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Snow Leopard Photo Tour : Everything You Need to Plan the Best Tour

Want to plan the best snow leopard photo tour? We explain why some destinations are better than others and give you info on the ideal camera set-up.

Reading Time: 29 minutes

Trying to plan a snow leopard photo tour? Found across 12 countries in Central and South Asia, the snow leopard is one of the most difficult big cats to photograph. Getting a great photo can be the ultimate feather in a wildlife photographers hat! And we’re not just talking “proof-i-saw-them” photos, but capturing an iconic wildlife image.

This article will help you learn how to plan the best snow leopard photography tour. Increase your chances of getting the perfect snow leopard photo by:

  1. Selecting the ideal destination for your snow leopard photo safari;
  2. Learning what to prioritize when selecting a snow leopard photo tour operator;
  3. Making sure you are doing things ethically;
  4. Getting a better understanding of why certain countries are better than others for photography;
  5. Choosing the ideal camera equipment, lenses, and tripod.

If you want to simply see a snow leopard, we’ve got several options for you. See a comparison of these three snow leopard tour destinations. The Signature snow leopard expedition to Ladakh and the Classic snow leopard tour to Ladakh run November through April, the snow leopard tour to Mongolia is scheduled in October, along with the snow Leopard expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

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Are You Searching for the Best Snow Leopard Photo Tour?

If you’re obsessed with wildlife photography, getting a great shot of a snow leopard, might be pretty high on your list of dream shots. We get it. Most of our team are photographers and we are always working on getting the snow leopard shot. It also helps that our team has both trackers and filmmakers who have captured some of the most iconic snow leopard footage in the world.

Duncan Parker filmed snow leopards for both the BBC’s Planet Earth II and NatGeo’s Hostile Planet. He was responsible for the dozens of camera traps placed to capture up-close shots for both. Khenrab, Smanla, Dorjay, and Rashid have worked closely with the world’s top camera crews and photographers to track snow leopards. They have worked with top production crews, including the BBC, NatGeo, the Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet. They helped choose remote camera sites for the legendary Steve Winter of NatGeo. Brad, Behzad, and Sebastian, have taken some amazing snow leopard shots and lead a snow leopard expedition to ladakh each year.

So if all these folks have great shots and footage of snow leopards, a snow leopard photography tour must be pretty easy, right? There’s certainly quite a few of them advertised by a bunch of companies.

Well, not quite. The areas snow leopards live in are harsh, high, and sparse. Quite unlike the areas you visit on a photo safari for tigers, or on a photo tour to Kenya for lions. This has a great impact on wildlife density and populations. You may see a few dozen lions in the Mara in a week, but may only see 2 snow leopards on a photo tour. Perhaps only in the distance. Or you may see none at all. It’s all a part of the experience and the reason why these cats are the pinnacle of wildlife photography.

Keep reading to understand the process behind finding snow leopards and getting close to them. Once you know this, you’ll have an easier time picking a destination.

A wild snow leopard walks on a high ridge. Camera trap.

A wild snow leopard walks on a high ridge. Camera trap.

The Right Expectations for a Snow Leopard Photo Tour

You want great shots of a snow leopard. We know that feeling. Maybe some close-up shots and tight portraits like you’ve seen on all these websites selling snow leopard photo tours. Indeed, looking at a lot of snow leopard photo tour sites it does seem like everyone has figured out how to get some great close-ups.

Not quite. A lot of the shots used for marketing these trips are stock photos and photos available with a creative commons license on Flickr. They are either from zoos or the Triple “D” Ranch in Montana. All of them are photographed from a few feet away in very controlled conditions.

Let’s set some real expectations first, and let’s base this on what’s actually possible in the wild. We believe that using these super model photos of captive wildlife for marketing photo tours creates a totally unattainable standard for people purchasing them.

Why advertise something clients will never experience? When you’re assessing if a snow leopard photo tour is right for you, take a look at their snow leopard images. That will answer your initial questions. See if you can place their images in a wild context.

If you just see a bunch of these stunning close up shots – they might not be the snow leopard photo tour operator they claim to be.

