In Search of the Snow Leopard

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14 days
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$2,945 USD
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Traveller ratings
4.7 / 5 from 10 reviews >
Moderate
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Trip code: 
TGL
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Wildlife Walks
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

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. Please see the Trip Notes for full details.

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
  • Enjoy a homestay night and traditional meal with a friendly Ladakhi family
  • Look out for Blue Sheep, wolves, Lammergeyers, Himalayan Griffin Vultures and Golden Eagles

Key information

  • 7 nights hotels, 5 nights full-service camping and 1 night homestay
  • 7 days winter walking with full porterage
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader and appropriate staff. Min age 18 yrs
  • Altitude max. 4550m, average 3800m
  • Travel on foot, by jeep and 2 internal flights
  • Festival visited varies by departure date
  • Some deparures led by Valerie Parkinson

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 us on
1 844 227 9087
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.

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.

    The 10th February 2018 departure will spend today at the Dosmoche Festival in Leh, also known as the ‘Scapegoat’ festival, which happens in the New Year to bring good luck for the year ahead.

    The 26th February 2018 departure will spend the day at Matho Festival which features the appearance of the state oracles who go into trance like states.

    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 can either drive or walk across the fields to Tikse. 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 Husing (3700m).

    Today we leave Leh and we drive across the Indus towards Jinchen. We follow the trail from Phe to the entrance of the impressive Rumbak Gorge. The 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 Husing (3,700m).
    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 6-10

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

    The next five days will usually be spent in and around the Husing, Tarbuns and Rumbak 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 Husing (3,700), and daywalks will take us into both the Husing and Tarbuns Valleys, both well-known haunts of the Snow leopard. In 2014 the group saw three Snow leopards in this area and there were also sightings in 2015. A good pair of binoculars is recommended to scan the slopes in and around camp. Our wildlife guides will carry spotting scopes, which they will set up at camp and on ridges on the daywalks. They will also go out in the early mornings and late evenings to search for evidence of any animal movement. We will explore the area around Rumbak Sumdo and Yurutse (4,400m), well known for its sightings of Argali Sheep.

    Overnight we will use a mixture of camping and home stays. One night will be spent in Rumbak village, where we will use a Ladakhi home stay - a basic Ladakhi house. The other five nights will be spent camping. We will have a full trekking crew with us including guides, assistant guides, cook, kitchen assistants and porters.

    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 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.
    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 can be booked before or after your main itinerary. 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.

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 at the back 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, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

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, eggs and bread and hot drinks. Lunch on trek will either be packed or hot; dinners will be mostly pasta, rice or potato based and a mixture of Indian, Continental and Chinese style. In winter there are no fresh vegetables in Leh so we will carry vegetables from Delhi to Leh with us.

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. Although the hotel in Leh is comfortable, water pipes can freeze in winter and water (both hot and cold) may be provided in a bucket. On trek conditions will be basic either camping in sub-zero temperatures or staying in local Ladakhi houses.

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.

Depending on your departure date, you will visit a different festival, as follows:
Saturday 10 February 2018 (Ex London) - Dosmoche Festival 

Monday 26 February 2018 (Ex London) - Matho Festival led by Valerie Parkinson

Sunday 3 February 2019 (Ex London) - Stok Festival 

Friday 15 February 2019 (Ex London) - Matho Festival led by Valerie Parkinson

Call us on
1 844 227 9087
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 us on
1 844 227 9087
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 us on
1 844 227 9087
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

The mountains will always draw us back to this majestic country: and now, with the return of a very special trip, the

