Small Group Safari

In Search of the Snow Leopard in Ladakh

Journey into the Himalayas and immerse yourself in the mystical region of Ladakh, visiting Buddhist monasteries and spending six days tracking the elusive snow leopard.

Duration 14 Days
Price From $4,244
When Feb 2020
Destination India

Safari Overview

Unlike other members of the big cat family, the snow leopard cannot be seen on a traditional safari. Its high-altitude habitat is cold, harsh, mountainous and often inaccessible to all but the most determined traveller. But on this departure you’ll be able to step foot in the land of the leopard, and hopefully become one of the few people on earth to have seen this predator in the wild with your own eyes. Along the way you’ll get to experience seldom-visited Ladakh, a place where tradition runs deep. Regardless of what wildlife you may encounter here, your time spent venturing through Ladakh’s austere landscape and discovering its ancient Buddhist monasteries will leave you with an unforgettable experience.

What makes this trip extraordinary

  • Follow the tracks of the elusive snow leopard through stunning Himalayan mountains.
  • Spot other species like the ibex, bharal, Himalayan wolf, Tibetan sand fox and golden eagle silhouetted against the stark beauty of the Ladakhi landscape.
  • Experience the peaceful lifestyle of Buddhist monks and their beautiful hilltop monasteries in Leh.
  • Meet members of the Snow Leopard Conservancy, a foundation supported by Natural World Safaris who work tirelessly to protect this endangered species.
  • Learn about the Himalayan way of life from the villagers of Ladakh, and pay a visit to local gompas and stupas – structures used as places of learning and mediation by Buddhist monks.
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Day by day

Day 1

Feb 16: Arrive Delhi

Upon arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Upon checking in, you’re free to spend the rest of the day exploring the nation’s capital, or relax at the hotel and recover from your flight. Standard check-in time is 2pm.

Overnight: Claridges Hotel

Day 2

Feb 17: Delhi – Leh

Today is an early start as you transfer to Delhi Airport for your flight to Leh, a town high in the Himalayas that will be your home for the next three nights. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel, where you will have a free day to relax and acclimatise to Leh’s low oxygen levels (the town sits at an altitude of 11,500 ft above sea level). In the evening you will have a basic orientation to socio-political, economical and religious perspective of Ladakh followed by introduction with local guide.

Overnight: The Grand Dragon Ladakh B, L, D

Day 3

Feb 18: Leh Monasteries

In the morning you’ll visit Leh’s traditional markets before making your way to the monasteries of Shey, Thikse and Hemis, as well as Stok Palace, where you will experience Tibetan Buddhism in practice. Shey Palace and Monastery were both constructed in 1655, and while the palace and adjacent fort are in ruins, the monastery is still in use to this day. Inside you will find a huge statue the Sakyamuni Buddha made of gilded copper, which at 39 ft high is the second-largest statue of its type in Ladakh. Thikse Gompa is an impressive imitation of Lhasa's Potala Palace, dramatically perched on a slope overlooking the Indus Valley. Within one of the newly built structures lies a three-storey statue of the Maitreya Buddha, one of the most beautiful pieces of religious art in Ladakh. You’ll also be able to meet members of Snow Leopard Conservancy, a foundation supported by Natural World Safaris who work tirelessly to protect this endangered species.

Overnight: The Grand Dragon Ladakh B, L, D

Day 4

Feb 19: Gira, Meru and Latho

The villages of Gia, Meru and Latho are your destinations for the fourth day of your journey, a trio of Himalayan settlements that reveal a different side to Ladakh, miles from the town of Leh with its modern amenities and population of 30,000. Learn about the Himalayan way of life from local villagers and pay a visit to the gompa and stupas – structures used as places of learning and mediation by Buddhist monks – that lie above Gia.

Overnight: The Grand Dragon Ladakh B, L, D

Day 5

Feb 20: Leh – Ulley Valley

Today you will head west towards Ulley, a journey of approximately 2-3 hours by road, following the Indus River to Kargil and Srinagar. En route you will pass through the small town of Nimmu, home to the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers as well as one of Ladakh's most famous Buddhist monasteries. At this point the landscape opens up and becomes even more expansive as you enter snow leopard country for the first time. Continue your journey following the Ulley Chhu stream through the valley, keeping your eyes peeled for any silhouettes along the hillsides and skyline. If you’re lucky you may spot your first leopard or ibex. Once you’ve arrived at the village of Ulley, continue on to your Above & Beyond lodge.

Days 6-11

Feb 21 – 26: Ulley Valley

Over the next few days you will explore the Ulley Valley by foot and by vehicle, with your guide accompanying you as you track the elusive snow leopard. During the winter months the ibex move down to lower altitudes to graze, pursued by snow leopards and other predators like the Tibetan wolf. Ibex form the primary portion of a snow leopard’s diet, and it is through the movements of these ungulates – as well as snow leopard tracks – that one can improve the chances of seeing the big cat in its natural environment. Every day you will head out in different directions to track the “Grey Ghost of the Mountains”. Other than snow leopards, the area has a good number of other species like the yak, ibex, Tibetan wolf and red fox. The guides interact closely with the local people and utilise a network of local intelligence to narrow down likely locations for sightings. In the process there will also be plenty of opportunity for you to get insights into local folklore, as well as learn about local customs and traditions.

Day 12

Feb 27: Ulley Valley – Leh

Today you will leave leopard country behind and return to Leh (a journey of approximately 2-3 hours by road). Remember to keep an eye out as you drive – you may have more sightings ahead of you still. On arrival in Leh you will be driven to your hotel, where you can settle in and reminisce on your journey into the extraordinary!

Day 13

Feb 28: Leh – Delhi

Early this morning you will be taken to the airport for your flight back to Delhi. During the flight you will have spectacular views of the Zanskar Range to the west, including the two peaks of Nun and Kun, and you may even be able to spot K2 (the second-highest peak in the world) to the north. Towards the east is the amazing Chang Thang Plateau, the landscape of which is dominated by vast turquoise lakes and rolling mountains. Upon arrival you will be met and driven to your hotel in Delhi.

Day 14

Feb 29: Depart Delhi

Today you will be met and transferred to the international airport to board your international flight home. Please note that checkout from your hotel is in the morning.

Trip Details

This is a small group safari departing on a set date, with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 guests.

Those travelling alone are required to pay a single supplement of £725.

 2020 Departure   Price per person sharing   Price for solo traveller 
 Feb 16 - 29  £3,450  £4,175
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