The Super Models of The Snow Leopard Photo Tour World

A snow leopard portrait - from the Roger Williams Park Zoo, Rhode Island

Seen this one around? His name is Sabu and he’s one of two snow leopards at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. If you want a picture just like this, your best bet is to go to a zoo. Or buy it from a stock photo website, like we did. It seems for $12, you too can start a snow leopard photo tour business. This is one of the most popular images used to market snow leopard photo tours.

A captive snow leopard in montana, often used on snow leopard photo tour websites.

Another gorgeous cat. This one lives on the Triple D Ranch in Montana. They also own a Barbary lion, extinct in the wild, lynx, mountain lion, an Amur leopard, and a Siberian tiger, among other exotic wildlife. $500 per session with a big cat. They take you to a fenced in area with fantastic landscapes, release the cat, and let you shoot till your heart’s content. We are entirely against private game farms and people owning big cats.

Photo of Djamila the snow leopard from Zurich zoo

This beautiful lady is named Djamila. She lives at the Zurich Zoo. But that doesn’t stop her lovely face from showing up on many snow leopard photo tour pages. This image, and many other gorgeous images of her fellow captives are taken by Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar. This photo is in fact totally free to use – provided you credit the photographer somewhere.

Don’t be disheartened, though. It is possible to get good wild snow leopard photos. It is what we do. Here are actual wild snow leopards. See how they aren’t white and fluffy? No groomer for these guys. Because they do a quick roll in the dirt when they start stalking their prey, wild snow leopards always have a lot of local colored dirt. Makes for great camouflage. They also get into territorial fights and injure themselves when hunting. They have scars, dirt, and an attitude.

We’ll tell you exactly what it takes to get snow leopard images like these, all shot in the wild, and better yet: we’ll help you get them. Keep reading!

Some Working-Class Snow Leopards - Actually Shot On A Photo Tour

A wild snow leopard leaves his kill on a photo tour

Here’s a wild snow leopard. Note the scarred muzzle and dusty fur. Shot with a 500mm lens with a 1.4x TC, resulting in 700mm on a full frame Nikon D850. This is a rare shot because of the close distance. This cat had a blue sheep kill hidden behind a rock and was leaving it after camping by it for 2 days.

another wild snow leopard, also in Hemis National Park, shot on a snow leopard photo tour

Shot from across the valley from an opposing slope, this is one half of a pair of mating snow leopards. A female. The image was shot right after 3 days of mating concluded. The male had walked away. A few minutes after this shot, the female got up and walked in the opposite direction. We were privileged to observe them for all three days. Also shot at 700mm on a Nikon D850.

A rim-lit snow leopard shot in Hemis National Park on a snow leopard photo tour

Perhaps the rarest type of photograph of a wild snow leopard – one with some rim lighting. Lighting is always hit and miss when shooting wild snow leopards. They love high mountain ridges at dawn and dusk so they can search for prey on both sides of the mountain. Getting one in a lower valley in good light on a photo tour is amazing luck.

The Best Destination for a Snow Leopard Photo Tour - India

Not all destinations are equal when it comes to a snow leopard photography tour. It’s one thing to track and observe them. This is easily done from great distances, and with fantastic clarity using our Swarovski BTX scopes. But it doesn’t result in great images. We track these cats in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Ladakh. Here’s why Hemis National Park in, India, visited on our snow leopard expedition to Ladakh, is the best place to go on a snow leopard photo tour.

Putting the Odds in Your Favor On A Snow Leopard Photo Tour

Getting close to snow leopards is the ultimate objective for anyone on a photo tour. The closest encounter a photographer can experience is when a snow leopard attempts to hunt. Yes, our trackers have run into snow leopards on remote trails. Yes there have been opportunities for guests to witness a snow leopard being released into the wild. Maybe one got captured after getting into a livestock pen, or got a satellite collar. But those are not regular events. You can’t plan for those.

What is regular is hunting and stalking.

Here’s what we do to put the odds in your favor to witness a snow leopard hunt.

When searching for snow leopards, our teams constantly find snow leopard prey – blue sheep, ibex, or argali. When they come across these prey animals, they try to understand their behavior. A few blue sheep or ibex staring in the same direction is often a sign that something in that area has their interest.

A wild snow leopard, photographed on a photo tour in Ladakh, India

A wild snow leopard, on a snow leopard photo tour in Ladakh, India.

