Snow Leopard

In Search of the Snow Leopard

14 days
from
$4,379
incl. taxes
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4.8 / 5 from 16 reviews
Walking & Trekking
Suitable for:
Age 16+
Activity level:
Moderate
Activity Rating - Moderate
Trip code: 
TGL
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Walking & Trekking
Group size:
4–16
Min age:
16

A rare chance to see the elusive Snow Leopard and attend a monastic festival

Snow leopards are one of the world's most elusive mammals but in winter they descend from the high Himalaya in search of food. Inhabiting some of the most remote and mountainous regions of Central Asia, the mission to see this enigmatic cat is really more of a pilgrimage. Other rare high altitude wildlife and isolated Himalayan Buddhist communities only add to this quest's allure. The itinerary varies slightly by departure date to fit in the different festivals. 

Monday 15 February and Saturday 27 February 2021 (Flight inclusive) led by Valerie Parkinson

Highlights

  • Chance to see the rare and elusive Snow leopard
  • Wonderful winter walking in mountainous Ladakh - when it is cut off from the rest of the world
  • Visit ancient monasteries and attend a colourful monastic festival with masked dancers
  • Enjoy a homestay night and traditional meal with a friendly Ladakhi family
  • Look out for Blue sheep, wolves, lammergeyers, Red fox, Himalayan Griffin Vultures and Golden Eagles

Key information

  • 7 nights hotels, 5 nights full-service camping and 1 night homestay
  • 7 days wildlife spotting on foot
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader and appropriate staff. Min age 18 yrs
  • Altitude max. 4550m, average 3800m (maximum sleeping 3900m)
  • Travel on foot, by jeep and 2 internal flights
  • Festival visited varies by departure date
  • Both 2021 departures led by Valerie Parkinson
  • Countries visited: India

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 10 dinners
  • All accommodation 
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Specialist wildlife guide

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for private group trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.  Exodus has worked with our local partner in India for over 30 years and we have local leaders and staff working on all our trips. 

There are many community projects in Ladakh that Exodus has set up or supported over the years. These include helping to rebuild houses and schools and providing materials to build a flood barrier following devastating flooding in 2007 and setting up a flood relief appeal following mudslides in 2010.  Since 2011 Exodus has worked along side local organisations to provide the Markha Valley communities with safe drinking water and we have funded several UV water filters.  This means that locals can now sell safe drinking water to trekkers. The long-term goal is to ban single-use plastic water bottles in the Markha Valley entirely.

Exodus works with various local women’s groups in Ladakh, running felting workshops so that they can create handicrafts to sell to trekkers. We have set up 3 Women’s Eco Cafés in Hankar, Pensi and Kaya in the Markha Valley. In Leh, Exodus supports a Donkey Sanctuary, which provides a home for old, ill or mistreated donkeys. We are also helping to raise money to build a Buddhist temple for the villagers of Ranbirpura.

If you would like more details on any of these projects please e-mail Valerie Parkinson (Asia Base Manager - [email protected]) or ask your leader during your trip. 

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage.

To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Delhi
to
Delhi
  • Day 1

    Start Delhi.

    The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to our hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day. You are free today to explore Delhi or rest after your flight; rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this. There is usually a welcome briefing in the hotel lobby this evening.
    Standard Hotel

  • Day 2

    Fly across the Himalaya to Leh (3500m).

    Usually we have a very early start today for the flight to Leh. We may have to leave the hotel at around 2am and drive to the airport for the very early morning but highly spectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh. Incredibly beautiful in winter we fly over the huge expanse of snow-capped peaks. Landing in Leh the temperature will drop dramatically and we will need our down jackets at the airport. If the weather is good and the flight goes on time we should be in Leh for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatise to the altitude (3,500m). In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Full day at a monastic festival.

    Once a year every monastery in Ladakh has a festival where the monks dress in elaborate brocade and silk costumes and re-enact century old stories of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. People come from all over Ladakh to the festivals and these are a great social as well as religious occasion.  We are still waiting for advice from monasteries on festival dates for 2021

    The whole day will be spent at the festival and in the evening we return to our hotel in Leh. 

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Visit Shey, Thikse and Stakna Monasteries.

