, as you accustom yourself to these surroundings and watch for signs at the base of rocks where leopards mark their territory. Tonight you stay at a homestay at Rumbak. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
These days are spent trekking in Hemis in search of the beautiful snow leopard. They are solitary creatures and effective predators, primarily hunting mountain sheep and goats, though they have been known to target domestic animals, too. Their mottled coats provide good camouflage and help them follow prey undetected, using rocks and ravines as cover. Spotters are in touch with the guide and help direct your treks to optimise the chances of sightings. Look up at high ridges, often used by leopards to survey their surroundings, and with luck you may catch a glimpse of this graceful, powerful and endangered creature. At the end of each day you return to the camp for hot food and tea. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Today's trek takes you to Urutse at the foot of Gandala Pass, where ibex and Himalayan lynx are often seen. You head down the valley, all the while keeping watch for the silhouette of a snow leopard in the mountains above, stopping on the way to enjoy a packed lunch, and arriving in Urutse by the afternoon. After a short rest you are driven back to Rumbak. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
This is your final day in Hemis National Park, following a route through the valley past known snow leopard haunts, so keep up a close vigil for a last sighting. You walk past carved Tibetan prayer stones as you continue on to Zingchen. This trek takes about 5 hours, and you are met at Zingchen and driven back to Leh for a late lunch. Take it easy this afternoon, enjoy a hot shower and change of clothes, and a refreshing drink before sitting down to a farewell dinner with the group. Overnight at the hotel in Leh. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Leave the hotel after an early breakfast, for the morning flight to Delhi, arriving in the capital at around 10:00. You are transferred to the Lemon Tree Premier Hotel, where the day is yours to spend as you while. A massage at the spa may be just the thing after several days trekking in the mountains, or you might prefer a swim in the pool, and the hotel cafe, bar and restaurant offer plenty of refreshments. Breakfast
It's time to pack your bags. A representative will collect you from the hotel today for the short drive to the international airport to check in for your flight home. Breakfast
Guide price from (pp sharing): £3495 (ex. international flights)
Price notes: There are just two departures each year, in February, the best time for this trip.
13 nights accommodation on a twin-share basis including 7 nights in homestays in Ule, Rumbak and Urutse; meals listed as included; porter charges from Zinchen to Rumbak, Urutse and Zinchen; services of a naturalist guide, spotter and Reni Pani escort; transfers, sightseeing and excursions as per the itinerary in an exclusive chauffeur-driven vehicle; return flights Delhi to Leh; monastery fees and taxes; wildlife permit fees of Rs2000 per person per day
Internatinal flights and taxes; travel insurance; visas; meals not listed as included; drinks; laundry; personal expenditure; camera fees; tips; optional activities
Getting there: This holiday starts and ends in Delhi. Return flights from the UK cost from around £600, depending on availability. We usually book these flights for you.
Departure dates: This is a small group trip. There are 2 departure dates in 2018: 03 February and 14 February. It is offered subject to availability and reaching minimum numbers. The price is based on the best fare currently available for the domestic flights, and may vary according availability.
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Time: GMT +5 hours
Flight time: Flight time from London to Delhi is 8 hours 30 minutes and to Mumbai is about 8 hours.
Language: The official language is Hindi, which about 30% of the population speaks. English is very widely spoken and is used for official and commercial purposes.
Visas: Required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.
Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations.