In Search of the Elusive Snow Leopard

 

 In Search of the Elusive Snow Leopard

16 Days – Including 08 Days of Raw Exploration

(Location: Spiti Valley – Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary & Pin Valley National Park)

BRIEF:

Endangered, highly elusive, less than 5000 in the wild, extreme environment and shyest of all the cats, just a sight of this mystic animal is a dream for many wildlife enthusiasts. This ‘ghost of the mountains’ is like a holy grail of cats. No other big cat will make you walk in the unmarked rocky and snowy mountains, in thin air of over 10,000 feet, at such remote locations where even the local inhabitants prefer not to go. If you’re one such admirer of this great elusive cat, this tour is the one to choose right away!

Elusive Snow Leopard in Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Spiti, India

TOUR DE INDIA ( Dharamsala – McLeodganj, India )

 

THE LOCATION

India is home to very limited habitat space of Snow Leopard but luckily that very small area is relatively larger in population and accessible for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists.

For the chance to sight this shy cat, we take you on an exciting ride to the Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh (Himalayan state of India). The region in the winters has only one inlet and outlet with no air connectivity. This route is hard but it takes you beyond the popular (and over-crowded) Hemis National Park in Ladakh. Every year in winters, people throng in huge numbers to Ladakh, not only reducing their chances of good sightings but also disturbing the natural habitat of this majestic ‘Grey Himalayan Cat’.

We take you on a different route altogether. Here in Spiti, the crowds are minimal, natural environment is unaltered; thus the chance to sight this elusive cat is high and experience of Snow Leopard habitat is raw. Major prey of Snow Leopard like Bharal or the Himalayan Blue Sheep and the Siberian or Himalayan Ibex are in abundance in the region and also minor prey like large birds – Chukar and Snow Cock are in plenty. This tour is not about doing what everyone is doing, it’s more about more about seeking out for places that are ‘not on map’ and with a conservation-oriented approach in mind.

Snow Leopards are difficult to sight in spring, summer and autumn months due to local migration to higher altitudes and striking camouflage in the rocky terrains but in the winter months, our chances of spotting increase here to about 80-90% and it is an extreme high number of such an elusive and rare animal.

Our field experts and local guides have been working in the region for many years now and for some, it has been a part of their routine lives. Our dedicated team give its 100% or even more to help you fulfil the dream of spotting the leopard. However, luck plays its part and sometimes the shy cat wins the game of ‘hide & seek’.

What we always win is a chance to survive a week long journey in the place where Snow Leopards reign. And to know the fact that even if you miss, the great Himalayan Cat has surely spotted you!

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: CHALLENGING

 For physically fit enthusiasts, who have considerable experience of sub-zero temperatures.

While exploring, we mainly trek on mountainous, rocky and sandy trails. In remote Himalayas, the weather is erratic and extreme with night temperatures going as low as -20 degrees. The accommodation is camping & home-stay style with basic amenities. Moreover, the road to Spiti from Shimla via Kinnaur is subject to extreme snowfall on days and there could be road blockages which would mean either walking or waiting.

Physical fitness is also required to increase your chances of spotting. We may have to go outdoors repeatedly and immediately change directions based on local geographical intelligence. Staying inside the closed door will not make the cat come knocking the door.

Snow forces Snow Leopard come down to lower altitudes in winter months

 

THE ORGANIZATION & LOGISTICS

Our team will consist of a mix of tour leader, field experts for snow leopard, local trekking guide, along with support staff. Our tour leader will be son of the mountains who speaks English and the local dialects, and is familiar with the area you will visit. He will be present with you throughout your journey, right from the time when you arrive in India till you’re back in Delhi. Not only he’ll share his knowledge about wildlife in India but also brief you about the trek and the journey. Once we are in Spiti, our field expert for exploration will join us along with the support staff. We ensure that the team is as local as possible because no one knows the routes better.

Although, the tour leader knows the places well, please note that he is not a local guide, so, for your convenience, we advise you to bring a pocket guide with you.

Where the tracking such elusive and shy cat is so difficult, for increase our chances, we send a small team A WEEK before arrival of our guests into the Wildlife Sanctuary. They collect all the data and information regarding the movement and possible locations of Snow Leopards and also its prey population. The data is recorded on map and is validated by supporting photographs. This helps a long way in deciding the plan during exploratory days in a better and targeted manner.

