- Spend time in the company of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and expert trackers
- Track snow leopards, blue sheep, ibex and Ladakhi urial by 2WD and on foot
- Explore the geology of Ladakh under the guidance of guest geologist Dr Tawlekar
- Take part in camera trapping, a vital activity for charting these creatures
Endangered, beautiful, and elusive, snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild. In an effort to promote their well-being and to offer the chance to glimpse these solitary creatures, we’ve teamed up with the New Scientist and the Snow Leopard Conservancy to offer a bespoke itinerary.
As one of the only animals that has alluded Sir David Attenborough, snow leopards are highly endangered and only found in the mountainous areas of central and southern Asia. There is thought to be some 4000 – 7000 snow leopards remaining in these high-altitude regions of central Asia. The inaccessibility makes the population hard to count. Our snow leopard group tour works with the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust India in Ladakh, using a team of expert trackers. Spend five full days exploring the Ulley valley searching for 'The Ghost of the Himalaya'.
Due to the remoteness of this tour, the accommodation whilst in Ulley is in a small homestay with only six rooms, therefore, we have to cap our single supplement to a maximum of three places, which have now been occupied. However, if you are willing to share, we will do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex. Alternatively, if having your own room is a necessity there may be availability on our alternative snow leopard group tour, for more information click here.
Why travel with Steppes and New Scientist to see snow leopards?
Exceptional guides are the first essential component of a successful snow leopard holiday and in Dr Talekar and the Snow Leopard Conservancy, Steppes Travel are confident we have found just that. SLC trackers have an intimate knowledge of 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 the 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. During the tour the group will be involved directly with camera trapping activities, which although an expensive and time consuming method, allows individual animals to be recorded.
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 2016, read about his snow leopard adventures and sightings.
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, which support approximately 12 snow leopards per the last census. 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 Conservancy?
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). A senior member of the team will travel with the group. 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. This goes some way to compensate herders whose animals are killed.
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.
Where will I visit on this tour?
Our tour starts in Delhi before flying onto 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 with organised sightseeing of its surrounding area including the beautiful Thiksey Gompa (monastery) offering splendid views of the Indus valley.
Spend two days in the company of Dr Talekar in the region around Leh. Hear about the geology of the region that he has studied for many decades.
Continue onto the Ulley Valley, located in the centre of three interlocking valleys, home to between eight and ten snow leopards per the last census
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 already be on the search 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 the team from Snow Leopard Conservancy. 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. In the evenings, there will be opportunities to hear from the leaders during post dinner presentations.
What is the accommodation like?
On this tour, accommodation is a homestay style lodge, hosted by a local Ladakhi family known to Steppes personally. 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. The homestay has undergone some upgrading to offer higher comfort.
Whilst in Leh, the hotel is the best available, offering comfortable rooms, stunning views of the Stok Range, great hospitality and in house dining.
How likely am I to see a snow leopard?
To see a snow leopard requires luck but as with any safari, to some extent luck can improved by patience, planning and professional guiding. It is no coincidence that the best guides are also the luckiest guides and on the most recent safaris clients have been rewarded by excellent snow leopard sightings. All our clients travelling in 2017 had sightings of snow leopard.
What is the weather like in February?
From January to March in Ladakh the days will be cool and the nights can get below -25. This tour departure is out of the main tourist season for the region so it makes it a lot quieter.
It is vital that you have the correct clothing for this tour. Our travel specialists can advise you of clothing and packing lists to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
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.
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 group 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 our tour experts.
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 this tour, it is capped to 3 people due to the size of the property in Ulley.
For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.