    Today we visit some of the most important monasteries in the Indus Valley. First we drive just over half an hour to Shey, once the residence of the Ladakhi royal family. Below the old palace ruins is a small temple containing a two-storey gilded statue of Buddha. From Shey we walk across the fields to Tikse, spotting for birds en route. Set on a hill it is one of the most impressive gompas in Ladakh, It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the Future Buddha. We then drive on to Stakna, a small but friendly monastery perched atop a huge rock. In the late afternoon we return to Leh.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Drive to Jinchen; trek to Rumbak Sumdo (3800m)

    Today we leave Leh and we drive across the Indus towards Jinchen. We follow the road past Phe to the entrance of the impressive Rumbak Gorge. We leave the cars near a bridge and our trail takes us up into the narrow gorge and we start our search for evidence of Snow leopard and Blue Sheep. We camp tonight at our base camp at Rumbak Sumdo (3,800m)

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 6-10

    Five days wildlife spotting in and around the Rumbak, Yurutse, Husing and Tarbuns Valleys in the Hemis National Park searching for Snow leopards and other mammals and birds.

    The next five days will usually be spent in and around the Rumbak, Yurutse, Husing and Tarbuns Valleys in the Hemis National Park. There will be no fixed itinerary and our days will be decided on by our expert wildlife guides - this is to maximise the chances of seeing a Snow leopard. Our days will be spent searching for Snow leopard and other animals which inhabit this area. The extreme cold of winter forces the Snow leopard and other animals down from the high altitudes they normally inhabit. Ladakh is situated at an altitude range of 3,300m - 6,000m and hosts an incredible amount of wildlife. It is full of endangered species including Snow leopard, Tibetan Ibex, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Wolf, Red Fox, Ladakhi Urial and Lynx. We usually spend most of the time at our base camp at Rumbak Sumdo, and day walks will take us into the Rumbak Valley and further towards Yurutse and the Ganda La. We can also explore the Husing and Tarbuns Valleys, all well-known haunts of the Snow leopard. In 2018 the group had five good sightings of Snow leopards in this area and in 2019 the group saw 2 Snow Leopards together from the camp at Rumbak Sumdo. A good pair of binoculars is recommended to scan the slopes in and around camp. We have experienced wildlife spotters (1 per 5 clients), who will carry spotting scopes, which they will set up at camp and on ridges on the day walks. They will also go out in the early mornings and late evenings to search for evidence of any animal movement.
    Overnight we will use a mixture of camping and home stays. Five nights will be spent camping. We will have a full trekking crew with us including guides, assistant guides, cook, kitchen assistants and porters. At our base camp we have two person tents with foam mattress, dining tent with tables and chairs, solar lights and gas heaters. There are local long drop toilet facilities. At night hot water bottles are provided. You just need to carry your daypack whilst out spotting. Lunch and hot drinks will be brought to us by our camp crew. If you have a heavy camera bag it is possible to hire a private porter to carry this for you. One night will be spent in Rumbak village, where we will stay in a Ladakhi home stays. These are basic but comfortable local houses. The bedrooms have thick mattresses and you can take your sleeping bag from the camp. The dining room and bedrooms have small wood burning stoves. The houses have a local long drop toilet. Food at the home stay will be traditional local food and you will get chance to interact with the villagers in their day to day life.

    Our guides will be in touch with other guides and if Snow leopards have been spotted in other areas of Ladakh we will need to be flexible and move the camp.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Return to Leh.

    Today we trek back to Jinchen, where we will meet our transport and drive back to the relative comforts of our hotel in Leh.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 12

    Fly to Delhi.

    An early start for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day is free in Delhi for individual shopping or sightseeing.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Free day in Delhi for individual sightseeing.

    A free day in Delhi in case of any delays in the flight from Leh. If we fly to Delhi on schedule then today is free for individual sightseeing. You may want to visit Old Delhi with the magnificent Red Fort and Jami Masjid. Humayun's Tomb (a forerunner to the Taj Mahal) is worth a visit. In New Delhi there is India Gate and Parliament House to see; and of course Delhi has a wealth of interesting shops and markets.  An optional day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal can be arranged by your leader who will provide details and prices. (not available on Fridays as the Taj Mahal is closed)
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    End Delhi.