A running snow leopard, shot on a photo tour in Ladakh

A running snow leopard, shot on a photo tour in Ladakh.

Of course, a relaxed herd of ungulates doesn’t mean a snow leopard isn’t around – it just means that they haven’t detected it. Each year our trackers point out snow leopards (and sometimes wolves) that are trying to sneak up on an unsuspecting herd.

Through thousands of hours of observation, we know that snow leopards prefer stalking downhill. An uphill chase expends a considerable amount of energy. Something the snow leopard cannot waste in this harsh environment.

This knowledge is critical. It means if the herd of ungulates is between you and the snow leopard, you’ll get great action photos.

Do you want to stack the odds in your favor on a snow leopard tour? Then you have to account for all variables in this equation; the humans, the prey animals, and the snow leopard.

If you want to photograph a snow leopard at a close distance, you need to witness a hunt sequence, and even better, a kill. A kill is the closest photographic opportunity. When a snow leopard downs an animal, it will guard its kill and stay by it till it has consumed as much of it as possible.

The First Variable of a Successful Snow Leopard Photo Tour : Human - Prey Familiarity

If prey animals are comfortable with humans, they don’t mind being close to them. If prey animals fear humans, you will only be able to observe them from a distance. So even if you witness a hunt sequence, it will not be close enough for great shots.

In India, wildlife hunting has been banned since the 1970’s.

Thanks to community based conservation in Hemis National Park, even poaching is nonexistent.

The blue sheep here know no fear of humans because of this. We routinely have blue sheep approach within a few dozen meters of camp, and have them walk past areas where we are spotting and tracking.

a snow leopard stalks blue sheep, shot on a snow leopard photo tour in hemis national park

A stalking snow leopard. Hemis National Park.

This lack of fear means that blue sheep end up spending a lot of time in lower valleys, instead of sticking to grazing areas on steep ridges. Prey animals in lower valleys results in predators in lower valleys.

This is the first step in getting close to a snow leopard.

Countries such as Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan allow trophy hunting of prey species such as ibex, argali, and markhor.

Thus all wild ungulates in these regions fear humans. It is almost impossible to approach them close enough for photographs.

A snow leopard observes blue sheep. Hemis National Park

A snow leopard observes blue sheep. He’s on the wrong side of the cliff face to begin a hunt. He’d have to go climb up, over the dark ridge, descend onto the far slope, and then run uphill to chase the blue sheep. They’ll see him coming right away. Hemis National Park.

We’ve seen large herds of argali on our snow leopard expeditions to Kyrgyzstan bolt as soon as they see us. They don’t stop running till they are over a half mile away, maintaining that distance as you slowly ride towards them.

So unless you’re being really sneaky, and are on your own, it’s hard to get close. Our CEO, Behzad, stalked two argali rams on foot in Kyrgyzstan, being as sneaky as possible for over 2 miles. He didn’t getting much except butt shots.

The chances of you being on your own in the middle of a state nature reserve in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan are slim. If you just want to observe them, our high powered Swarovski’s offer crystal-clear views at these distances.

So if you want to get close to a hunt you need to get close to prey. The chances of this happening are highest on a snow leopard expedition to Ladakh, India.

Signature Snow Leopard Expedition to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Signature Snow Leopard
Expedition To Ladakh

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Expedition to Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Expedition To Kyrgyzstan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Classic Snow Leopard Tour to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Snow Leopard Trip to Tajikistan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

The Second Variable of a Successful Snow Leopard Photo Tour : Route Intelligence

a snow leopard surveys a valley, shot on a snow leopard photo tour in ladakh

A snow leopard pauses to survey his territory. Hemis National Park.

Snow leopards are incredibly territorial animals.

They control large swathes of rugged terrain, up to 100 square miles per individual. Abutting snow leopard territories have significant overlap. Our tracking teams that work on our snow leopard expeditions to Ladakh have known this for a long time through observation.

Recent data from five collared snow leopards in Hemis National Park confirms this.

5 different snow leopards were all captured in the same traps, collared with GPS collars, and then released. Over a six month period they repeatedly walked the same trails, albeit at different times, and urinated on the same marking rocks.

Some of these high ridge marking rocks are visited by over 8 cats. Now that’s the type of traffic you want if you’re on a snow leopard photography tour.

