Winter Snow Leopard Expedition (Ladakh)

Snow LeopardThe  Snow Leopard Expedition is a rare opportunity to spot elusive Snow Leopards in the wild. Use the same guides and trackers as BBC’s Planet Earth II. The majority of this trip is based deep in Hemis National Park in Ladakh, with one of the world’s highest concentration of snow leopards.


Feb 18 – March 5, 2018
Ladakh, India
Group Size: 10

Duration: 16 Days
$5,718 p.p.

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Snow leopard, Hemis NP

Snow leopard, Hemis NP

Blue Sheep

Blue Sheep

 

Details

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition

The high reaches of the Ladakh Range are prime territory for the magnificent Snow Leopard. As the winter sets in and the snow line descends, these shy and elusive creatures move down to lower altitudes in search of their prey, the bhairal, urial, and the arghali, the mountain sheep and antelope of this region. We’ll explore Hemis National Park on daily treks with our expert spotters Khenrab and Namgyal to spot and track snow leopards on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

This 16 day adventure starts off with a day in Delhi before we head up to the high mountains of Ladakh. A few easy days of sightseeing initially allows us to gently acclimatize to the 10,000+ foot altitude of Leh. After that we head off on a short trek to a small village within the national park. Here we’ll be hosted in camps and village homes that will afford us warm shelter on cold winter nights and be our base as we explore the nearby area in search of the ghost of the mountains.

Hemis National Park is India’s largest conservation area with over 1,700 square miles of territory. The park lies within the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe ecoregion, and contains pine forests, alpine shrublands and meadows, and alpine tundra. Most reports indicate that the park is home to a large breeding population of snow leopards mainly in the Rumbak and Matho area.

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Voygr’s Expert Guides

Khenrab Phuntsog
If you’ve seen the “Mountains” episode of the BBC’s Planet Earth II, which features spectacular footage of snow leopards in Hemis National Park, you’ve seen the tracking abilities and local knowledge of Khenrab. Khenrab hails from the small village of Rumbak, where he grew up watching snow leopards and is renowned for his knowledge of the region and of snow leopard behavior. Check out this video of Khenrab tracking.

Behzad J. Larry
Behzad is a professional photographer and an expert on Ladakh and Central Asia. Over the past 4 years, he has documented Ladakh’s culture, wildlife, and incredible landscapes in detail for a variety of magazines. An avid explorer, Behzad specializes in exploring the remote reaches of the world through his travel photography with an emphasis on portraiture and landscapes in the high Himalayas, Central Asia, and the Tibetan Plateau. On this tour he will teach you tricks that will get you better at taking wildlife photos and act as your expedition leader. View his website here.

This is a one of a kind full expedition with 2 guides, 2 expert spotters, 2 experienced expedition cooks, 3 helpers, porters, and 10+ horses.


$5,718
p.p.

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Wildlife in the Park

Along with the Snow Leopard the Park is home to Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Shapu (Ladakhi Urial), and plenty of domesticated yaks. A small population of the Asiatic Ibex is also present in Hemis. Other predators besides the snow leopard include the Tibetan wolf, the Eurasian brown bear (endangered in India), and the red fox. Small mammals include the Himalayan marmot, mountain weasel, and the Himalayan mouse hare.

The park is a good place to study Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan birds of prey including the golden eagle, the lammergeier vulture, and the Himalayan griffon vulture. The Rumbak Valley offers good opportunities for birdwatching, including several Tibetan species not common in other parts of India. Birds present here include brown accentor, robin accentor, Tickell’s leaf warbler, streaked rosefinch, Tibetan snowfinch, chukar, fork-tailed swift, red-billed chough, Himalayan snowcock, and the fire-fronted serin.

16 mammal species and 73 bird species have been recorded in the park so far.

Quick Itinerary

Feb 18.  Arrive in Delhi, India Day 1. Free day. Overnight in Delhi. Stay at the Imperial Hotel, one of Asia’s finest heritage hotels. (B)
Feb 19. Arrive in Leh, India
Day 2. Fly to Leh. Check in to the Grand Dragon Hotel and slowly acclimatize to the altitude.  (B)
Feb 20.  Explore  Leh Day 3. A walking tour of Leh will allow you to flex your limbs and take in the sights of this wonderful town.  (B)
Feb 21. Drive to Zingchen, trek to base Day 4. Here’s where the fun begins! We’ll drive about an hour to where the road ends and walk to the village of Zingchen in Hemis National Park. We’ll establish our first camp. (B, L, D)
Feb 22 – Mar 2. Day 5- 13. Wildlife viewing and tracking. We’ll explore the surrounding areas within Hemis National Park as we track the Snow Leopard, the Tibetan Wolf, the Markhor, Arghali, and Urial through the area. The landscape and geology of the area are as fascinating as the wildlife we’ll seek. We’ll stay tuned and follow up on nearby snow leopard sightings. Our camps will remain nomadic, based on the proximity of the nearest snow leopard sightings. (B, L, D)
March 3. Back to Leh, India Day 14. We’ll head back to Leh today. Rest. Relax. Recover. Enjoy your hot shower! (B)
March 4. Fly to Delhi, India Day 15. Head back to Delhi. Check in to the Imperial Hotel. (B)
March 5. Day 16. Fly out to your home (B). Make sure to book your flights no earlier than the evening of the 16th, since flights out of Leh are sometimes cancelled due to bad mountain weather.

A 3 day extension that explores the high altitude lakes of Tso Kar and Tso Moriri along with wildlife of the Tibetan plateau and visits to the Changpa nomads is also available. Winter is the best time for wildlife viewing in this area.

B = Breakfast. L = Lunch. D = Dinner.

What’s Included in the Tour

  • Behzad J. Larry, photographer, adventurer, and historian, as your expedition leader.
  • Abdul Rashid as your expert Ladakhi guide.
  • Khenrab Phuntsog, our expert Snow Leopard spotter (BBC Planet Earth II Expedition Lead Guide)
  • Accommodation in the 5 Star world-famous Imperial hotel in Delhi, with breakfast, on twin-sharing. (Single extra.)
  • Accommodation in the Grand Dragon Hotel in Leh with breakfast, on twin-sharing. (Single extra.)
  • Accommodation in our spacious custom insulated tents, full down sleeping bags, and full board while camping.
  • All road journeys via Toyota Innovas or Tempos
  • Domestic flights between Delhi and Leh (roundtrip)
  • Pre-trip advice and briefing
  • Group medical kit and oxygen cylinder for emergencies.
  • Access to a Gamow Bag for high-altitude emergencies.
  • Austrian and Swiss full down sleeping bags (Rated to -40ºC)

What’s NOT Included

  • International flights
  • Visa for India
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks, beverages, gifts, calls, laundry, hot showers, snacks, battery charging etc.
  • Gratuities
  • Personal porter ($390)

Single accommodations are $880 extra per person.

Please read Voygr’s terms & conditions for further details.

Add on Extension Trip to the Changthang

Extend your trip by another 3 days to explore the Changthang region of Ladakh. This area, called the Western Plains in Tibetan, is an extension of the Great Tibetan Plateau. The region has exceptionally beautiful high altitude lakes and spectacular wildlife. In the winter, these lakes freeze over creating surreal ice formations. The region has large populations of Tibetan Wild Ass, Tibetan wolves, red fox, and many migratory birds including the rare black necked cranes.

The 3 day extension costs $1,240 per person.

$5,718 p.p.