    The tour ends after breakfast today. Those travelling on the group flights will be transferred to the airport for the daytime flight back to London. The group flights depart around lunchtime and will arrive in the UK the same day.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Extend Your Trip

Golden Triangle extension

Code: XBS

A visit to the incredible Taj Mahal and other great Moghul cities close to Delhi is an excellent way to begin or end a visit to Northern India. The five-day Golden Triangle extension may be booked before or after your main itinerary or both options might be available depending on the trip start and end location. The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, and is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Close by is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar with its beautiful courtyards and palaces and let's not forget the deserted royal city of Fatehpur Sikri. The extension also visits the Pink City of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, which is one of the most attractive and colourful cities in India. The detailed itinerary and if pre or post tour is available can be found here

Essential Info

Visas

India

Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. Visa information changes regularly for India; for the latest information on applying for a visa please follow this link: http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/India-visa-information.pdf

If your trip visits Ladakh, in the very north of India, or Sikkim in the north east, do not mention this on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

If your flight arrives into Delhi Airport and you have an e-visa, please follow the overhead signs to the e-visa booth ion the right hand side of the immigration hall. You will need to fill out an additional form at the booth. Please make sure that you have the details of your start hotel ready. These details can be found on your Final Joining Instructions.

Vaccinations

India

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approx. 2000m, there is low to no risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips going to altitudes of over 3000m there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the TRIP NOTES for further information.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts are included and in Ladakh all food is included. In Leh the food will be a mix of Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Continental. On trek we provide a full breakfast including porridge, cereals, eggs and toast and a choice of hot drinks. Lunch will be a packed hot lunch consisting of rice and chapattis, vegetables, tuna and cheese, which will be carried for us. Dinners will be mostly pasta, rice or potato based and a mixture of Indian, Continental and Chinese style. In the afternoon hot drinks and biscuits are served and in the daytime our camp staff will bring us hot drinks whilst we are out spotting.

Weather

Ladakh in winter is very cold. From January to March the days can be sunny but there will be a chill in the air. January is the coldest month in Ladakh. By March the days can be up to 7°C The early mornings, evenings and night times will be extremely cold. You must be prepared for temperatures well below freezing. Daytime temperatures in Leh, and on trek, will be from approximately – 10°C to + 6°C. It is a very dry cold in Ladakh and we can expect sunny weather with a wind chill. Night-time temperatures can drop to - 10°C down to - 25°C.

There is usually snow around from January to March. You must be adequately equipped and prepared to deal with the cold on this trip. Please read the equipment section thoroughly. The January trips will be colder than the March trips.

In Delhi the weather will be mild with daytime temperatures up to 15°C.

Leh, India

Leh, India

Is this trip for you?

This is an adventurous tour and you need to be flexible in your approach to the trip. The trip takes place in winter when Ladakh is cut off from the rest of the world by road and temperatures drop well below zero.  The hotel in Leh is simple but comfortable and has central heating and hot water bottles are provided at night. However, the water pipes can sometimes freeze in winter and water (both hot and cold) may be provided in a bucket. Out of Leh conditions will be more basic. Five nights will be spent at a base camp, which consists of two-person tents with mattresses, dining tent with tables, chairs, solar lights and heaters and local long drop toilets. There will be a full camp crew and cooks, who will look after us and guide us. One night is spent in a local Ladakhi house, which will be heated with a wood burning stove. Whilst out spotting we will have an  experienced local spotting guide and spotting scope for every 5 clients.

The tour is designed to maximise the chance of spotting a Snow leopard and this will mean you need to be flexible and we may need to adjust or change the itinerary at short notice should snow conditions or other adverse or local conditions deem it wise to do so.

What makes this trip challenging is the weather conditions in Ladakh at this time of year. The walking distances each day will be moderate. Most of the walking will be optional dependant on your enthusiasm for tracking animals each day.

Internal flights to Leh are operated throughout the winter when the weather is clear. Delays and cancellations cannot be ruled out.

If you are prepared to be flexible and patient and have a spirit of adventure then this is a magnificent trip into one of the world’s most incredible best kept secrets.

