- Depart London on an overnight flight to Delhi.
- Arrive Delhi mid-morning and transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay. The rest of the day is free so we can relax and recover from the flight, or use the opportunity to explore something of this vibrant city.
- Accommodation: Delhi, 1-night with breakfast included.
- We have a very early start for the transfer back to Delhi airport to board a flight to Leh, capital of the Kingdom of Ladakh. Leh stands at an altitude of 3500 metres above sea level, so it is essential to take things easy at first and acclimatise gradually. We spend the rest of the day relaxing around the hotel, but may go for a gentle walk later in the afternoon to look for robin and brown accentors and Güldenstädt’s redstart.
- Accommodation: Leh, 3-nights on full board basis.
- Our birdwatching in and around Leh includes a walk along the banks of the Indus River in search of ibisbill. We will also look for species such as fire-fronted serin, horned lark and blue whistling thrush. If time permits, we will also try to pay a visit to a local Buddhist monastery.
- Today we head out to Nimmu in the Ulley Valley in search of mammals such as red sheep (a.k.a. Ladakh urial) and Asiatic ibex. Wolves are regularly seen here, but we would be fortunate indeed if we manage to spot one on such a short visit. Interesting birds here include Himalayan griffon vulture.
- Check out of the hotel today and head by four-wheel-drive vehicle to Zingchen, at which point we leave the vehicles behind. Here our luggage is loaded onto mules for the short trek along the valley to our camp at Husing in Hemis National Park, a couple of kilometres distant. This is now snow leopard country, and we will be continually scanning the slopes and the ridgelines for a sight of this beautiful, but elusive, animal.
- Accommodation: Husing Camp, 6-nights on full board basis.
- Each day in the mountains will involve searching for snow leopard on foot, which means there may be some strenuous walks on steep and rough terrain. If we are fortunate to find a recent kill, we stake out the area in the hope that the animal returns. Inevitably we spend a lot of time waiting and watching, scanning the mountainsides. We will, of course, also be looking for other wildlife including golden eagle, lammergeyer, red-billed and yellow-billed choughs, Himalayan snowcock, Himalayan blue sheep (known locally as bharal), woolly hare and Royle’s pika – a small mammal reminiscent of a hyrax. Even if we climb to higher altitudes during the day, we always return to our base camp at lower altitude to sleep.
- We have one final look for snow leopard before we trek back down the valley to meet our vehicles and drive back to Leh, After a week of camping in the mountains, the chance of a good hot shower will be high on most people’s wish-list, but there should still be plenty of time to shop for souvenirs.
- Accommodation: Leh, 1-night on full board basis.
- After an early breakfast, drive to Leh airport to catch a morning flight to Delhi, with an onward connecting flight to London, arriving later the same day.
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Guided activities
- Porters, mules, all camping equipment and local trekking guides
In Delhi we stay in a comfortable and modern hotel, close to the airport, and in Leh at a small hotel with some character that nestles beside an old Ladakhi home just 10 minutes walk from the centre – each room has an en suite bathroom and opens onto a large vegetable garden with outstanding views. Although the hotel has heating, in winter low temperatures may occasionally cause water in the plumbing system to freeze – in which case both hot and cold water is brought to the rooms in a bucket.
At our base camp at Husing, we stay in 4-person, double-flysheet, waterproof nylon, alpine tents. Just two people are allocated to each tent, thereby ensuring there is plenty of room inside; if you wish greater privacy, you can reserve a tent for yourself on payment of a single supplement. Insulated mattresses are provided, but a good four-season rated sleeping bag is essential – you can bring your own or hire one locally. The roomy mess tent, which is heated, is equipped with tables and chairs, however sleeping tents are unheated although camp staff provides a hot water bottle each evening.
The Indian Wildlife Department has constructed a permanent building with oriental-style squat toilets at the campsite, however camp staff will put up our own toilet tents with western-style seats. Warm water and soap is provided before each meal for hand washing – essential to minimise the risk of infection. There is also a shower tent. Luggage and camping equipment is transported by mules and ponies owned and cared for by Ladakhis.
All meals are included
The average daytime temperature in February/March is between 6⁰ and 10⁰ Celsius, however at night the temperature may fall to between minus 5⁰ and minus 10⁰ Celsius. During the day. wind chill may make it feel even colder. As you may be sitting still for long periods while scanning the slopes for snow leopard, it is vital to wear suitable mountain clothing to ensure you stay warm.
We stay in Leh (3500m) for three nights so there is an opportunity to acclimatise to altitude before heading to our base camp at Husing (3700m). On arrival in Leh you may feel short of breath, however this should abate as you become acclimatised. You will be given a full briefing on altitude sickness in Leh, and should thereafter report any symptoms you experience to your tour leader. This trip is accompanied by expert local leaders who have more than 10 years experience in the region, and are trained in high-altitude trekking.
Walking at these altitudes can be challenging, however all walks are done at a gentle pace to ensure all participants can cope with the lower levels of oxygen, and the weather conditions. The support team always carries an oxygen cylinder as a precautionary measure. If walking at higher altitudes during the day, we always follow the established practice of returning to sleep in camp at a lower altitude,
Daily outings may vary from gentle walking to moderate trekking, mainly in the valleys and gorges at Rumbak and Husing, but may also include Yurtse (4400m). This may mean long gradual ascents and descents, however the overall degree of difficulty is rated as moderate. Day walks in the Rumbak and Husing valleys are optional, and depend on your fitness and degree of enthusiasm for tracking snow leopard and other animals.
You can expect to encounter a variety of terrain underfoot. At lower altitudes we commonly walk in fertile agricultural valleys and dry rocky riverbeds or on floodplains, and the routes we take may occasionally involve wading across shallow rivers (ropes are provided if require due to high water levels). At higher altitudes we may encounter barren hillsides, rocky ridges and slopes of loose scree.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Delhi – London, and domestic flights between Delhi and Leh.