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Itinerary

Full Itinerary

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 1
Feb 18. Arrive in Delhi
We’ll pick you up at the airport and drive you to your home for the day, Delhi’s famous Imperial Hotel. The Imperial, opened in 1936, is one of the world’s iconic hotels and is steeped in history. It’s architecture is a blend of Victorian, old-Colonial, and Art Deco styles. Relax and enjoy your day in Delhi. Breakfast included. Overnight at the Imperial Hotel.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 2
Feb 19. Delhi to Leh
An early wake-up call today as we catch the morning flight to the Trans-Himalayan town of Leh. Leh straddles the old silk route and was a nexus of important Central Asian trade routes till the late 1950’s. Today the bustling town serves as an entry point to a dozen different types of mountain and high altitude adventures. We’ll check-in to our hotel in Leh, the Singge Palace Hotel, and spend the day at a pace that is slower than normal to properly acclimatize to the high altitude. We recommend reading a book, drinking a few cups of tea, and enjoying the view. Time is the best way to acclimatize. In the evening we’ll have a welcome dinner and trip briefing with the whole crew. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Singge Palace.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 3
Feb 20. Walking tour of Leh.
Stretch your legs and continue to acclimatize on today’s guided tour of the old town of Leh, the Leh Palace, and Namgyal Tsemo, the beautiful 16th century monument to victory that crowns the central peak in Leh. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Singge Palace.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 4
Feb 21. Leh to Zingchen. Trek begins.
We’ll set out for Hemis National Park today with an hour long drive to Zingchen. We’ll start the trek with a walk to our camp. Spend the daylight hours searching for the elusive ghost of the mountains through your binoculars and the evenings around the kitchen fire or tucked into your ultra warm sleeping bags. Breakfast, lunch, dinner at Camp, or packed.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 5 – 13
Feb 22 – March 2. Exploring Hemis National Park
We’ll explore Hemis National Park with out expert spotters on the look out for wildlife such as the Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Shapu (Ladakhi Urial), and the elusive Snow Leopard. Our camps will be moved depending on our spotting success and intel reports of snow leopard spotting around the valley. Each day will consist of trekking for a few kilometers, perhaps 4-6 KM per day. We will also stay in the village of Rumbak at a homestay when we get near it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner at Camp, or packed.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 14
March 3. Trek to Zingchen, drive to Leh
After a trek to Zingchen and a short drive to Leh, re-discover the comforts of a hot shower. Free day to rest, relax, and explore Leh. If you’re interested in picking up some souvenirs or antiques, one of our guides can take you shopping. Breakfast, lunch, dinner at Singge Palace.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 15
March 4. Fly to Delhi
Say goodbye to the mountains and fly to Delhi in the morning. Arrive in Delhi and check in to the Imperial for a relaxing end to your amazing adventure in the Trans Himalaya. Breakfast.

Winter Snow Leopard Expedition Day 16
March 5. Fly out of India
Book a late afternoon or evening flight to make sure you’ve left enough gap time just in case our previous day’s flight is rescheduled due to bad mountain weather.

Please note that this itinerary may change slightly depending on the areas where snow leopards have been spotted in the lead up to your trip.

$5,718 p.p.

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Accommodations

Accommodations

The Imperial Hotel
New Delhi
The Imperial is one of the world’s finest five star hotels. It is steeped in rich history and located in central Delhi. The Imperial houses one of the world’s largest collections of Colonial lithographic art including many original Daniel’s. The Spa at the Imperial is rated highly and will make for a wonderful and relaxing retreat at the end of your adventure.

Facade-The-Imperial-new-Delhi_compressed Viceroy-Suite_compressed

The Grand Dragon Hotel
Leh
The Grand Dragon  is a luxurious hotel located a few minutes walk from the main market of Leh. The warm hospitality and traditional Ladakhi friendliness of the staff keep you warm and comfortable in the cold Trans Himalayan winter.

 

The Voygr Camps
Hemis National Park
Voygr has custom canvas tents with interior insulation that are much warmer than standard expedition tents and allow our guests to sleep on cots instead of on the ground. The added bit of warmth and comfort allows for a much more relaxing night when on a winter expedition. Tents can comfortably house two guests with space in between the cots. The camps will have kitchen tents, dining tents, and toilet tents. Hot water will be available in the mornings and evenings.

$5,718 p.p.

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Packing

So what should you pack on a Snow Leopard spotting expedition?

Hemis National Park is located in the Ladakh Range that runs from the Great Himalayan Range into the high Karakoram. February will be mid-winter and quite cold. Average temperatures in Ladakh in February and March range from a low of -20º C (-4º F) to a high of 10º C (39º F).

While the cold can be a little biting, it is also what brings the Snow Leopards down from the higher elevations.

