Altai Mountain Snow Leopard Tour
March 7, 2022 - March 15, 2022£776 – £2996
This 8 day tour is a world first. The first tour dedicated to the photography of fully wild Snow Leopard in the Russian wilderness of the Altai Mountains. Royle Safaris have been pioneering Big Cat Safaris into Russia for many years and after great success with both Siberian Tigers and Amur Leopards we have branches out to include the third big cat known from this vast and wonderfully wild country.
This tour provides an opportunity to see and take pictures of one of 45 known snow leopards living in Saylugem National Park in the rarely visited Altai Republic of Central Russia.
There is a great variety of wildlife known from the region, much of which is little understood and hardly ever seen by foreigners, but on this trip you have a chance to see snow leopards, Pallas’s cat, brown bears, Eurasian lynx, argali, Siberian musk deer, gray wolves, red foxes and mountain hare among many birds including large raptors.
Top Animals on Tour
Siberian Musk Deer
Gorno-Altaysk / Kosh-Agach
On you arrival into the Gorno-Altaysk Airport you will meet your local guide and English – Russian translator and depart towards the small village of Kosh- Agach (~5 hours drive from the airport). You will have lunch along the way in a local café and then when we arrive at the village we will check into the local guesthouse and spend the rest of the day at leisure. A welcome dinner will be served at the guesthouse.
After breakfast this morning you will be transferred deeper into the mountains and to Saylugaem National Park and in particular the visitor centre of Chagan- Burgazy guest house. After lunch here you will have a short trip by a car into the mountains to look for wildlife such as argali and snow leopards, before returning to the accommodation in the evening. You will also be briefed on the next few days and your options. We recommend taking advantage of the banya (Russian sauna) whilst here as it is a great way to relax as well as clean each evening.
These options are either to stay inside the heated tents or comfortable photography hides during the day and wait for snow leopards to come by. The tents and permanent hides are different, both in terms of comfort and chances of seeing snow leopards. The permanent photography hides are comfortable enough to stay inside during the whole day, and even at night if you wish. They are heated, have beds and are equipped with bio toilets.
The tented accommodation are also heated and waterproof, however they are not as comfortable as the hides (to spend extended amounts of time inside) and you have to be really passionate photographer to stay there during the whole day. But the major advantage of choosing the tented camps is you may change the places every day to improve your chances and observe different landscapes. Our local guides may hear of snow leopard activity in an area and with the mobile tents you can be moved there to maximise chances of seeing the snow leopard.
Alternatively you can spend time exploring the region by vehicle and hoping to come across wildlife, as opposed to the wildlife coming to you in the hides/tents. This is another option, but probably with lower overall chances of seeing a snow leopard.
We also offer a new service of professional camera trapping. You may send us or leave your pro-camera trap and we’ll set it up for you in the most amazing places with the highest snow leopards population.
The next 4 full days will follow a pattern decide upon by the information the local guides and rangers have based on snow leopard activity and recent sightings and also your preference for where you wish to be based for the photography.
In general after breakfast your guides will provide the information and their recommendations for where the think you should visit today. There may be permanent hides in the area and you have the choice to use these (also deciding if you wish to spend the whole day and night in the hide) or sometimes the only way you can get to the location would be to use the tents and so you will have the choice. We apologise for the ambiguity with these days, but we find it best to remain as fluid and flexible as possible during these days as we want to maximise our chances of seeing snow leopards and other wildlife and so decisions should be made on a day by day basis when on the tour with the advice of your local guides.
Lunch will be provided in the field (whether in the hides or tents) and if you decide to spend the overnight in the hide we can also provide dinner for you too. Otherwise you will come back to the guest house and have dinner here before overnighting and making use of the banya.
Chagan-Burgazy / Kosh Agach
After breakfast you will have one more morning to try and find wildlife, with your ranger providing the best recommendation for where to search today. Then after returning to the guesthouse and having lunch you will return to Kosh-Agach village and on checking into the same guesthouse as on day 1, have dinner and overnight.
Kosh Agach / Gorno-Altaysk
You can have a more relaxed morning today and then after breakfast begin the 5 hour drive back to Gorno-Altaysk. You will have lunch on the way in a local café and then on arrival at the hotel the rest of the day is at your leisure, with your farwell dinner served in a restaurant.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
The weather in the Altai Mountains of Russia during winter is very cold and possibly very snowy too. Temperatures will be between -2 to -20 degrees C; but there could be colder periods. It is difficult to predict exact temperatures and snowfall and other weather conditions in the mountains is unpredictable, but expect sub-zero temperatures.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – when in the hide meals are provided in advance and there is a small gas cooker for warming through food. There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private vehicle to be driven by a local guide for transfers when needed.
All our excursions including guided walks, hide use and park entrance fees are included; we also include all fees for our team including cooks, assistants and translator.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars in addition to your camera (no tripod is needed in the hide – there is no room) as well as appropriate clothing; which should be both light and durable walking clothes as well as very warm winter clothes, such as down jackets & trousers, walking socks, gloves, hats, scarfs, fleeces etc. Broken in and comfortable, waterproof walking boots are essential. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. We have also provided camera traps which will be set up around the hide for your trip and any pictures / videos taken with these will be free for you to have and use.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend Areoflot as a good airline for flights to Moscow and from there the internal flight will most likely be either Aeroflot again for Siberian Airlines (S7) to Gorno-Altaysk. One of the best websites to search for the best fares for these flights is www.odopo.co.uk; who are IATA accredited this is a link direct to their site. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for Russia. These are only obtainable in advance from your local embassy. The easiest way to find information is by visiting http://visitrussia.org.uk (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site). A tourist visa costs around £115 for a single entry visa which is valid for 30 days, however things change so please check out the website above for more information.
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit Russia, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting Russia as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Reviews of this Holiday
Chris & Michelle - Lancashire
Mr. Watkins - Shrigley, UK
Peter Williamson - Peterborough