This tour package offers a rare opportunity to see the charismatic Snow Leopards in their natural environment at Hemis National Park. The Tibetan Argali and the highly endangered Ladakh Urial (sheep) are also present. Himalayan Snowcock are regularly seen, usually above 3,600 m elevation. Bharal (Blue Sheep) graze in this spectacular region, along with more common sightings of Pikas.
Your journey begins with an impressive flight over the snow-clad peaks of the Himalaya. After acclimatising in Leh, you’ll head to Hemis National Park, referred to as the ‘Kingdom of the Snow Leopard’. Expert guides pick up tracks and signs, contributing observations and knowledge to the conservation of the species and increasing the chance of successful sightings. Other mammals that occur here too, are the Tibetan Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Ladakh Urial, Asiatic Ibex and Tibetan Wolves, but sighting are rare. Birds include some of the high altitude specialists. You’ll look for Ibisbill along the Indus River, where you may encounter flocks of Guldenstadt’s Redstarts. Brown and Robin Accentors occur and sometimes Red‑fronted Serin. This is a tour to tempt anyone who has that explorer drive within them. There are many ways to extend this tour, so please contact us for details
For help with your flight arrangements and to receive a no obligation quote, you can call 0800 280 8947 to speak to a flight advisor at StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of the Flight Centre Travel Group, a leading retailer of airfares and worldwide flights.
Your flight arrives in Delhi. Here you will be met outside the airport by our representative and taken to check in at Hotel Lohmod (room available from 12 noon). Flights arriving mid/late morning would allow time to visit Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary with your guide in the afternoon, leaving your hotel by 1330 hours at the latest. For later arrivals you can relax at the hotel.
It won’t be possible to have breakfast this morning as you’ll need to meet your fellow travellers at 0400 hours at the hotel reception. You will need to transfer together to the airport in time to check in for your flight (booked by you) with Jet Airways (no. 9W2368) departing at 0630 hours arriving in Leh at 0755 hours. This must be one of the most sensational flights in the world, so book a window seat if possible! On a clear day the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum can be seen in the distance on one side of the aircraft and on the other side is the Nun Kun Massif. Upon arrival in Leh you will be transferred to the hotel. You must take a little time to settle in and acclimatise since your journey will have brought you to an altitude of about 3,500m, so complete rest in your hotel is recommended. Later today we will take you to visit the office of Snow Leopard Conservancy in Leh where you can hear about the work of this worthwhile NGO and you can purchase souvenirs, though there is no pressure to do so. Agree a time to meet with your guide the next morning.
Another full day of taking it easy to acclimatise to the rarefied air is very wise, although it will be possible to do some birding to look for Ibisbill, Solitary Snipe, Horned Lark, Guldenstadt‟s (White-winged) Redstart and a few other species local to Leh. For those who wish, we can include a visit to Thiksey Monastery where you can enjoy commanding views across the Indus Valley. Your guide will confirm the times to meet up tomorrow morning for the drive to Hemis.
Drive to Zingchen and Hemis National Park – the home of the Snow Leopard. From here we will walk approx. 1½ hrs to the campsite at Husing located at approximately 3700 m. The actual walk is not far and the track isn’t steep, but for some, it will take a bit of effort at this altitude! Husing is a perfect location in a corridor, linking three valleys where there is much evidence of Snow Leopard. Your guide will point out scrapes, spray sites and of course the ultimate would be a sighting of this fine cat! After lunch at the camp, spend the afternoon looking for Snow Leopards in the Tarbung area, returning to Husing tented camp for the night. This afternoon and the rest of the time in Hemis will remain flexible depending on the sightings of Snow Leopard, so you may move camp or have a night or two at a local homestay in Rumbak or Yurutse (a wonderful experience) when required, but expect most of the time to be in tents.
The junction of Husing Nala and Tarbung Nala and local high ridges will be scanned. There will be a hike to a vantage point at Rumbak Sumdo and the area of the parachute café to scan for sightings. During this time you should see Chukar, White-winged Redstart, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Fire-fronted Serin (depending on dates), Himalayan Snowcock, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Choughs, Robin Accentor, Horned Lark, Tibetan Snowfinch, perhaps Eurasian Eagle Owl and a few other species. Look out for groups of Blue Sheep (Bharal), Mountain Weasel, Red Fox, Stone Marten and among the boulders on warmer days Royle’s Pika often venture out. Overnight at Husing tented camp. Note: depending on the tracks and signs of the Snow Leopard you might change camping site – there are up to three likely camping locations. The camp staff will arrange everything for you and your main bags will be transported by pony/mule so you just have to carry your optics and day bag.
Depending on sightings and the weather we may move location today to focus on the Rumbak area. The mountains around Rumbak are home to Asiatic Ibex, Ladakh Urial and Tibetan Argali, though these species can prove difficult here and are potentially easier to see at other locations outside of Hemis National Park which will be visited later in the tour. After breakfast, the trek to Rumbak village (again not that far) will take approximately 2 to 3 hours where we may camp or stay in a homestay for the night, or just return to the original camp. Further exploration today may take us to 4600m up towards Yurutse where it is possible to see Tibetan Argali.