  • 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.
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    A very rewarding trip to one of the more remote parts of the Himalaya, with great scenery, a great crew, and overall a great experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hearing first-hand about the work of the Indian Wildlife Service, and how the local population are protecting the snow leopard in Hemis rather than persecuting it as in other parts of its range. Support for local communities, in the form of homestays with local families, as well as employing local guides and staff, is a central part of the ethos behind this trip. As a result of this support, and encouraged by the revenue available from sustainable tourism, poaching in the park has been reduced to zero. In a world of environmental bad news, this is surely an inspiring example of how people and wildlife can coexist for the benefit of both.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is a fantastic leader, but it was also brilliant to see how the local guides were so enthusiastic about the wildlife of the park and it was great to see them warm to the different personalities in the group over the course of our stay. Once animals were spotted, the local guides were just as keen to get time at the spotting scopes and take photographs. And they are good at finding the animals. Quite how they can spot a leopard curled up on a ledge high on a rocky mountain side is amazing to the untrained eye. As a result we were treated to several hours of sightings of a number of animals which far exceeded everyone’s expectations.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although the trekking days on this trip are neither long nor arduous, extremes of temperature and the effects of altitude can combine to make it more challenging, so I would say that this trip is towards the tougher end of grade B. A super-warm sleeping bag is vital, as is lots of high-factor sunscreen.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Many of the group, on hearing of a snow leopard sighting, decided to pay for an extra excursion in the park rather than attend the Matho Festival. For me, the festival was a fantastic experience and a highlight of the trip. While acclimatising by ‘gompa stomping' around monasteries may not be to everyone’s taste, visiting a festival is a great opportunity to see first-hand the importance of religion to local life in this part of the Himalaya. Watching the monks entering a deep trance was enthralling, as were their daring runs along the edge of the roof...
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    I'd wanted to go in search of snow leopards and experience a major Tibetan Buddhist festival since reading Peter Mathiesen's The Snow Leopard while in Lhasa in 1984. This trip exceeded my expectations in every way!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me there were two amazing moments. The first was at the Buddhist festival at Matho, when after hours of watching masked dancers and musicians, surrounded by expectant crowds of Ladakhis, the oracles appeared and raised the event to a very different level. The second unforgettable moment was when we were sitting on a ridge in the Husing valley and got a message to say that a snow leopard was visible from down in the valley. We sprinted down the mountainside and got to the spot where we saw a snow leopard going up the hillside and over a ridge - but not before he turned round and looked straight at us. This was both something I'd never expected to experience, but had also in some way been waiting for for 30 years. We saw snow leopards on two other occasions: once when stalking (unsuccessfully) a blue sheep; and the other when after watching it sleep, stretch, sleep for hours, it finally roused itself and walked slowly across the mountainside across the valley from us. I managed to switich my camera to video, and the 3 minute film I took is on YouTube.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie Parkinson is the best leader I've ever had - or could hope to have. Her knowledge and understanding of Ladakh, Tibetan Buddhism, wildlife and 'people' is immense, and she shares it with generosity and enthusiasm. She had lots of difficulties to cope with, and did so with complete professionalism, but also with calmness and reassurance.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to take life very easy when you first arrive in Leh. It's quite an altitude jump from Delhi, and most people need a couple of days to acclimatise. It's cold in winter, so take as good quality warm gear as you can afford. And a set of light-weight crampons (Kahtoola microspikes) was really useful on the frozen rivers. In our group there were people with super cameras and others with compacts. The super cameras produced some amazing photos, and even those with compacts managed to get some shots. But I took a Panasonic Lumix 'bridge' camera (FZ150) which was light, robust and easy to use, and gave me some brilliant photos and video footage. Oh, and snow boots were really good for keeping my feet warm - as we spent a lot of time sitting and standing and waiting.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you think this trek might be about suffering, forget it!  Even camping up in the mountains you get bed tea and hot water to wash in; huge breakfasts and dinners; lunch served at 14,000 ft; and even a snow leopard cake. So you won't lose any weight!We were extremely lucky to see the snow leopards - but we also saw blue sheep, urials, wooly hares, a red fox, picas, and lammergeyers, golden eagles, griffon vultures, chukars, snow finches and robin accentors. So I'd like to think that I wouldn't have been disappointed even if we hadn't seen any snow leopards. And, in fact, there's a perverse bit of me which wishes we'd just left them as mythical, unseeable creatures of the snow peaks!