 

 

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for private group trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels, Camping & Homestay

In Delhi we use a good standard hotel, which has en suite air-conditioned rooms. In Leh the hotel is simple but all rooms have en suite bathrooms. Please note that in Ladakh in winter the water pipes in the hotel may be frozen and water (hot and cold) is usually provided by bucket. Electricity in Leh can also be temperamental, although many hotels now have back-up generators and lanterns and candles are provided in case of power cuts.

The trek itself is on a full-service camping basis, meaning that our camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents for you, cook, and do all of the camp chores for you. You need only carry your day pack. We use two-person tents which have enough room inside for your kitbags. We also have a dining tent complete with table and folding chairs, and at least one toilet tent (usually two) for use during the evenings. No running water is available whilst camping. The camp staff will collect stream water or melt snow to provide bowls of warm water (to wash with).

We spend one night in a traditional Ladakhi house. The house will be basic and you may well be sleeping in a sleeping bag on a mattress on the floor. There will be a basic local toilet and dining room.

If you require a single room whilst in Delhi and Leh and a single tent whilst camping there is a supplement, From £400 payable at the time of booking. Please note that single rooms will not be available in the homestay.

Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for private group trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Experts

Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for private group trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed June 2020

    Wildlife Documentary in Real Time

    Watching snow leopards on a TV in the comfort of your living room may get you close but you cannot feel the environment. By simply being there you can start to feel, appreciate and understand the very essence of the environment they live in and the remarkable way the local population and wildlife interact. 'in Search of the Snow Leopards' is the title of the trip but it is also a trip in search of many things. If ever there was one journey where the multifaceted aspects of geography came together - this is it. The sightings of the snow leopards being the pinnacle.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Simply being there. Drawing the threads together of previous trips to Ladakh. The very first sightings of the snow leopards. The drama of the landscape that provided the backdrop to these sightings. The opportunity to see the snow leopards in a variety of situations from a mating couple, solitary ones and mothers with cubs. The chance to engage with the local people as they openly shared their festivals with us and the sheer entrancement and enjoyment of villagers at the Stok Festival with masked dancers and the Oracles. All the smaller moments that made this trip - Exhilarating' - feeling the cold that draws the snow leopards down to lower altitudes at this time of year. Camping and the early morning calls from the team to muster behind the scopes which is the quickest I have ever crawled out of warm sleeping bag in such cold temperatures. The optional extras that put a real perspective on the challenges of living in such an environment - felt snow leopards from the local villagers - even each one of these having its own character, the ice stupas made by villagers to create a sustainable water supply for crops, winding up the road from Leh in a taxi as opposed to cycling up. The amazing opportunities we had to see so many snow leopards due to the expertise of the spotters. The trek and camp crew who always approach things with their great sense of humour and a smile. They are constantly in the background, and whilst I congratulated myself that I had survived the night in the cold, it is down to the team who make it all happen. Simply being there. Finishing off with high tea at The Imperial!!! They do a lovely scone and provide surreal setting to end the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I have never had a bedtime story of local tales read to the group by the leader in the warmth of the mess tent after a lovely supper - so soporific that snuffles can occasionally be heard from the darker corners!!!! Valerie makes it happen. She encapsulates everything positive about the moment. Everyone has a their own personal reasons for venturing on this specific trip, purely to see snow leopards, to capture the perfect photograph of this elusive creature, to engage with the opportunity to see a wide variety of animals, to go to a place few go to and especially at a perceived 'difficult time of year', to engage with everything the region has to off - the reasons are personal and with Valerie your own personal needs and wants are engaged. Through travelling, living and working with the locals and the environment over several decades you benefit from all that she has done and the understanding she has of the area. All the hard work has been done by Valerie and you can get the best of the area and still feel like you are taking ownership of your own experience. She is dedicated to the multifacted nature of the area. There is an honest openness to share her many years of experience, knowledge, respect and dedication to the region. Valerie allows people to be who they are and goes with ease between being a leader and a friend to ensure everyone is safe and most importantly has a 'trip of a lifetime'.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just do it!!! This very trip kept playing in my mind during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 and I am so glad that I bit the bullet and booked the last place on this trip. Memories of the sightings, the landscape, the local people, the Exodus crew and fellow travelers kept me company during the months of solitude that followed our return. READ the trip notes and make sure you have all of the essential gear - it is a unique environment and there are challenges re the cold and altitude but by following the advice on the trip notes you will be able to enjoy and engage with every aspect of the trip. Go with an open mind - it is a trip of wildlife, trekking, culture, opportunities that arise that can't be planned for. For example one of the days 'scheduled' to see Leh at the start was 'diverted' to spotting the mating snow leopard couple. Don't understimate the cold - take responsibility for your own warmth and comfort. An excellent sleeping bag is essential and down jacket - there are excellent ones to hire through the trip notes if you don't want to spend loads of money. Weight of luggage on the flight to Leh is limited there are various ways to get over this so look at this before travelling. You don't need a change of clothes for every day but lots of layers. Even though it is cold the sun will burn so protection is essential - sunscreen and sunhat. Footwear suited to the environment is necessary - see trip notes. Enjoy the bedtime stories - sets you up for pleasant dreams!!! Book a porter to help carry your extra equipment - running to see the snow leopards early in the morning meant that those that had heavy camera gear were 'good to go' and spot and take photographs as soon as they got to the spotting platform. Totally trust the team with your phone - they were amazing at getting the shots of the snow leopards using your iphones/camera phone - using the scopes - people at home think I am a wizard with an iphone camera!!! Take advantage of some of the things to do in Leh and Delhi. Hiring a local taxi in Leh took us up into the hills and the local ice stupas. Delhi was the opportunity to take part in a tour run by a street children's charity.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a region that I have been to a couple of times, but never in winter and again it did not disappoint. The trip is unique in so much as the snow leopards don't appear at this altitude all year round - that is the reason to book it. If you are looking for real sustainable tourism then this is your chance - it is local, determined by the timings of nature and most importantly a chance to experience a Himalayan winter without going to remote extremes. It is a trip of a lifetime but I think I will join the 'cat population' and have nine lives so I can go again and it will still be the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy anticipation of considering going, booking, preparing, participating and most importantly reflecting on your return. It is one trip that will never leave you.
  • Reviewed April 2020

