Seeking The Snow Leopards Of Ladakh
The snow leopard, locally known as shan or the ghost of the Himalayas, is one of the world’s rarest, least seen and most exciting big cats. Primarily an opportunistic hunter, snow leopards can leap up to 50 feet high and are able to kill and carry up to three times their body weight. They are typically found in the high mountain ranges of Central and South Asia and are an endangered species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are particularly difficult to see in the wild because of the remote and rugged terrain and the excellently camouflaged coat.
In recent years, the Ladakh area of the Indian Himalayas has emerged as one of the best areas in the world to see this most elusive of big cats, with past trips typically involving camping in the high mountains valleys and searching one locality for the snow leopards. What makes this tour different is that we spread our search over two different snow leopard habitats: The Hemis National Park and the Ule Valley thus increasing the chance of an encounter. In addition, rather than camping, we stay with local families (home stays) meaning heated rooms, home-cooked food and the opportunity to meet some of Ladakh’s fascinating and friendly people. This is the time of year that snow leopards prey on local livestock, so your stay will also help reimburse families for their losses and reduce reprisals against the snow leopards.
Ladakh is also home to other lesser known species including Tibetan wolf, Tibetan red fox, Eurasian lynx, argali (great Tibetan sheep), bharal (blue sheep), shapu (Ladakhi urial) and ibex. There are also some spectacular birds including the ibisbill, lammergeier (bearded vulture), Himalayan griffon vulture, golden eagle and Himalayan and Tibetan snowcocks.
Please note that whilst every effort has been made to make this trip as comfortable as we can, you will still be trekking at high altitude (over 4,000 metres/13,000 feet) and in the middle of the Himalayan winter. Night time temperatures can drop below -25C and day time temperatures often remain below freezing. You should come dressed for some very cold weather and expect to spend many hours a day searching the mountainsides by binocular and telescope. With a lot of effort and a little luck we have a good chance of spotting this most elusive of big cats.