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    the trip is amazing, hard going but so rewarding.Valerie parkinson 's abillity and personallity are fabulous and she makes the trip easier in some respects,her organisation and easy going nature are a credit to her, and i would say, probably the best guide ive ever had! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    my most inspirational moment was easy.....the first time i squeezed the shutter on my first snow leopard...hoping it wasnt going to be my last.....but it just got better!!!1then our final sighting was to become an epic....4.5-5hrs sat watching a majestic male as he walked,stopped,stretched,yawned...walked...all the time....shutter was firing, recording his every move.ive been privilaged to see big cats thru africa and asia, but seeing this wonderful majestic cat is a sight to behold!! 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie parkinson was as prviously stated , probably the best guide ive ever had, 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    the only advice that could be passed on, is .....enjoy !!!!!its very hard work scrambling with adrenalin pushing you to get to sightings, then its just amazing!!!on a technical front, i would certainly advise any one else doing this trip to take crampons, as the walks incorporate crossing many frozen streams/rivers . walking poles and gaiters are also necessity.just be prepared for very cold temperatures at night, so the best mat/ sleeping bag would certainly help!!!the advise given from Valerie is priceless. 
  • Reviewed March 2012
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    This was a trip into a remote area in the winter to search for what we all thought was unattainable. We expected cold,  camping at altitude and rough walking. We got all of that but we did not expect hot water bottles every night!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Surrounded by steep sided snow covered mountains it seemed impossible that anything could live in this terrain , until we saw tracks and scrape marks of a snow leopard.  Expectantly scanning the mountainside and intently watching for any unusual movement of blue sheep (snow leopard fodder!), added to the excitement. We all hoped, but no one really expected to see a snow leopard, after all, we all knew that film crews had staked out areas for months before getting footage of them. Then after hot footing it up a steep snowy mountain track, there it was high on the mountainside but visible through binoculars. When it decided to move, the full length of its powerful sleek body and equally long tail was fully shown. We were so priveledged!It was not all about snow leopards though as this area is stunningly beautiful with other plenty of other wildlife and prolific birdlife. However when the second snow leopard was sighted 2 days later, late in the afternoon, with it snowing gently, it just could not get any better!None of this would have been acheived without the experience and knowledge of our superb wildlife guide - Khenrab -he was inspirational!  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie Parkinson was the best!. She had such knowledge of this area and it was obvious she loved being there. The local team and the organisation was brilliant which is why all went so smoothly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the very warmest sleeping bag, lots of layers and a good pair of binoculars.. The altitude is something to consider as its immediate when you fly into Leh, though this trip gave good opportunity to aclimatise by spending a few days around Leh before moving higher. This is not a holiday with mod cons so don't expect them. Just enjoy the shower when back in Delhi.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    will remember this as one of the most priveledged experiences I have had.
  • Reviewed February 2012
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    Very hard, very demanding, very cold, VERY REWARDING. The first view of a snow leopard, like my first encounter with a tiger, was highly emotional and, unashamedly, induced tears ! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    That first sighting of one of natures most elusive animals. The terrain is difficult, the camouflage is one of the best in nature, the sighting call from the guide and resultant "fast" hike is heart attack provoking at that altitude but you have to do it and when you see the leopard no city fat cats bonus could buy it !  The homestay was really humbling, why do people live at this level of subsistence ?  Why are they so friendly and accommodating when the temperature range is -5 to -20C, the world is white, the only transport available is pony, everything is frozen solid and you have to wear 5 layers of thick woollens to keep warm ? I would have liked another day at the homestay as we didn't have enough time with our host/hostess to get to know them.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie was excellent. Very experienced and a great judge of individuals and group interactions. With her knowledge of Delhi she was a brilliant guide to one who would have stayed in the hotel for dinner ! Her trekking and climbing experiences showed in the pace she set for acclimatising us in Leh and the practical advice she administered on how to stay warm or recover after a long spell looking for that elusive snow leopard.  Many of us suffered during the "holiday" in one way or another and Valerie knew how to cope with each case,  how much advice to offer and when to just let us get on with it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is a hard "moderate" and you need to know your own capability and/or listen to advice given by the leader. I hadn't been to altitude before and was lucky in only suffering a little breathlessness and lack of appetite.  I'm 63 and only of average fitness but managed to get to all the sitings and viewings but in my own time.  There are spare porters/helpers for those like me who needed time or assistance so don't be afraid to ask.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Would I go again ? To my surprise the answer is not an immediate emphatic no. At my age experiencing this level of hardship came as a bit of a shock to the system but with a good leader and the support of other party members I am beginning to recognise that I survived and, I do believe, actually enjoyed it ! The homestay was inspirational in a different way and I would have liked to see more and get a fuller flavour of village life in the freezer ! So many people have said "I couldn't do that" and 6 months ago I wondered if I had over judged my capability, BUT, with Exodus behind you and the leadership of someone like Valerie, believe me - YOU CAN.As one of lifes 100 things to do before you die I would put this in the top 10.
  • Reviewed March 2011
    Anonymous