    6 Snow Leopards, two Oracles and a Woolly Rabbit!

    Ladakh is a beautiful region of Northern India. Add to that the friendly welcome and the variety of wildlife and culture and you have a destination that it would be hard to find fault with. This was my second visit and this time I was there to see Snow Leopards. Except, of course, they're so rare that the chances of spotting just one would be very low. And indeed spotting just one was impossible - I saw a total of 6 during the 10 days I was there, including relatively close sighting of a mating pair on our first day in the mountains, a mother and her two cubs and a solitary Snow Leopard rolling in the dust to hide its scent before hunting. Our group as a whole saw 12. This amazing tally was due largely to the experience, skill and dedication of the spotting team and our leader, Valerie, who between them took us to the right places at the right time and found the well camouflaged big cats where we may have only seen a buff coloured rock. And let's not forget the Blue Sheep, Lammageier Vultures, Bearded Griffon, Golden Eagles, Woolly Rabbits, Uriel Goats and Alpine Chough. This is a challenging trip - cold, altitude and remoteness all add to the adventure although its well within the abilities of anyone with the right kits and who has trudged the hills in the UK. But it's worth it for the experience of the incredible Himalayan landscapes, the unique culture and the amazing flora and fauna. If you have the chance, book the trip that coincides with the Stok Festival, a colourful and spectacular celebration of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of music and dance culminating in the appearance of the village oracles.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational 'stand out' moments for me. These are a few of my personal ones. Watching the mating behaviour of a pair of Snow Leopards; the Oracles in a trance at Stok; having a local ask me if he could take a photo of me and his little daughter; the 'Street Kids' walking tour of Old Delhi. I loved standing outside the tent at 6.30am, watching the mountains light up while drinking a cup of steaming hot black tea. The rush up to the viewing platform when one of the spotters shouted 'Snow Leopard'. One of our crew demonstrating the correct way to slide down a frozen river on a flat stone.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This is my second trek with Valerie and she proved to be every bit the excellent leader on this trip as she did on the previous one. Knowledgeable, understanding of individual and group needs, Valerie's decades of experience in the region enabled her to be flexible with arrangements and cope with the changes forced on us by the Covid-19 outbreak at the end of our trip. Evenings were spent listening to her tell us about the region, the wildlife and the people. The crew she had picked were excellent and dedicated to the roles they played. They were clearly very loyal to Valerie.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In general, come prepared for cold weather. The nature of this particular trip means you will be standing around searching for wildlife or viewing and taking photographs so the heat normally generated trekking will quickly go. I found I was wearing a thick down jacket most of the time simply because although the sun can be warm, there is usually a cold breeze in the valleys and much of the time is spent stationary. If you're out all day, as soon as the sun disappears below the mountains the temperature drops very quickly. I wore thick winter socks for the same reason. The terrain underfoot was, in general, no harder than UK hills and a 3 season boot would probably suffice. We didn't need crampons but 'yaktrax' or similar might be useful as we had to cross a couple of frozen rivers. The Exodus kit list is a good starting point; vary it according to your own preference for cold weather. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag as this is your refuge and a good night's sleep is important. You don't need lots of changes of clothing because you don't end up sweating a lot and everyone is in the same situation. Exodus provide top quality spotting scopes (Swarovski) but you might want to bring your own, which can help with spotting and will enable you to digiscope. The nature of our encounters with Snow Leopards meant that big lenses were necessary because of distance and digiscoping would be ideal in these circumstances. Some great photos were taken with scope and mobile phone. Our encounters lasted a while, so a tripod (or at least a monopod) would makes things easier on the arms. But don't forget camera kit to cope with the amazing landscapes, villages and festivals too. Be aware that there is close scrutiny on the internal flights - all our camera kit had to come out of the back packs and was checked by the security people at Dehli before boarding the internal flight.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Approach this trip with realistic expectations and you won't be disappointed.