This is the first type of route intelligence. One based on territory. It is gained by a lot of experience. Our head trackers have two decades each of observing these elusive creatures. They’ve seen a lot of snow leopards pee on a lot of rocks and make a lot of scrapes.

In fact, even the non tracking members of our crews can now make excellent educated guesses about whether a rock would be a good snow leopard marking rock.

Predicting Movement for the Best Photography

The very best wildlife guides on earth are not just good at tracking, they are good at predicting.

The second type of route intelligence is prediction based. A trackers job has only really just begun when they find a snow leopard. Because of the terrain, trackers will frequently lose visual contact while a snow leopard is on the move. You cannot photograph something that you cannot see.

Once a snow leopard disappears into a valley, it has multiple paths to choose. Some may result in it reappearing on a ridge-line you can see, while others will take it behind the mountain, out of your visible range.

The most experienced trackers can predict with a very high chance of accuracy where the snow leopard will reappear. They reposition our guests and then wait to see if that happens.

But, we’re in the business of risk mitigation. So we also dispatch another tracker, just in case the snow leopard appears in a different valley. The majority of the time, the tracker monitoring the other route has to return because the senior trackers prediction was spot on. However, every now and then, the radio crackles and the group moves to a new location to continue the sighting.

The Third Variable of a Successful Snow Leopard Photo Tour: Tracker Experience

Route intelligence, only possible with years of experience, month after month after month, is essential. This ability to predict and reposition is critical to get closer to a snow leopard.

To see it disappear over a ridge, and to know where it might go, means less time wasted in hoping it reappears on the same ridge, and more time spent relocating to where it will end up. Perhaps a tighter valley with closer views.

We always thought that this innate understanding of movement was area based knowledge. That it was based on watching snow leopards do the same thing many times in the same valleys.

When we first took some of our best Ladakhi trackers to Kyrgyzstan to train government rangers on the art of snow leopard tracking, our Ladakhi spotters surprised us.

They instantly analyzed ridge-lines, pointing out marking rocks in an area they had never been to. When they found a snow leopard on the first day, they correctly predicted where it would reappear after it disappeared. Repositioning their scopes to a different part of the mountain. A mountain they had never seen before, in a foreign country.

So it seems that this ability to predict movement also relies heavily on an understanding of terrain. Snow leopards, like all animals, take the easiest route. To instinctively know the easiest route while observing terrain through a scope may be one of the most difficult skills.

This is why we add a Ladakhi spotter to our snow leopard tour to Mongolia as well as our snow leopard expedition to Kyrgyzstan. While the local spotters are eagle-eyed, they are still developing their route intelligence.

For photography, it’s important not just to find a snow leopard, but to then track it and get closer. Again, this is best possible on a snow leopard expedition to Ladakh.

Specialists are always scanning on snow leopard tours

Scanning ridges for eight hours a day is no easy feat. The double eye-pieced Swarovski BTX makes life a little easier for our trackers.

The Fourth Variable of a Successful Snow Leopard Photo Tour: Tight Terrain

the beautiful valleys of Hemis National Park

The tight valleys and narrow gorges of Hemis National Park are ideal territory to spot snow leopards in.

The last element that will better your chances of a great snow leopard photo is the terrain.

The terrain needs to be mountainous. No plateaus, no rolling hills. We want tight valleys and nice ridge-lines.

Why? More surface area to scan from one spot. When you have a thousand vertical feet in front of you, you have more area to scan. More ridges for snow leopards to blend in and observe prey species, and more opportunity for snow leopards to walk on the top, silhouetted by the sky.

A snow leopard, like any other cat, is built to hunt. To be successful, it needs terrain to shelter behind. There are no grasslands, no trees, and no bushes to hide behind in prime snow leopard habitat. They must use the terrain to their advantage.

So you want a lot of terrain. Rolling hills make scanning difficult, plateaus offer no hunting advantage. Though you can theoretically scan for much longer distances, one little dip can hide the terrain behind it. After all, you’re looking for an animal that’s about two feet high at the shoulder.

Scanning in a tight valley means you can also ascend the opposite slope when a snow leopard is spotted, bringing you to eye-level without worrying the snow leopard. It means closer images.