    IN SEARCH OF THE SNOW LEOPARD

    My overall rating would have been a 5 'starrer', if we had seen a snow leopard. However, despite recent signs (pug marks, scrape areas and scats) all round our camp, we did not see one of these secretive cats. Anyway I had a great time. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I enjoy seeing wild life and going to the diminishing pool of wild places. There were two of us on this tour who felt the same way about wild life. We both understood that the best chance of spotting a snow leopard or ounce was to be as unobtrusive as possible. On one day, we climbed to one of the recommended viewing peaks and sat in almost complete silence for nearly two hours. It was a joy to listen to the snow cocks, the yellow-billed choughs and the Chukkar partridges calling to one another. We saw golden eagles and lammergiers wheeling and circling in the bright blue sky. We heard the blue sheep whistling to each other as they came down to drink at a nearby stream. We were surrounded by snow peaked mountains and it was very beautiful. No ounces but a magical experience for both of us.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Sohan was very good. He was friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. I favour using local guides because it helps the local economy and I feel that they get the best out of the local people. It also puts more attention in the conservation of local wild life. However, if there is 'the one' on the tour who demands more attention than the rest of the group, the poor old local guide has to put more effort into satisfying them rather than with the rest of the group. Sohan and all the other guides we had, were excellent but we did have 'that one'.  

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This tour is a very interesting one. However, it was very cold. Certainly our night temperatures were possibly nudging -20. You must have the right equipment. Good warm, waterproof boots, a good 5 season sleeping bag with mattress, warm clothing, thermal underwear, gloves, hats and a stick. I normally think walking sticks are a bind because I like to have my hands free for binoculars etc. However, on this tour a stick was essential. Gaiters are useful but I never used my yak-trax. Crossing icy rivers was hazardous and we did fall but putting on and then taking off the yak-trax took up too much effort. Remember the altitudes are high - up to 4200 meters. All exercise was exacting. Remember to take slipper socks for the monastery visits. Those floors and the floors of the hotel in Leh are freezing cold.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    There is a lot to see on this trip. It is exacting with the altitude and extreme cold. I would like to mention that one of the factors I think that we did not see an ounce, was human chatter, laughter and unbelievably, at one point, shouting. One of the cats we were following left the track, possibly because of a local man traveling down the track on his mule from his village. Now these cats are used to that but they are not used to excited, noisy human chatter. There should be more emphasis on silence. I was rather dreading our stay in Delhi having been before. However, we decided to use the metro to get about. The Delhi metro is clean, cheap and very efficient. However, it is very crowded particularly at rush hour. If you use it, make sure that you are not boxed in at your exit station. Move up to the doors well in advance. Do not be afraid to push your way through. Everyone does. Ladies use the 'Ladies Only' carriage at the front of the train to avoid being 'groped'! Take a good map and travel to your site by 'tuk tuk' from the metro station. Good luck.

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