Snow Leopard Expedition - Ghost of Himalayas
Jungle Lore once again brings to you, one of its most exciting travel opportunities featuring the Ghost of the Himalayas, the elusive Snow Leopard. During the winters when the peaks are covered with snow, the ghost descends to lower and more approachable altitudes in and around the Hemis National Park. Though a Snow Leopard sighting will be the highlight of the trip, Hemis hosts a lot more in terms of wildlife diversity. Ranging from Himalayan Blue Sheep, Red Fox, Tibetan Wolf and an exquisite variety of bird life.
Day 1 - 23th Feb - Arrive in Leh (Rest)
Take the early morning flight to Leh from New Delhi. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel located near Leh market.
Complete rest for the day is highly recommended as it eases the process of acclimatisation. Also sipping hot tea while stretching your legs in the lap of Himalayas is definitely not a bad way to start you trip, alternatively you can also choose to visit the local market in the evening.
Dinner and overnight stay in Leh.
Day 2 - 24th Feb - Drive to Ule, walk on the frozen Zanskar
Early morning we depart for Ule and stop at confluence to experience the walk on the frozen Zanskar river. Reach Ule by lunch time.Dinner and overnight stay in Ule Homestay.
Day 3 - 25th Feb - Explore Ule
Today, we will be exploring the Ule landscape, which is known for its Leopard sightings as well. Apart from that keep a look out for Urial, Agrali and Tibetian Antelope here.
Day 4 - 26th Feb - Halfday at Ule. Late evening back to Leh
We shall explore more of Ule and late afternoon we head back to Leh.
A bonfire to keep you warm and dinner afterwards.
Overnight at Leh.
Day 5 - 27th Feb - Leh to Zinchen. Trek to Rumbak
This is the part that we have been building up to.
Post breakfast we head to the Hemis National Park. From Phey Bridge onwards we start hiking along side Indus towards the Zingchen Gorge. We continue up the gorge and soon enough lay our eyes on the high altitude Hemis national park, the home of the Snow Leopard. Keep your senses sharp and look out amidst the cliffs and at the base of rocks where they mark their turf.
We spend the night in Rumbak Homestays and it is our first night in the stunning Hemis wilderness.
Trekking time: 5-6 hrs. Elevation: 12,400 ft
Day 6 - 28th Feb - Explore Rumbak
Over the next 3 days we trek around Hemis National Park tracking the Snow Leopard and its wildlife prey. Hemis National Park is home to blue sheep, argali (a large horned sheep), numerous mountain and migratory birds, as well as an occasional Tibetan wolf, one of the most prolific hunters of the region. You are likely to see signs of Snow Leopard, as winter is the time when they descend to lower elevations. If lucky, you’ll actually see one perched high in the rocks or balanced on a near vertical ridge. Return to camp for some hot servings and warming tea and share tales of the day.
**Snow Leopards naturally predate on wild bharal (blue sheep) or ibex (mountain goat) however they have been known to kill domestic animals such as local farmers’ goat and sheep. They are able to kill and carry up to 3 times their body weight and are generally opportunist hunters.
Overnight in camp/home stay.
Day 7 - 1st March - Turhan Valley
Day 8 - 2nd March - Rumbak - Urutse. Homestay at Urutse(13,500 ft).
Today, we will explore Yurutse (13,500 ft) and Gandala Pass base which is known for its Ibex sightings.
Overnight in camp/home stay at Yurutse.
Day 8 - 3rd March - Urutse to Zinchen. Back to Leh.
Trek down-valley past familiar Snow Leopard haunts and piles of carved Tibetan prayer stones to Zingchen; about 5 hrs. We take it slow exploring the familiar haunts of the Leopards with packed Lunch so that we make it to Zingchen by late afternoon.
Post our arrival in Zingchen, we head back to civilisation – Leh. After a much needed and deserved shower it is time to relax, grab a drink and enjoy the last of the gorgeous and peaceful Himalayan scenery.
Farewell dinner and overnight in Leh.
Day 9 - 4th march - Depart for Delhi/Mumbai
Early morning depart back home with memories for a lifetime.
Panorama Hotel - Visit Website
Rs. 70,000 /- + 5% GST + Air Fare
Additional charges of Rs 5000/- for foreign nationality.
- 3 nights accommodation in deluxe property in Leh on twin sharing basis (Heater facility)
- 6 nights stay in homestay Ule/Rumbak & Urutse on twin sharing basis (Bukhara local fire place )
- All meals during the trip
- Porter charges Zinchen to Rumbak & back
- Service of an expert naturalist & spotter
- Jungle Lore escort
- Surface transfers as per plan by tempo traveler
- Inner Liner permits, monastery fees and taxes
- Wildlife permit frees Rs 1600/- per day per head
- Local sightseeing/monastery
The Cost Does Not Includes
Snow Leopard, Shan (called locally), Ghost of the Himalayas are a few names of this very elusive cat species.These rare, beautiful grey leopards inhabit the mountains of Hemis National Park. They are insulated by thick hair, and their wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes. Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous leapers, able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters). They use their long tails (some times 80% of their body length) for balance and as blankets to insulate sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill. Like all cats, they are territorial and sneak up on their prey. Typical targets are the blue sheep, Ibex, etc. Though if the opportunity arises, the leopard goes after the wooly hares, birds, marmots, domestic goats etc. They prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides excellent camouflage; good cover and clear view to help them sneak up on their prey.
This is probably one of the toughest creatures to track given its elusive behavior, the weather conditions, the rugged terrain and the vast area. While traversing the terrain one looks for signs scrapes, feaces, urine and scent-spray in prominent locations along their travel routes. There are dynamics like presence of cubs, mating pairs etc. that needs to be taken into account. Every morning the tracking begins again, and we go out looking for signs. Spotters are set up across various ridges armed with high-powered scopes and binoculars. Connected through wireless, the teams continuously communicate and scan for signs.
The timing of the trip is very important as the Himalayan blue sheep Bharal (Snow Leopard’s primary prey) descends down from altitudes like 17000 ft to lower and more humanly approachable 13000 ft in search of food. The snow leopard follows its prey and hence one has to keep a look out for blue sheep, while tracking them. Hence the weather conditions though tough for us increases the probability of spotting the ghost.
HEMIS NATIONAL PARK AND OTHER WILDLIFE
Hemis National Park in the Ladakh region is a high altitude national park in the eastern Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is the only national park in India north of the Himalayas, about 4,400 sq. km and thus the largest notified protected area in India.
Although it is of course these magnificent felines that we are looking for, there is also lots of other interesting wildlife to be seen. The local mountain goat, known as the Ibex is a stunning woolly creature that can weigh up to 200 pounds. Their colour ranges from pale to dark brown and they have a darker dorsal stripe. The Ibex has distinctive horns which curve backwards and are bigger on the males. The Eurasian lynx is a medium size cat that is reddish brown in colour with black spots. They have black tufts on top of their ears and a short bobbed tail. They prey on smaller animals than the leopard like rabbits, hares, foxes and deer. The Tibetan wolf varies in colour depending on the season and the part of their body. The back and tail are usually black and white, the chest, belly and inside legs are white ears are grey. Its legs are slightly shorter than the European wolf and it is one of the region’s most prolific hunters.
Trip Cost: Rs. 70,000 + 5% GST + Air Fare
Trip Dates: 23rd Feb to 4th March 2018
Weather Link for Leh
Trip Leader: Vishal