Snow Leopards & Indian Culture Holiday
February 9, 2022 - February 25, 2022£880 – £4916
India is a land of rich culture and deep history as well as rugged wilderness and elusive wildlife. This tour combines the best of these different aspects into one trip which will leave you wanting to delve deeper into the Indian subcontinent for both history and wildlife. The mountains of the north-west of India are home to snow leopards which have become pretty reliably seen in recent years, we will start our tour here. We then head south and dive deep into the wonderful unique heritage of the Indian Golden Triangle. This tour will visiting the historical and culturally significant monuments and buildings in both Agra and Jaipur.
Top Animals on Tour
Tour Dates: 9/02/2022 – 25/02/2022
Duration: 16 nights
Type / Focus: Snow Leopards & Culture
On arrival at Delhi International Airport you will meet your local driver. You will then be transferred to your accommodation in a private vehicle. You will be able to arrange with your Delhi based guide about the time you will be picked up tomorrow for your flight to Leh. It will be early in the morning so we suggest spending the day relaxing and getting your warm clothes ready for tomorrow as it will be cold when you arrive in Leh tomorrow.
This morning you will catch your flight north from Delhi to Leh in the morning. On your arrival you will then be transferred you to your accommodation for your first taste of life in the North West of India. Your hotel will be one of the few that remains open during the winter here and most hotels are located centrally in Leh with great views of the Himalayas which are just exquisite. The time spent in Leh before hand is very important as it give your body time to get used to the increased altitude and lower oxygen levels before the trek begins.
Your local guide will take you on a guided tour to Thiksey monasteries to give you an experience of Tibetan Buddhism which has been prevalent since centuries. Then afterwards you can drive along the Indus river to look for the Ibisbill or the Solitary Snipe. You may find a Harrier and also a few species of ducks before returning to the hotel for dinner and some rest. You can also stock up on Western brands of chocolates, biscuits etc, most of which can be found in Leh’s shops. Which are things some people like to take with them into the park for the next few days camping.
Hemis National Park
This morning you will have breakfast before being transferred to a tiny village area called Zinchen. Zinchen is the starting point for the trek and you will enter Hemis National Park along the Indus River Gorge. This is a dramatic entry to the park and one which will introduce you to the kind of terrain we have to scan for snow leopards. Before we depart from Phey you will meet your trekking party.
This will comprise of your group, your Leh based guide will stay in Leh and their role will be taken over by your local naturalist and snow leopard tracker, a camp cook and his assistant, between 6-7 porters and or 3-4 mules and their pony-man. This makes the total camping party around 5 people and 3-4 mules (or more if porters are used instead of ponies).
Today will be a shorter day of walking than usual as we get deep enough into the park to really begin wildlife watching. The best thing to do for the first few day is to try and get used to scanning the horizon, hillsides and valley floor in the distance whilst keeping a sure footing all the time; it’s a difficult trick to do but once you get good at it you will quickly find more wildlife which you may otherwise have missed.
Once in camp you will settle, as the camp is being set up and have some lunch and then in the afternoon your snow leopard spotting will begin, from the moment you arrive in the park your snow leopard guide will be searching and scanning for snow leopards. The best thing to do for the first couple of days is to try and get used to scanning the horizon, hillsides and valley floor in the distance whilst keeping a sure footing all the time; it’s a difficult trick to do but once you get good at it you will quickly find more wildlife which you may otherwise have missed.
Once camp has been set up your tour leader will use his high powered spot light to have a quick scan and see if there are animals around after dark. It is the best time to find most wildlife (including snow leopards) and you will be surprised how close you may be to one without ever knowing.
Hemis National Park
For the next 9 days you will explore the various valleys of Hemis National Park in search of snow leopards. You will also have the chance to move to other areas including Ulley Valley if your local guide suggests this, based on snow leopard movements and chances etc.
The areas you will be camping in and scanning for snow leopards are regarded as the very best locations in the world to see wild snow leopards.