Tight valleys allow our spotters to disperse and cover multiple angles in multiple valleys, allowing a wider net to be cast. This increases sighting chances and allows greater detection of all wildlife, including snow leopards.

Again, Hemis National Park in India offers this tight terrain.

A Winning Combination For the Ultimate Snow Leopard Photo Tour

A combination of human friendly prey, route intelligence, tracker experience, and tight terrain make India the destination for snow leopard photo tours. Our best snow leopard photo tours take place in Ladakh. Though the odds here are stacked in your favor for a snow leopard sighting, remember that great wildlife photos also need great luck and a lot of time. You’re in charge of that that!

Keep reading to learn more about the ethics of snow leopard photography, how to select a tour operator, and choosing the right camera equipment for a snow leopard photo tour. If you want to maximize the amount of time your camera has in the field, you can always use our camera trapping service. Your traps, our expertise.

Signature Snow Leopard Expedition to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Signature Snow Leopard
Expedition To Ladakh

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Expedition to Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Expedition To Kyrgyzstan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Classic Snow Leopard Tour to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Snow Leopard Trip to Tajikistan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

The Ethics of Snow Leopard Photography & Photo Tours

We run the best snow leopard photo tours in the business. But we don’t run these just for the photography. Conservation is our first priority. Snow leopard photo tours help us achieve several objectives, the foremost of which is making the snow leopard worth more alive than dead.

Voygr Expeditions is not a simple travel company. Conservation is our top priority. Incredible travel experiences are a tool to conserve habitat, wildlife, and culture.

We prioritize working with the very best conservationists, scientists, and field teams. Not just to track snow leopards, but to actively conserve them and their habitat. We know what ideal snow leopard tourism is and we practice it every day.

We believe that conservation must involve local communities. Snow leopard tourism is the best way to do so. Here’s our take on reducing human-wildlife conflict through simple economics.

A snow leopard descends

A snow leopard descends.

blue sheep in Hemis National Park

Blue sheep in Hemis National Park

Snow Leopard Photo Tours : A Tool Against Human - Wildlife Conflict

The remote highlands of High Asia support thousands of wild animals. Herds of ibex, argali, markhor, blue sheep, and antelope. These highlands also feed the domestic livestock of hundreds of remote communities. This invariably creates human-wildlife conflict.

The same livestock attracts the apex predators of the region. Humans have actively persecuted snow leopards and wolves for thousands of years. In some parts of the world, conservationists, working closely with tour operators, have managed to stop this. The best example of this is Hemis National Park in India. This is where we run our snow leopard expedition to Ladakh. Hemis is an amazing model. In short, income from tourism has replaced income from livestock rearing. This has freed up precious grazing resources for wild ungulates, boosting their population. More wild ungulates means a higher potential snow leopard population. The lack of livestock also means that snow leopards can’t kill them. This entirely eliminates human-wildlife conflict. If you’d like to learn more, read our detailed article on why Hemis National Park is a beacon of conservation.

This model of snow leopard tourism, practiced in Hemis, is the ideal model. Remote communities gain access to consistent income (barring global pandemics!). The ecosystem is allowed to rejuvenate after millennia of grazing pressure. The snow leopard and the wolf are no longer viewed as enemies, but as important assets worth protecting.

In partnership with the High Asia Habitat Fund and the Snow Leopard Trust, we will scale this model globally. Remote communities should earn great livelihoods while lowering livestock numbers. We’ve committed substantial resources and a minimum of 20% of our annual profits to make this happen. We have invested in snow leopard proof corrals. We train rangers across Central Asia. We’re prioritizing the reduction of human-wildlife conflict on the roof of the world.

As the world’s only multi-country snow leopard tour operator, we’re proud to lead the way.

Snow Leopard Photo Tours : A Tool Against Human - Wildlife Conflict

Snow leopards prey extensively on livestock, even if wild prey is available. Studies in India, Mongolia, and Nepal have all confirmed this.

“Livestock have degenerated anti-predatory abilities as a result of artificial selection for other traits and living in a human-mediated environment,” says Charudutt Mishra, Executive Director of The Snow Leopard Trust and Founder Trustee at Nature Conservation Foundation. “Their large herds and more predictable distribution also make them vulnerable to predation. Our data show that livestock will get killed, irrespective of the abundance of wild prey; that is an important lesson for livestock management.”