Today, we’lll continue our quest, starting with more trekking, looking for tracks and signs, scanning the ridges and mountain-sides with telescopes and binoculars. Tibetan Wolf tracks and signs are likely with sightings possible, but more difficult. We will visit Husing Pass (4450 m) and scan from excellent vantage points on the pass. On another day we may hike for 3 – 4 hours towards Gangala base to look for Tibetan Argali in an area where the habitat is also good for Eurasian Lynx, Tibetan Wolf and Tibetan Partridge.
This morning could be spent around Stok La base and in the afternoon/evening we would move to Kharlung, returning to Husing camp. As previously mentioned, this is subject to sightings and weather, so the programme needs to remain flexible.
After seven nights in Hemis National Park we’ll walk for about an hour down to Zingchen where the vehicles will be waiting to take us to a different location, the area of Ulley or Saspoche, depending on Snow Leopard sightings. The drive will take us back along the Indus River. On the journey look out for Brown Dipper on the steams and the handsome Asiatic Ibex, endemic Ladakh Urial and Tibetan Wolf in the valleys and on the mountain slopes. Overnight in a local homestay at Saspoche or Ulley.
Our search for the elusive Snow Leopard will continue around Saspoche/Ulley where the Snow Leopard Conservation estimates there are around 8 to 10 of these cats; you’ll have a good chance of seeing Asiatic Ibex here, too. Birds locally may include Great Rosefinch, Brown Dipper and White-winged Redstart.
This morning we’ll trek down to a location where Ibex are found in large numbers. After a packed, or hot lunch, we will drive back to Leh.
You are likely to have an early start this morning. A transfer is included to the airport for your early morning flight to Delhi (booked by you). Your return flight would be with Jet Airways or Air India – flight number and times to be confirmed. A bird guide will be at Delhi airport to welcome you and take you to Sultanpur National Park to enjoy birdwatching. Your driver will look after your luggage and the guide will accompany you around Sultanpur (his services and entrance fees are included in the price). The guide should be able to take you somewhere locally for lunch (payable directly) or you can pick up snacks on the way. You will depart Sultanpur at 1600 hours to check-in at Hotel Lohmod. Both lunch and dinner are payable directly by you today.
This morning you can take advantage of a gentle morning get up and have a later breakfast (included in the price and available from 0700 hours) at Hotel Lohmod. Today a transfer is included in your price based on you all taking the same flight and the same transfer together. Tour ends Tour extensions available. Please contact us for details.
Price per person (on twin share basis but with own tent provided by us) based on minimum group size of 4 and maximum of 8: Approx. £1975 Small single room supplement: TBC
|Place||Hotel Name||No. of nights|
|Delhi||Hotel Lohmod, Executive Room||1|
|Leh||Hotel Mahey Retreat, Standard Room||2|
|Hemis N.P||Camping in fully serviced camps – see inclusions for details||7|
|Ulley or Saspoche||Village homestay||2|
|Leh||Hotel Mahey Retreat, Standard Room||1|
|Delhi||Hotel Lohmod, Executive Room||1|
The camp team is there to set up camp, cook and help to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The camp is well equipped and the tents and sleeping mats etc. are excellent (comment from clients). You can expect three course dinners on the table with table cloth in the dining tent and often hot meals are carried up the mountain and served with hot drinks! However, it is a basic rural camp, so do not expect hot showers, although you will be delivered a bowl of hot water for a wash/strip wash and hot water bottles are also provided.
Tents consist of a row of “two person” crawl-in-tents with a foam ground sheet and a padded mattress on the floor. Note: Army issue sleeping bags can be hired (extra cost) or you need to bring your own good quality four season sleeping bag. A pillow and blanket are supplied. Hot water bottles are supplied at night and a bowl of hot water delivered each morning and on request. The camp at Husing now has two built “drop” toilet blocks with access up a set of steps. At other camps the toilet may be a toilet tent.
Packed lunches (often hot) are normally delivered to you by the camp team while you are out and about, so there is no need to carry your own packed lunch each day. Tea and biscuits may be delivered on some days too!
The dining tent (with table and chairs) is kept warm by a gas heater and lighting is provided here. Meals are very tasty basic Ladakhi, Chinese and Continental style, freshly prepared in the catering tent by an experienced cook. Ponies are used to transport larger bags and each person is expected to carry their own day sack. Personal porters can be hired at extra cost.
You do however need to take a 30 – 50L daysack as you must carry plenty of water to drink and have room for extra layers of clothing that you may well take off while trekking and put on while sitting for long periods. You’ll need the extra layers on very cold days and especially if it is windy (as temperatures can drop dramatically with the wind chill) and towards the end of the day when you lose the warmth of the sun as it disappears behind the mountains. Ponies are employed for transport of camp equipment and some of your extras. Try not to overpack, but do be aware that it is very difficult to wash clothes while you are camping and get them dry. They are strict on the internal baggage allowance on the flights these days, but you can usually pay more per kg of extra weight and it isn’t too expensive. However taking the appropriate kit is do-able within the weight allowance.
Expect accommodation to be basic, but comfortable. The local families have gone out of their way to make you feel comfortable and at home. Sleeping may be on a padded mattress on the floor at some properties. Homestays have a similar “drop” toilet and the team will ensure you are delivered hot water and good food.