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Snow Leopard Quest 2018, Ladakh

KirosTravels.com in association with Adventure Sindbad (renowned travel Operator) brings to you one of the most thrilling quests ever – the quest to catch a blessed glimpse of the Frozen Leopard also known as the ‘’grey ghost of the Himalayas, ’’ during its mating season which lasts between mid-February and end-March, when the male and female tend to stay put at one location for 2-3 days once they meet, increasing the chances of a sighting.

Sleek, lightening fast and magnificent with remarkable chameleon like hiding abilities, catching a glimpse of this endangered wild cat is a once in a life time experience. Kiros Travels, India’s first adventure aggregator portal now gives you an opportunity to embark on a quest like never before to engage in a remarkable game of hide and seek with Snow Leopard of the Himalayas – a quest that comprises of wildlife spotting , trekking, homestays as well as sightseeing! This tour will thrill and chill you right down to the bones – this is adventure at its best, marked by sagely patience, pin-drop silence and penance due to the extreme climate and challenging terrain involved – nothing short of a spiritual pilgrimage.

The elusive snow leopard (called ‘Shan’ in the Ladakhi language) is a master of camouflage and nigh impossible to spot during the summer. The snow leopard is the apex predator of the Central Asian highlands that tiptoes into the Himalayan valleys of Ladakh and Spiti in the dead of the winter! It moves like a super-sleuth amidst the snow-topped boulders in search of a mate, or to prey upon the wild ibex goat herds.

Mighty impressive, as the horns of an ibex are, they are no match for this elusive and magnificent big cat with a wide territory spanning 12 countries including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan etc. Sadly, the species is highly endangered and only 250-350 remain out in the wild. Spot them (pun intended) before they vanish off the face of the planet entirely. Sham Valley and Rumbak Valley happen to report the maximum sightings.

Dates: The tour will commence from March 17 and will continue till March 26 2018.

Cost: Rs 68,500 per individual.

Other attractions of this 10-day expedition include high chances of spotting Himalayan Blue Sheep, Tibetan Argali, Red Fox, Lynx, Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan Wolf etc., amidst the high-altitude winter wonderland of Ladakh, with an expert ground team of wildlife guides and of course unwinding at cozy, traditional Ladakhi homestays famous for their hospitality.

Itinerary:

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is situated at an altitude of 3500m from the sea level and boasts of one of the world’s highest air strips – the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport – which is mostly a defense base beyond the Greater Himalayas used by the Indian Air Force. In winter, Leh vanishes under a quilt of purifying snow, save for patches of red and brown rocks and masonry here and there. Stepping out of the cozy passenger cabin and into the extreme nip of the rarefied winter air in the range of -12 to -18 degrees Celsius is in itself an experience. Waiting buses will shuttle you from the runway to the hotel where you will acclimatize with the low oxygen levels for 2 days before undertaking the snow leopard quest. Keeping warm, drinking a lot of warm fluids, good food and resting for the first day will make the process easier. Comprehensive trip briefing will be conducted late in the afternoon.

Day 2 : Day 2 comprises of a tour of the Shey Palace (modeled after Lhasa’s Potala Palace) housing a huge statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, a visit to the Thiksey Monastery (Gompa) housing a two-storeyed statue of the Maitreya Buddha and offering an incredible view of the Indus Valley from its terrace, plus shopping for trekking gear at the local market place will take up most of your second day, and also help familiarize you with the prevailing culture and traditions of this region. The rest of the day is for gear check and additional briefing before the commencement of the snow leopard quest in the Sham Valley. You will spend the next couple of days scanning the slopes of Yangthang, Ulley and Hemis Shukpachen with the expedition team. This will be followed by scanning the slopes of Rumbak Valley divided between Husing Do and Yurutse.

Day 3 : The trek proper begins on day three with a quick drive to the green village of Likir and crossing two small passes at Phobe La (3580m) and Chagatse La (3630m) to arrive at arid Sumdo village and then to rugged Yangthang. In another hour you can be at Ridzong Monastery. During the 5-6 hours en route, there’s excellent chance of spotting blue sheep, ibex and Lady Luck smiling – a live snow leopard! The night will be spent at a clean homestay.

#Day 4 : Next day, the expedition party will trek for 2 hours to Ulley village where snow leopards are often seen by the locals during the winter. Scopes will be out for paw prints on the snow and fresh droppings. Along the way there’s chance of spotting Ladakh Urial (Shapo sheep) and Ibex. Since the temperature drastically drops in the evening, it is important to double back to Yangthang before sundown. Total trek will last about 5 hours, followed by cozy homestay.

Day 5 : Day five will involve 5 hours of scanning the slopes at Ulley for snow leopards. Back to homestay at Ulley or Yangthang by early evening.

Day 6 : Next day the team shall trek for 2-3 hours to Hemis Shukpachen over the Tsermangchan La (3750m). Waiting taxis will drive the members to Zingchen in the Hemis National Park in about 4 hours. From there Husing Do is about 1 hour’s walk. Overnight camping accommodation will be arranged for the next 2 nights.

Day 7 : Rumbak Valley in the Hemis National Park is the likeliest place for spotting snow leopard. The place is immensely popular with wildlife photographers, who descend in droves. The local Wildlife Department regulates the number of people that can enter these fragile habitats of the endangered big cat. The expedition team’s wildlife guides will determine the best places for spotting based on the latest movements of the creature. May involve 2-3 hours of trekking. Then it’s time to scan the slopes and stick to the old adages that ‘patience is a virtue’ and ‘good things (sometimes) come to those who wait’. Great chances of sighting blue sheep, red fox and the star attraction – the ‘grey ghost’ itself. Overnight camping.

Day 8 : On day eight we trek for 2-3 hours to Yurutse from Husing Do along a gradual slope, the last village (just 1 solitary house) before Gandala La pass. You may spot Lynx (pointed ears) and Tibetan Argali goats (called Nyan in Ladakhi) with massive wrinkled horns, the former being rarer to spot than the snow leopard. Overnight homestay at Yurutse strictly depends on availability of the lone house, or off to the camping grounds we go.

Day 9 : The last morning of the snow leopard quest will be spent scanning the slopes and soaking in the scenery before trekking back to the roadhead at Zingchen for 2-3 hours. From there it is a 1 hour drive back to Leh. If time and weather are willing, the expedition party may take a detour to the Indus-Zanskar confluence and the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib before heading to Leh for a much needed hot shower. The evening will be spent shopping and exploring the market at Leh. Feel free to dine out at any of the specialty restaurants. A warm and cozy hotel room waits at night.

Following morning after breakfast you check out of the hotel and catch the flight back to New Delhi with a full heart, spectacular memories and local curios.

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