A similar study, recently published in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution ( – Khanal, Mishra, Suryawanshi) conducted in the Upper Dolpa and Lower Dolpa regions of Nepal confirms this. The study shows that even with the same wild prey density at two sites, the site with higher livestock numbers had higher depredation. Snow leopards prefer livestock because they are much easier to kill.

Invariably, with livestock depredation come retaliatory killings. While most studies recommend better herding practices, such as predator proof corrals, we take this one step further. We propose replacing livestock as a primary source of livelihood. This will entirely eliminate this conflict.

You cannot ask people to sacrifice their livelihoods without providing a suitable alternative. You cannot do so in areas that are remote and isolated, with few sources of employment. In snow leopard habitats across the range, people are competing against snow leopards. This is true in the remote Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan and in the high Pamir of Tajikistan. It is also fact in the Altai of Western Mongolia. At its very basic definition, they are competing for resources.

Here’s where snow leopard photo tours come in.

When we operate snow leopard photo tours, we start with hiring locals. We train locals on how our remote camps function, how to track snow leopards, and how to take care of our guests. This provides a stable source of income to a few members of the community. They act as snow leopard photo tour trackers, camp hands, transporters, and sell basic staples such as meat, vegetables, and milk to us. Local employees earn more in 3 months of work with us than their family makes annually raising livestock.

As we expand tourism operations, more community members get employed. Hiring more employees means fewer community members rely on livestock. This gradually results in decreased livestock numbers.

Livestock rearing is a difficult task. Someone always has to accompany the animals. Usually many families pool their animals, and many people take turns to take care of the herds. The majority of herders are happy to take easier jobs that pay more. This is another significant contributor to declining livestock numbers.

Of course, in areas this remote, some domestic animals are always required. They are needed for milk, meat, and transport. Our goal is not to remove domestic animals from the equation. Instead, we seek to balance this equation. Small herds are easier to protect in corrals, reducing the chance of a predator getting them. Small herds have a lower impact on grazing land. This allows wild animals to increase in population.

So snow leopard photo tours can directly impact livestock numbers. It creates a positive attitude towards these long hated predators. When we connect the communities income with snow leopards and wolves, they actively work to protect them. They turn from hated pests to valued assets. This attitude change is an incredibly valuable tool. It helps to protect ecosystems, habitats, and even culture.

Snow Leopard Photo Tours : A Barrier Against Migration

This brings us to our third major point. Low employment, joblessness, and lack of opportunities in remote regions force communities to migrate to large towns, cities, and away from the mountains. Cities across Asia cannot cope with these pressures of migration. The UN states “factors that contribute to indigenous peoples’ urban migration include land dispossession, poverty, militarization, natural disasters, lack of employment opportunities, the deterioration of traditional livelihoods combined with the lack of viable economic alternatives, and the prospect of better opportunities in cities.”

But this migration to urban areas isn’t the solution. Usually, economic migrants from remote rural areas can only access the most basic jobs. These are often exploitative. In addition, indigenous peoples in urban areas may experience discrimination. They can have difficulties in sustaining their language, identity and culture. It can also be difficult to educate future generations, resulting in a loss of indigenous heritage and values. Urban migration is no solution. Snow leopard tourism can provide a solution to this. It has done so in Hemis National Park.

Snow leopard photo tours allow remote communities access to economic opportunity. It allows for them to generate a sustainable livelihood without abandoning their way of life and migrating to a city. It brings critical dollars to the communities. Without migration, without loss of land, and without loss of culture. When done well, it in fact acts as a strong promoter of culture and unique ways of life. It also converts remote villages into champions of conservation. It decreases poaching activity around them.

All of these points lead to one conclusion : snow leopard photo tours are an essential tool. They help bring in cash to remote communities and convert snow leopards (and other predators) into assets.

Simply participating in a snow leopard photo tour is a strong contribution to snow leopard conservation. But remember to choose an operator that pledges to very strong ethical standards.

Snow leopards in Hemis National Park

This snow leopard crept down from a ridge-line stalking a blue sheep. He sat down after the sheep detected him.