  • Reviewed April 2020

    Excellent trip

    A very well balanced and well organised trip - a very good combination of a little time in Delhi, time at a festival and of course looking for snow leopards and other wildlife. We were incredibly lucky to see lots of snow leopards along with lynx, blue sheep, eagles and a mountain hare. Loved the festival too - lots of colour and a fascinating experience. The crew were efficient, knowledgeable and helpful - in fact, really couldn't have hoped for more. The hot water bottles at night were particularly appreciated! Quality of the hotel in Leh was great too. It was a shame we had to miss out on the homestay but coronavirus meant that we were asked not to do it by the local people (a very fair request). I found that where required Valerie was great at allowing flexibility during the trip and, all in all, I don't think it could have been better organised or executed. Just make sure you have lots and lots of very warm and appropriate clothing as it's really cold - and apparently it was warmer on our trip than it normally is!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the pair of snow leopards on the first day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Factor 50 sun cream and as many warm clothes as you can cram in your bag.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Snow leopards found

    If you have ever dreamed of seeing the elusive snow leopard then this is the trip for you. Don't think about it just book it. Ladakh is an incredible region and you couldn't ask for a better guide than Valerie. Been there, done that and probably knows the location of every rock on the mountain. As for the area - if you saw nothing but the scenery you would get your moneysworth, however the team scour the countryside for wildlife - with lammegeiers and golden eagles regularly sighted overhead. As for the snow leopards themselves we had 12 sightings - an extraordinarily good year, some were very distant and only visible with the fantastic Swarovski scopes. However we were also lucky enough to get a mother and cubs sighting and a mating pair at distances under 600m - this isn't a petting zoo - which is clear enough for binoculars and long lens cameras. Photographers with a dslr need to thing 500m or bigger with tripods and teleconverters. It will not be Africa Serengetti encounters, but that makes them even more magical. Failing this kit the guides are adept at taking mobile shots through the spotting scopes - good enough for keepsakes and memories of an incredible trip. It is cold though and involves trekking on rocky trails - so heed the trip notes, get good warm boots and kit and enjoy your complimentary hot water bottle ( after a lovely filling meal) Icing on the cake is the Street Kids tour of Delhi and the inspieational stories of the work done by the charity. Can't thank Valerie and team enough and gladly go and do it all over again - if she can take the stress of getting my mountain of camera kit through customs.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing a mother and two cubs on the same day we saw a pair of snow leopards above camp. Everyone raced up the hill to the spotting scopes, forgetting the altitude. We were still chatting excitedly over our luck at evening meal, having watched them for 3 hours.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is rightfully a legend - she knows everyone and even read us local tales from a book. She lives and breathes the region and that in turn feeds into the group and how good the trip turned out to be. She is also widely respected by the local people and staff, case in point one evening a ranger had his own client with an eye problem - first port of call was Valerie to see what she thought.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't scrimp on a warm sleeping bag, proper boots for the terrain and warm layers. This is not extreme terrain but you will enjoy life a lot more if you are comfortable. Take a small bag to leave in Delhi and another drybag of something to change into when you get bag to Leh. Likelihood is you will be wearing same clothes for daysin camp so just be warm.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Probably one of the best experiences I have done. I had thought I'd be lucky to see snow leopards once. To have 12 sightings, a lynx and then high tea in The Imperial just made the trip beyond my wildest dreams. Thanks to Valerie, the crew and my camera porter / assitant photographer Chosgun. Without whom the 600mm lens would have travelled up trails a lot slower.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Iain Roberts