To guarantee a safe and pleasant tour, we recommend a maximum of 08 participants, including wildlife enthusiast, photographers and filming team (if any).

Local Shepherd Movement in Spiti Valley

 

Detailed Tour Program:

 Region: Himalayan State of Himachal Pradesh, India

Total Duration: 16 Days (08 Days of Exploration)

Meeting Point: New Delhi

Major Places: Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary / Pin Valley National Park, Himachal Pradesh

Driving Distance (Approx.): 1,100 kms. / 700 miles (covered over 6 driving days)

Highest Altitude: Approx. 4,500 meters / 15,000 feet

Grade: Challenging

Accommodation Type: Hotels / Tourist Lodge / Home-stay / Tented Camps

Best Time to Visit: January to March

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TOUR

Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary – India’s ONLY sanctuary inside the cold desert.

Stunning Views of Snowy Peaks of the Himalayas.

Stay in World’s Third Highest Village.

Visit untouched trails in search of the elusive cat.

Surveillance team to visit the trails from one week before to monitor and record movements of the big cat.

Highly Qualified & Experienced Team – Tour Leader, Field Expert and Local Team.

Tour Leader to accompany right from arrival into Delhi to return back to Delhi.

Comfortable and All-Wheel Drive vehicles for the road journey in the mountains with seating maximum 2 guests per jeep and maximum 1 guide.

Turquoise undisturbed High-Altitude Lake of Nako.

Unearth the Hidden Secrets of Snow Leopard in an undisturbed raw habitat.

Towns of Chandigarh, Shimla, Sarahan, Kalpa & Kaza.

Stay / Interaction with the locals to understand their lifestyle and encounters with their Snow Leopard.

Local Cultural Program in one of the evenings to bring excitement into the camp.

Domestic flights covered (no planning hassles!)

PRICE DETAILS (Per Person)* on request

*WANT Tour Guide = 30% of the slab *On Room Sharing with Tour de India Leader & Guide Seat in the Vehicle

**All prices only indicative. Prices subject to vary according to the group size, special requirements, time of travel and any custom changes.

INCLUDES

All accommodation as per plan.

Meals: Full board meals during all days.

Delhi – Chandigarh – Delhi airfare.

An English-speaking tour leader (from Delhi to Delhi)

All land transportation in comfortable 4×4 vehicle.

An expert Snow Leopard guide during exploration days.

A strong support team for trekking and camping arrangements, as required.

Bottled water during travel and fresh spring water on exploratory days.

All national park fees and permits.

All guiding fees.

Photography assistance.

Oxygen support in the vehicle and trek.

First-Aid kit at all times with the tour leader.

Week long surveillance by our team before arrival of the guests to track movement of Snow Leopard.

 

EXCLUDES

International flights and airport taxes and Visa fees.

Travel insurance.

Personal expenses.

Souvenirs and personal expenses.

Tips.

Service tax (5%)

DAY 1:

DELHI ARRIVAL (FLY TO CHANDIGARH)

Arrival at New Delhi Airport and transfer to domestic terminal to board a short 30 minutes flight to Chandigarh. Arrive in the “City Beautiful” of India. If we reach early and rest well. A short visit can be made to explore the town. We can also go shopping for any missing gears for the tour as this would be last such pit stop. Night at a luxury 4-Star Hotel.

DAY 2:

CHANDIGARH – SARAHAN (280 kms. / 9 hours)

After early breakfast, we flag off our journey from Chandigarh. We initially drive through plains of India and suddenly enter into the mountains. We drive 3 hours and reach the town of Shimla. Beyond Shimla, settlements start to thin out. We cross beautiful towns of Narkanda and Rampur and reach the picturesque village of Sarahan. This place offers excellent views of the snow clad Himalayan ranges.

Overnight stay in a Traditional Heritage & Comfortable Stay in Sarahan.

DAY 3:

SARAHAN – NAKO (210 kms. / 8 hours)

Today is going to be an adventurous as you drive though roads cut through the rocks. After this, we enter the land of Kinnaur which is known for its vibrant culture. Further drive along the Sutlej River though thrilling narrow gorges. Then at Khab, we see confluence of two great Rivers, Spiti and Sutlej.

Nako is a wonderful hidden village at an elevation of 3600 metres. There is a small lake adjoining the village which gets its water from glacial melts and an ancient monastery located in the middle.