Voygr Expeditions' Ethical Snow Leopard Tour Pledge

We pledge to conduct our snow leopard photo tours with the highest ethical standards.
Standards that respect wildlife, the ecosystems we visit, and the communities that host us.

Voygr Expeditions pledges :

  • that baiting is unacceptable. We abhor the use of bait, alive or dead, to attract snow leopards. We also shun the relocation or manipulation of any kills in order to get a more suitable sighting.
  • that snow leopards, and all other wildlife, are never disturbed. Any snow leopard sighting is a gift. We do not obstruct, encourage, dislodge, or disturb these creatures. We do not crowd them. We prioritize their safety and well being.
  • that we never photograph den sites.
  • that we always maintain a respectful distance. Our trackers are equipped with the most high-powered spotting scopes on the planet. We never push the boundaries of respectful viewing. If a snow leopard stops its natural activity and begins to move away from us on purpose, we have failed.
  • that we work within the rule of law. We champion systems based on permits, oversight, and monitoring.
  • that we do not use drones with wildlife. Any drone use is for landscapes only. Never for wild animals, anywhere.

Plan Your Snow Leopard Photo Tour in Three Steps

Here is what you need to learn before you embark on the ultimate photographic quest.

The basics:

  1. Hire the best snow leopard tracking team;
  2. set reasonable expectations, and;
  3. dedicate some real time to getting the shot.

Step 1 : Find an expedition company that specializes in snow leopards. That’s easy, it’s us. We don’t sell 37 trips across Africa, we don’t sell cruises to Antarctica, and we can’t help you photograph puffins off Shetland.

We do know snow leopards, though. Our lead trackers have more than 70 years of combined experience.

a snow leopard in Hemis National Park

This snow leopard crept down from a ridge-line stalking a blue sheep. He sat down after the sheep detected him.

Step 2 : Set the right expectations. Just because you’ve hired the best team on the planet doesn’t mean you’ll get the shot you imagined on your first snow leopard photo tour.

While we’re confident our team will find you a snow leopard – the distance between you and the snow leopard is entirely up to the snow leopard. It could be close, it could be far. Our team will always prioritize the safety and comfort of the snow leopard during a sighting. We have strict rules of engagement. A stressed snow leopard could be a dead snow leopard.

We can’t guarantee sighting a wild animal, certainly not one of the most elusive ones on earth, but we do have a 100% success rate at finding them.

Step 3 : Ok, so you know what you’re getting into.

Now set aside time for snow leopards. Real time.

If you want the shot, you’re most likely going to have to visit the snow leopards a few times. Unless you’re the type of photographer that has fantastic wildlife luck, and we do get some of those types, you’re most likely not going to get your dream shot on your first try.

A snow leopard in a gorge, hemis national park. Shot on a snow leopard photo tour.

A snow leopard in a narrow gorge, Hemis National Park. Evening light and almost eye-level make this a rare, though distant, shot.

Behzad, one of our snow leopard photo tour leaders (and Voygr’s CEO) has seen over 150 snow leopards over the last six years. He’s spent over 700 days in the field tracking snow leopards. But he has had some of his very best sightings when he hasn’t had his camera. Though he has some of the best snow leopard images on the planet, he’s missed dozens and dozens of “the shot”.

So time helps. The more time you can spend tracking snow leopards, the more trips you make for snow leopards, the better your chances are to get a close sighting.

Camera traps are the ultimate force multiplier. They are the tool of choice for professional photographers and film-makers, including our tour leader, Duncan Parker, who filmed snow leopards for the BBC and NatGeo. We know all about how to use them and where to place them. Read more about our snow leopard camera trapping workshop.

If you’d like to plan multiple snow leopard photo trips, we offer repeat Voygr guests a 10% discount on all tours after their first one.

The Best Camera Equipment For A Snow Leopard Photo Tour

A lot of guests asks us about the right type of photography gear to bring on a snow leopard photo tour.

Our team uses Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic cameras. We use a variety of telephoto and super telephoto lenses. We get a lot of guests who use Canon too.

For a snow leopard tour, a high mega-pixel count camera body paired with a 600mm or longer telephoto lens is ideal. A lot of lens is always good when it comes to photographing these cats. Tele-convertors are also handy to have if you’re having one of those days when the snow leopards are far away.