    Stunning

    This was a wonderful trip, well organised and lead by the wonderful Valerie Parkinson. We had a great mix of people, who all got on together, and this does really help when your trekking in extreme conditions. The hard work put in by the spotters, porters, cooks and helpers was gratefully appreciated. No task was too much trouble, and always done with a lovely smile. These guys certainly earn their money.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip from start to finish was good fun, but seeing a couple of snow leopards was the highlight of the trip. The wonderful scenery. We had 36 hours of snow, but when the sun came out and seeing the snow capped Himalayas in all there glory, was truly magnificent.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is a natural. Laid back, well organised, and was great fun to be with. You can see the pleasure she gets from being in the Himalayas, and helping the local people.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do take the warmest of sleeping bag. We had very low temp. so everything does freeze during the night, so if you need to keep anything warm, just put in your sleeping bag. My face wipes, contact lens solution where all frozen after the first night. I have to admit, that over the six days camping, I only changed once, and probably only washed once, but everybody is in the same boat, so don't worry. As we had a lot of snow, I was really glad to have a pair of micro spikes. They made a huge difference trekking on the snow and ice. They give you a lot more confidence, but do buy decent ones ( Yak Trak ) as cheaper ones will fall apart after one day.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The home stay was a welcome relief after a few nights camping. The people in the mountain village are really wonderful. Nice to be in a room with a log burning fire, and to get up to a hot cup of tea and freshly baked bread.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Neil & Carole Bowman & Mahoney

    Snow leopards aplenty!

    This was our second visit to Hemis NP in search of the snow leopard. Our visit in 2011 produced one very brief sighting. On this return visit we were amply rewarded with several lengthy sightings on four of the six days we were there, giving us the chance to view them stalking prey (blue sheep), resting and ridge-walking. Much of our success was due to the incredible skill and dedication of our Ladakhi spotters. We cannot thank them enough. We were also priveleged to have good sightings of a pair of wolves, a herd of urials, picas, woolly hares and several large birds of prey including two Eagle Owls roosting and flying at dusk. Apart from wildlife watching, there were very good cultural experiences too - visiting monasteries, attending a Buddhist masked dance festival at Matho Monastery and a welcoming homestay in the traditional Ladakhi village of Rumbak.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing one of the leopards, after resting, stand up then roll around on the ground with paws in the air! We were told this helps camouflage its coat and hide its scent from its prey.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As we have said many times, Valerie Parkinson is second to none in all respects!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have visited the Himalaya during the summer months, we would highly recommend the contrasting experience of winter in Ladakh. There are very few other tourists, the scenery is different but more spectacular for its frozen rivers and snow-covered slopes. Yes, it can be very cold, but it can also be very bright and sunny, so, as long as you have the appropriate kit, there should be no problem. And don't take too many changes of clothes! Do as the local Ladakhis do in winter.....

