- Join David Sonam and expert trackers on a snow leopard holiday in Ladakh
- Track snow leopards, blue sheep, ibex and Ladakhi urial by 2WD and on foot
- Home cooked meals and a comfortable bed in a Ladakhi homestay
- All of our clients travelling in 2017 had sightings of snow leopard
As one of the only animals that has eluded Sir David Attenborough, snow leopards are highly endangered and only found in the mountainous areas of Central and Southern Asia. Our snow leopard group tour works with the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust India in Ladakh, using expert tracker David Sonam and his team. Spend four full days exploring the Ulley Valley searching for 'The Ghost of the Himalaya'.
Our tour starts in Delhi before flying on to Leh, a small town in the Indus Valley. Whilst allowing the group time to acclimatise to the altitude, this area is around 12,000 feet above sea level, there will be time to explore Leh and its surrounding area including the beautiful Thiksey Gompa (monastery) offering splendid views of the Indus valley. Continue on to the Ulley Valley, located in the centre of three interlocking valleys, home to 8 - 12 snow leopards according to the last census.
Due to the remoteness of this tour, the accommodation whilst in Ulley is in a small homestay with only six rooms, therefore, we must cap our single supplement to a maximum of three places. However, if you are willing to share, we will do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex.
Why travel with Steppes Travel to see snow leopards?
An exceptional guide is the first essential component of a successful snow leopard holiday and in David Sonam, Steppes Travel are confident we have found just that. In conjunction with his local tracker, David has an intimate knowledge of the Ulley Valley and the movements of its snow leopard inhabitants. While a comprehensive understanding of snow leopard behaviour is critical, a good relationship with the local community is equally important. Local shepherds and farmers will know where snow leopards have been most recently spotted and so David and Tchewang Norbu (chief tracker) have developed a strong bond with the community of Ulley, taking full advantage of hundreds of local pairs of eyes and ears on the ground.
In addition, to give our clients the most informed information the Steppes Travel team regularly join our group tours. Our Product Director, Jarrod Kyte, joined our Snow Leopard group tour in 2017, read about his Snow Leopard adventures and sightings here.
Why choose the Ulley valley?
Ulley village, west of Leh is an area that is only recently being developed for snow leopard watching, but is in the centre of three interlocking valleys supporting approximately 12 snow leopards. The big advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped the first snow leopard destination - Rumbak.
Who are the Snow Leopard Conservacy?
As part of this snow leopard group tour there will be a $200 USD per person donation to the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT). They are a non-governmental organisation founded in 2003 and based in Leh. They provide wood and wire netting, that has helped many Ladakhi farmers make their corrals and pens leopard-proof. It has also started a compensation scheme, and taught villagers how to make toy stuffed animals which are then sold to tourists as profit-making souvenirs.
But, the SLC-IT's biggest success has been its burgeoning homestay scheme. In return for training in hospitality, hygiene and housekeeping, and items such as blankets and bed sheets, all Ladakhi households involved in the scheme must agree to stop killing snow leopards, even if they lose livestock. With snow leopard sightings apparently on the increase, the scheme already seems to be working.
When is the best time to visit Ladakh?
From January to March in Ladakh the days will be cool and the nights can get below -25C. It is out of the main tourist season for the region so it makes it a lot less busy.
It is vital that you have the correct clothing for this tour. Our travel specialists can advise you about clothing and packing lists to make your stay as comfortable as possible depending on the time of year you will be travelling.
When is the best time to see snow leopards?
From the end of January to March, as the snow on the mountains starts to melt, this drives the snow leopards, and their prey (the blue sheep) to lower, almost snow free elevations. This allows the guides and trackers much better access to look for them, and concentrating them in a smaller area.
How likely am i to see snow leopards?
To see a snow leopard requires luck but as with any safari, to some extent, luck can be made by patience, planning and professional guiding. It is no coincidence that the best guides are also the luckiest guides and on David's most recent safaris, his clients have been rewarded by excellent snow leopard sightings.
What happens on a typical day?
A typical day will start with hot tea/coffee, followed by a bowl of hot water for a refreshing wash. Our expert guides will be already on the lookout for snow leopards either from the homestay, or from a close by lookout. Trackers may have gone out into the valley and are in constant communication with David and the team. After breakfast, the group will set out and drive into the valley before hiking on foot to search for snow leopards. The trackers will be in constant communication with one another and keep the group informed of any information along the way.
What flights do you recommend for this tour?
Due to flight connection times between London - Delhi and Leh, we are suggesting two different departure days for flights from London to Delhi at the start of this tour.
Option 1 - Take the evening British Airways flight on 1st February, arriving into Delhi at around 08:55 on the morning of the 2nd February. You will then have a full day in Delhi where you will have time at leisure to relax at the Pullman Hotel. Alternatively, we can look to arrange an optional city tour of Delhi.
Option 2 - Depart London on the 2nd February, on the late morning British Airways flight departing at around 11:20, arriving into Delhi at around 01:00 on the 3rd February with a few hours in between the connection flight to Leh, where you will transfer to an airport hotel to freshen up before returning to the airport for your onwards flight to Leh.
What is the accommodation like?
On this tour, accommodation is a homestay style lodge, hosted by a local Ladakhi family. Lodgings are basic but far more comfortable than camping and to enhance your stay, we bring in our own cook and camp staff along with gas heaters, a warm shower, comfortable mattresses and bed linen.
Do i have to be fit to join this tour?
Whilst in the Ulley Valley out searching for Snow Leopards there will be some small hikes on rough terrain, so it is vital that you have adequate hiking boots. However, the amount of hiking you choose to do is up to you. It is our aim to hike a few miles every day, with the uphill sections being at a slow pace due to the altitude. Due to the small group size, there will be several guides with us on all the hikes that will happily stay with members of the group that may get tired or just want to rest.
Is this tour suitablE for solo travellers?
Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a tour expert.
If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.
If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.
For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.