Overnight stay in a Luxury Camp.

DAY 4:

NAKO – KAZA (110 kms. / 6 hours)

Get up to a wonderful morning in Nako. This village has some exorbitant charm about it. The monastery of Tabo is en-route. Not only India, it’s one of the oldest operational monasteries in the world constructed in the year 996 A.D. Tabo has huge barren mountains and if you are lucky on your day you can even spot a Snow Leopard traversing across the hills. Then we ride to the Dhankar monastery, which is perched on a hill and has a fairytale setting. In the evening reach Kaza. Kaza is the main market of Spiti area.

Overnight stay in a comfortable & Traditional Stay

DAY 5 -DAY 12 :

SNOW LEOPARD EXPLORATION

Now, without wasting any time we move out in search of the elusive ghost cat. We have 08 good days in hand to search for the cat and here is where our surveillance team will come very useful. We catch with the local team and our family for the next eight days.

Plan is that we have no fixed plans!

Based on historic record, probable spots, data inputs from our team and local expertise, we plan our movement. We might have to change our base also depending on clues to this mysterious cat.

Two major places that we plan to cover are – first, the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and second the Pin Valley National Park. Kibber Wildife Sanctuary is our main spot and it has an approximate number of 30 leopards living in wild. The total area covered is approximately 1400 sq. km. and major part of which is covered in ice and snow. Camouflage of the shy cat is minimal at this period and being a mating season (Jan – Mar), movement is on! Along with snow leopard, the prey (Ibex, Bharal, Martens) also lower their altitudes.

Second is the Pin Valley National Park. The park has a celebrity status in the region but is majorly inaccessible in winters due to heavy snowfall that makes it beyond reach. We’ll try moving into the park for a couple of days if the weather and snow permit, or else there are plenty of options in Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary or near-by region around Losar village.

We will roam around with the expert team and keep shifting our places. We’ll explore the frozen rivers, mountain caves, high ridges, cliff and trails of this cat. These will be our prime targets. Also apart from the leopard, there is much other winter wildlife to be seen while we search on for Snow Leopard. We’ll come across other animals like Bharal, Himalayan Blue Sheep, Ibex, Red Fox, Tibetan Wolf, and Snow Cock very often.

We’ll usually be inside local Himalayan home stays or sleeping tight inside comfortable high altitude tents. These eight days spent will surely be like none spent before. You’ll remember these long exploring days and chilly cold starry nights for a lifetime. And most probably (odds are in our favour), we’ll fulfill our dream out spotting the enchanting, shy and elusive mountain ghost.

Snow leopard exploration is completed on day 08 and we return back to Kibber village. We pack our bags and get ready to move back tomorrow early morning.

DAY 13: 

KIBBER – NAKO (140 kms. / 6 hours)

After 08 long days in the Spiti Valley and the Trans-Himalayan ranges, it’s time to head back for our home. Journey is again long and beautiful. Say good-bye to the warm and loving people of the valley and drive to Nako lake in Kinnaur.

Overnight stay at the luxury camps.

DAY 14:

NAKO – SHIMLA (140 kms. / 8 hours)

It’s a long day as we cross back Kinnaur and upper Shimla region and take-up NH-22 to drive back to the capital town of Shimla. Shimla is a historic town built in 19th Century and has distinction of being Summer Capital of British India.

We can still feel the erstwhile heritage in the air of the town. It is also regarded as the ‘Queen of Hills’ in India.

Overnight at a boutique heritage hotel

DAY 15:

SHIMLA – CHANDIGARH (FLY TO DELHI)

Shimla to Chandigarh is a short drive in comfortable highway road. We reach Chandigarh and board our flight to Delhi. Arrive in Delhi and check into our hotel in Delhi for much deserved rest!

Celebration dinner with the team. Stay at a premium 5-Star hotel

DAY 16:

DELHI – DEPARTURE

After breakfast drive to Delhi airport and flight to destination country with sweet and loving memories for life.

Or, you can choose from our range of other Wildlife / Bird-Watching or Cultural Immersive Tours.

Throughout the journey, we strictly follow practices that have minimal impact on the local environment and wildlife. Briefing about do’s and don’ts will be made & handouts provided; any such activity that affects the environment in a negative manner will not be allowed.

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