All your meals will be prepared by your camp cook and each night stay in the base camp in A-Shape alpine tents. The places you will visit for spotting and tracking snow leopards during the time in Hemis and whether and when you enjoy a homestay visit in Rumbak village as well as travelling to Ulley Valley (5 hour drive away) where snow leopards and the impressive Asiatic ibex can be seen; will be decided on a day to day basis by the tour leader and the spotting team with you. Any decisions will be made with a view to increase the chances of seeing snow leopards (the ultimate priority for the trip!).The home-stays are a fantastic way for the local people to earn money and for you to fully understand the Buddhist culture. The stories which we will hear from the locals will fuel your desire to see a snow leopard. The shepherds come back with information of mauled goats or even a glimpse in the distance of a snow leopard, it is here that we will base where to look based on the information from the local population. Because of this our route is not fixed and we will see where the recent sightings take us. We will concentrate our search in the Rumbak valley and Zingchan area which are excellent places to search for signs of snow leopards. During the winter the principal prey of the snow leopard (bharal) come down the mountainside and directly compete with the Ladahki livestock for food. This then brings the snow leopard into direct conflict with the shepherds. As a result they have a very good idea of where the leopards are and if one has been seen in the area recently they will know and point us in the right direction. Due to years of persecution (first at the hands of the British and later by the Indian army) most
of the wildlife is still very rare and cautious of people; so species like chiru, goa, lynx, Himalayan goral and Himalayan serow are still seldom seen but have been captured on camera traps in Ladakh. It is information like this which goes a long way to understanding the snow leopard’s world and its part in it. In fact a full catalogue of the fauna here hasn’t been recorded so it is possible to record wildlife which is currently unknown from the area. It is during these days where you may suffer from what I call snow leoparditis, this is where every rock and bush and shadow on the mountainside looks just like a snow leopard. But having said that nothing beats the thrill of actually seeing one crouched on a rock in the afternoon sunlight or a shadowy figure cross the path in front of us. It is important to be very aware of the signs of snow leopards, including scats, interesting impressions in the ground and
scratches on rocks and the very few trees here. If you see anything that you are unsure of it is best to let someone know and your tour leader and local guides will make the call on whether to stay here and search or carry on. Despite some of the wildlife being very difficult to see there are some which are quite obliging, pikas, can be common along the frozen river banks and there are five species of these lagomorphs but identifying them to species level can be difficult from a distance; and the blue sheep are very accommodating for photographs. There are usually golden eagles and lammergeiers soaring in the skies too.
This is your last day of wildlife watching in Ladakh and the last chance we could see a snow leopard. After breakfast or lunch (depending on the local conditions and if you would like to spend as much time as possible in the park) this you will begin the drive back to Leh. Today you will bid farewell to the local guide, cook, camp assistant and porters, before being able to relax back in the hotel in Leh. Your accommodation will be the same hotel as your previous nights in Leh and the hot showers, soft beds and
refreshing beers are usually the first things people go for on arrival! You will have your evening meal in the hotel.
Today you will visit and experience the local Buddhist festival of Dosmoche; It is celebrated in Leh, Likir and Diskit monasteries and it is the last festival of New Year Celebrations. The festival was started during kingdom of King Lhachen Gongdup/ Lha-chen-Dnos-grub (1295-1320). He fought two battles with invaders from Nyungti (Kullu of Himachal Pradesh) to inhibit the exterminatory forces of the battles. Sacred mask dances which is known as Cham dance are carried out in the courtyard of the old chapel. It is below the gates of the Leh Palace. Lamas are drawn from different monasteries from across Ladakh on a rotation basis for this festival.
High pitched sound of gyaling with the periodic sound of the cymbals echoed off the bare rocky slopes with the rhythmic beats of the drum. Monks looks attractive in multi-coloured robes and various masks which represent the forms of various deities including Buddha. They danced to the beats with colourful fluttering surge to ward off evil and welcome universal peace and happiness.