Lens Choice

A lot of guests bring an 800mm lens, often rented, with a 1.7x and 2x tele-convertors. Common camera body choices are Nikon D5s, D850s, Canon 1DX or 5Ds, or the Sony A7R series.


Batteries drain quickly in cold conditions, especially when you keep the shutter engaged for those high action shots. So have a few batteries handy. Do you use a camera like the Nikon D850 or Canon 5D? Add one of the battery grips that allows you to use the biggest Nikon or Canon batteries. These are great for extended shoots.

Our camps always have power, so don’t worry about lugging solar panels or big battery banks to re-charge your batteries. Just bring enough batteries to last you 3 or 4 hours of cold weather shooting per day.


If you’re using a big lens like a 600mm f/4, you’ll want to make sure your tripod can cope with it. A solid carbon fiber tripod with a Wimberly style head is highly recommended. No monpods.

Ball heads don’t work well with heavy lenses. Their movements tend to be a little too rapid and uncontrolled with heavy lenses. You don’t want to lose a snow leopard once you have it in frame.

Great Binos

While we always have a few high powered Swarovski BTX scopes, most photographers end up not spending a lot of time on them.

Once a snow leopard is found, the photographers only want their cameras. While images are important, we always urge our guests to also take an occasional peak at the snow leopard through the scopes.

This is especially the case when the cats are distant and the photographic opportunity isn’t ideal.

A lot of photographers like to switch between their cameras and their own binoculars, since moving to a scope may require them to walk away from their camera set-up.

In this case, we recommend the Swarovski EL 12 x 50 binoculars. They are amazing, but also expensive. A lot of our trackers are equipped with both a Swarovski BTX scope and a pair of Swarovski binos.

If you’re in a small group, they will be happy to loan you their binoculars when a cat is present. The scopes are always available for guests during a sighting.

Conclusion - The Best Snow Leopard Photo Tour

We’ve laid out all the things you should consider when choosing where to go on a snow leopard photo tour. We hope they are useful. If you have any questions -get in touch. We’re always happy to give you advice on planning the perfect snow leopard photo tour – even if you don’t book with us.

Remember, it’s definitely possible to land some great shots of wild snow leopards. The best trackers, enough time, and some good luck are time tested ingredients for any good wildlife trip. We think combining our snow leopard expedition to Ladakh with our camera trapping workshops are the ideal force multiplier. Spend time in field searching for the grey ghost, and then leave your camera traps behind to maximize your chances over 6 months. We’ll keep them running.

Signature Snow Leopard Expedition to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Signature Snow Leopard
Expedition To Ladakh

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Snow Leopard Tour To Mongolia

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Snow Leopard Expedition to Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Expedition To Kyrgyzstan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Classic Snow Leopard Tour to Ladakh's Hemis National Park

Snow Leopard Trip to Tajikistan

Group departures.
Starting from $7,499.
Private tours available.

Why Book With Voygr?

Actually Local. At Every Destination.

We don’t subcontract our tours to “local” companies. We are the local company. At Voygr, our expeditions aren’t planned by “specialists” that have visited a destination once on a familiarization trip, 4 years ago. Our experts live and work in the regions where we take our guests.

Empowering Remote Communities

Our singular mission when starting Voygr almost a decade ago was to put more money into remote communities. Controlling our own operations means that we can own our own infrastructure, hire our own local employees with exclusive contracts and ensure that your dollars actually end up where you’re traveling to instead of lining pockets in NYC or London.

Conservation is Key

Environmental conservation and protecting endangered species are core values. Voygr commits 20% of our annual profits to the High Asia Habitat Fund. In addition, we support several environmental causes. Expeditions with Voygr are not just carbon neutral – they are Carbon Negative.

Read more about Voygr Expeditions to learn about our ethics, how giving back to the communities we travel to is part of our DNA, and what steps we take to actively preserve our planet.

Snow Leopards
1. Hemis National Park : An Icon of Conservation
2. Snow Leopard Photo Tour: Detailed Planning Information
3. Tracking Snow Leopards: India, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, or Tajikistan?
4. Snow Leopard Safari or Expedition? What’s In A Name?
5. Snow Leopard Excursion Planning: Why Great Optics Are Critical
6. How To: Snow Leopard Tour Packing List
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