Your Voygr crew will endeavor to keep you warm and well hydrated through the day with hot drinking water, plentiful tea, and delicious hot food. Here’s what we suggest you pack to keep your body happy.

Clothing

Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • insulated parka (preferably goose-down)
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • synthetic or softshell hiking pants
  • fleece pants

Base Layer

  • expedition-weight long john bottoms
  • expedition-weight long john top
  • midweight long john top
  • midweight long john bottoms
  • long sleeve T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra

Accessories

  • wool or fleece hat
  • balaclava
  • midweight wool or fleece gloves
  • waterproof cold weather gloves

Footwear

  • insulated camp booties
  • waterproof hiking boots (insulated is best)
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • bandanna

 

Spotting Equipment

  • Spotting scope (with tripod) or binoculars.
  • We have two Swarovski Optik ATX 30-75×95 spotting scopes, which are considered to be the best. Both our spotters will also have their own Swarovski or Carl Zeiss scopes each. So, we’ll provide a scope for every 3 people (in a group of 12). We highly recommend bringing a pair of your own binoculars or a spotting scope to maximize viewing opportunity when a snow leopard is spotted.
  • Camera. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, we recommend at least a 400mm lens with a TC.
  • Plenty of extra batteries, since the cold saps their power.

Personal Equipment

  • Water resistant duffel bag (don’t bring a suitcase as it’s hard to load on a horse)
  • trekking poles (if you like using them)
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • Water bottle
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • sunglasses
  • personal medications
  • chemical heat packs (if you like them)
  • stuff sacks
  • sunscreen (SPF 50+)
  • lip balm (SPF 50+)

 

Snow Leopard Expedition

$5,718 p.p.

 

Book Now

 

For me?

Is this the right adventure for me?

Snow Leopards are some of the most elusive animals on earth. Spotting them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

However, the terrain they live in is high, harsh, and difficult. Participants on our Snow Leopard Expedition must be relatively fit, have medical clearance from their physician to be at high altitudes (above 10,000 feet), and should be able to walk 4-7 kilometers (2.5 – 4.5 miles) per day in sometimes rough, mountainous terrain. There are always plenty of staff around to help you

Tracking these ghosts of the mountains is not an exact science, but we do have world class expert spotters and trackers on hand. Khenrab Phuntsog was the chief guide for BBC’s spectacular snow leopard filming in the new Planet Earth II, shot exactly where we will be. Our expert spotters rely on intelligence gathered from local villages, forest department officials, and their own knowledge of the individual cats. This means that camps may need to be moved at short notice, especially if a Leopard is sighted in a nearby valley or across a nearby mountain. The only way to move around in Hemis National Park is to walk, so participants must be ready and excited to trek.

March in Ladakh is quite cold. While the sun is out, temperatures remain around freezing or even above freezing. However, as the sun goes down, temperatures plummet and it can get quite cold. Voygr’s got some great sleeping bags and good tents. You’ll be comfortably warm while you’re sleeping, but you’ll still need to be able to cope with the rigors of a winter expedition.

Unlike an African safari, this wildlife spotting expedition is tough, but it is incredibly rewarding should you be prepared to rough it out. We’ve selected amazing hotels in Delhi and Leh so you can get a relaxing start and end to the trip.

We promise you, the sight of a Snow Leopard in the wild is something you will never forget.

$5,718 p.p.

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2017 Report

2017 Trip Report

Our March 2017 trip was incredibly successful! We saw 3 leopards in 3 sightings over 4 days in Hemis National Park. Along with leopards we also saw multiple herds of Blue Sheep (bharal), pug marks of both the Tibetan wolf and the Red Fox, a tit warbler, multiple lammergeiers, golden eagles, chukar partridges, Tibetan snowcock, white-winged red starts, robin accentors, and pikas.

The following images were all shot in March 2017 in Hemis National Park.

Wooly Hare

White-winged Redstarts

Blue Sheep

Chukar partridge

Chukar partridge

Chukar partridge

Golden Eagle

Blue Sheep

Himalayan Griffon

Snow leopard, Hemis NP

Snow leopard, Hemis NP

Tibetan Snowcocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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