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Again, thanks to our Ladakhi team who looked after us with great care and thoughtfulness - nothing was too much trouble for them - and, of course, Valerie Parakinson.
  • Reviewed March 2016
    Colin Kirkby

    Cold Ladakh

    In spite of the temperature of Ladakh (very cold) we were well looked after by our leader Valerie and the trekking team.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The magnificent views of the Himalayan mountain scenery.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent, experienced and knowledgeable of the region.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are prepared for the cold and take more warm clothing than on other treks
  • Reviewed March 2016
    Gordon Tyrrall

    In Search Of The Snow Leopard

    I felt privileged to see this unique part of the world - its awesome magnificence,its wildlife,and its culture.The Buddhist ceremonies at Matho were fascinating and I appreciated the fact that it was nota show put on for tourists,(of which there were very few) but for the ladakhi locals.Once we began trekking and camping,the environment revealed its beauty,but also its harshness and austerity - the cold and the altitude were a challenge for most of us I think,although we were very well catered for by our ladakhi guides and porters.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the Rumbak valley.Seeing wolves and a lynx.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie was an excellent group leader - tougher than any of us,and always on hand to give advice.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The obvious thing - take good cold weather gear,especially sleeping bag and down jacket - however,you dont really need great big waterproof walking boots as the trails are mainly dry and dusty.
  • Reviewed March 2015
    Deb Bradley

    In Search of the Snow Leopard

    This is an amazing and very spiritual place. The scenery is absolutely spectacular. The stars are unrivaled. The hiking is technical and challenging, and makes you focus in a way that is very rejuvenating. The homestay was a wonderful experience. The crew that we had while camping were amazing, and we were always in awe when it felt like we had hiked so far away, and then two of our guys would show up with tea or lunch!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I have to say although it was very brief, the most inspirational moment was catching a glimpse of a snow leopard in the wild. What an incredible animal, and I feel very lucky to have seen it in it's home.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Chosphel Sonam was excellent. He has a good sense of humor and made sure everything was done for our trip to run smoothly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Of course you want to see a snow leopard in the wild. But it is certainly not a guarantee. We didn't see one until the last day, and even then it was just a few seconds. I was actually surprised at how desolate the place is. Besides snow leopards, I thought we would see other wildlife. We did see signs of wildlife, but really saw very little. The scenery and experience is worth it, but if you are expecting to see a lot of wildlife you will be disappointed. Also, it is really, really cold at night so take the absolute best sleeping bag you can!!!!
  • Reviewed July 2013
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    A memorable winter holiday, superbly organised and led.  We went for the winter walking, the Buddhist monasteries, Leh out of season and of course the snow leopards, but even had we seen none of the latter this holiday would have been a delight.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Matho Festival, when, after a day of golden sunshine and intense blue skies, joyous crowds and masked dancers, we watched one of the state oracles appear right in front of us and then leap to the rooftop wall and stand, silhouetted against the backdrop of snow and moon, mountain and crag.  And I loved walking on the frozen river! And I loved hearing wolves howling round the valley in the night!And oh, the starry starry skies! 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie Parkinson is, without doubt, the best leader we have had on a group tour.  Her knowledge and skills were excellent, her care for the group was superb, and her care for individuals within the group was wonderful.   

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the best cold-weather camping equipment you can afford to buy.  We took Rab Expedition down bags, and down sleeping mattresses with built in pumps.  Neither of us were cold at night though the tents were thin and the temperatures very very cold.  We also took microspikes for our boots and these made walking on the frozen river a real pleasure.In Leh we were all given the opportunity to have our own guide/porter (for an additional payment).  We decided to do this and it made the holiday even more special.  We could go where we liked, when we liked because of having our own guide, who kept in touch by radio with the main group guides so could get us to snow leopard sightings very quickly.  We usually plan our own holidays and enjoy being on our own, so this was wonderful for us, like a tailormade within a group holiday.  By the way the group members were all very very pleasant and friendly. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We saw four out of the nine snow leopards in the area.  An amazing tally, considering the number of people whom we met who had seen none, and that, in some cases, on more than one visit.  However we would have loved the holiday even had we had no sightings!  And would we return - well yes we might, we would try to have extra time in Leh, and we would love to take our grandson with us.

Dates & Prices

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