Delhi – Agra
This morning you will catch your flight to Delhi and then on arrival you will drive direct to Agra. Upon arrival check in at hotel in Agra you will head out on a guided tour of some of the best sites in Agra. This historical city of the Mughal Empire, there is so much to see. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to explore the massive monuments, majestic buildings, and the popular arts and crafts. The architectural splendour of the mausoleums, the fort and the palaces is a vivid remainder of the capital in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Late afternoon Later visit the palatial Royal Pavilions at the red sandstone Agra Fort for a glimpse of the royal Mughal lifestyle.
Agra – Jaipur
Today you start in the early morning with a dawn visit to the Taj Mahal which frees you from the crowds and heat in daytime. This white-marble world wonder was built by the great emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved. You will spend some time here taking in the wonder of the Taj Mahal before leaving and then departing for Jaipur.
Tips: Strict security check is needed before entering Taj Mahal. Foods, plastic bags, chargers, etc are all prohibited things.
The drive from Agra to Jaipur is around 4.5 hours with no traffic and so you will check into your hotel today and there is nothing else planned for this afternoon / evening.
After breakfast in Jaipur you will checkout from hotel and head out to have a full day tour of Jaipur. During this tour you will visit hillside Amber Fort, the ancient capital of the state; unique elephant ride (or Jeep ride for alternation) ascent to the fort is full of unbeatable view and fun; inside experience the kingly palaces. Drive back to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and stop at façade of the famous Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and your tour guide shows you the best angle for a perfect picture. Continue to the City Palace Museum for its superb collection of Rajasthani costumes and armoury; do check the local time yourself at Jantar Mantar – the largest stone observatory in world that still in service today. Drive through the pink rose residential & business areas, Monkey temple before you are escorted back to the hotel.
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.
This tour visits two distinct locations which will have very different weather conditions. Firstly the weather in Hemis National Park during winter is very cold. The temperature can vary from -20 degrees C to 15 degrees C and the sun can be very strong. There is always the threat of snow and blizzards, so you have to be prepared for; well Himalayan winter weather!
From here it is warmer lowlands of Rajasthan and the historical cities of Agra and Jaipur and Delhi. In general we do not expect any rain at this time of year, but hot sunny days and cool chilly mornings.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), where mentioned in the itinerary. Note that some meals when in cities are not included. There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day (not during the trek). We have our own private air conditioned vehicle with an excellent local driver. We have brilliant local guides, snow leopard expert and zoologist escorts (where available).
All our excursions including safari drives, treks, guided walks and park entrance fees are also included.
All camping equipment when in Ladakh are included as are fees for porters, mules and cook are included in the cost as well.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or scope as well as appropriate clothing (which needs to both cater for the very cold Himalayan part and the dry and hot Gujurat part of the trip); 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 walking boots are essential. Sleeping bags are also needed. 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. Also do not forget sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses as the sun can be strong here during the day. All your gear should be in one bag and that bag should not weigh more than 15kg (if you intend for the porter to carry your bag), it is a good idea to have important and personal belongings in one smaller rucksack that you will carry yourself, as the porters may walk ahead or behind and so getting things from your large bag maybe more difficult to get out whilst on the move.
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 night vision goggles which can record, so you can monitor the area after dark, as well as 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 departure taxes applicable when leaving are not included (but may be included in the cost of your flights), Please check this before hand. Due to new permitting regulations in Hemis National Park there is the optional extra for the use of camera traps to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend KLM, Air France, Air India or British Airways as a good airlines for flights to Delhi. 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 India. These are only obtainable in advance from your local embassy. The easiest way to find information is by visiting http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/ (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit India, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting India as soon as you have decided on this trip.
There is a risk of altitude sickness during this trek. This can affect everyone and anyone and has no bearing on physical fitness, even if you have not suffered before you may now and if you have suffered in the past you may not on this trip. We take all precautions including many acclimatisation days so please speak to your GP to get more information.
Reviews of this Holiday
Ms. Caldwell - Vancouver, Canada
Eric Charbonneau - Quebec, Canada