Tigers & Snow Leopards: In Search of India’s Endangered Big Cats
Nestled high among the lilac-tinged peaks of the Himalayas, framed by jagged cliffs and dotted with whitewashed stupas and flat-roofed mud-brick houses, is the enchanting city of Leh, in the Indian kingdom of Ladakh. With it’s fluttering prayer flags, bustling market and carefree atmosphere, it’s a destination in itself, but Leh is also the gateway to the Hemis National Park, India’s largest protected area and home to the elusive and endangered snow leopard.
These rare, beautiful creatures make their home in the mountains of Central Asia, treading solitary footsteps through the thick snow with their wide, furry feet. Their primary food source is the blue sheep, and they follow the herds to lower altitudes in the winter months, providing precious opportunities for a sighting. The trek can be challenging, the air is thin, but it’s worth it for the thrill of spotting a leopard’s grey, spotted coat and meeting its clear, pale stare.
The quest begins in Delhi, where guests are welcomed and transferred to their hotel for an overnight stay. After an early morning flight to Leh, you’ll enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation, acclimatising to the high altitude with plenty of ginger tea and soaring mountain views. Ladakh has a wealth of picture perfect palaces and temples, including the breathtaking Thiksay monastery, set high on a hill in the Indus Valley. On Day 4, the trek begins, a two hour journey from Zingchen to Husing. It’s here that three valleys converge, making it a perfect base for spotting the elusive leopards. You’ll spend several days here, trekking by day and camping by night, in some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. As well as the leopards, there is plenty of other bird and wildlife to be seen and enjoyed, before you return to village life in Leh.
With one half of the journey complete, and one endangered species (hopefully) under our belts, guests return to Delhi before transferring to Pench National Park. The opposite of snowy Ladakh, Pench is located in Central India, amid thick teak forests and dense flora. It’s one of India’s three best-known tiger parks, but the one that is least visited, so you’ll enjoy the opportunity to see India’s highly endangered national animal without the jostling crowds. At Jamtara Wilderness Camp, you’ll experience colonial-style hospitality in one of twelve luxury jungle tents. There’s even the choice to spend a night on a star bed – one set on stilts for the ultimate romantic stargazing experience.
Of course, the tigers are the main attraction, and each day brings a jungle safari, accompanied by an experienced naturalist guide, in search of the royal stripes. More social than snow leopards but just as threatened, tigers are the largest members of the cat family, but face a daunting future. More currently live in captivity than in the wild, and those that do are hunted as trophies or poached for traditional medicine, as well as environmental encroachment. Encountering one of their powerfully muscular forms and arresting amber glare, it’s hard to believe that they might soon be extinct.
And that’s just what makes this two week tour so special – it goes beyond a wildlife safari, or a trip to a fascinating country. It’s also a glimpse of the impossible – a once-in-a-lifetime chance to commune with two of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful creatures.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi
Arrive in Delhi, the capital of India. Our tour representative will welcome you at the airport arrival lounge with Mantis Collection signboard. Transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Note: Hotel check in time is 1400hrs.
Day 2: Delhi – Leh
Early morning transfer from hotel to airport to board flight to Leh. Flight departs at 0615hrs and arrives Leh at 0735hrs. Meeting assistance on arrival and transfer to hotel. Rest of the time at leisure for acclimatization to the high altitude.
Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas is one of the best areas to see the elusive snow leopard and this is where we run our snow leopard safaris. It is not only about the snow leopards as there are a host of other animals and birds to see, apart from the scenery and getting to know more about the people that live here.
Leh is situated in a very scenic part of India as it is bounded by 2 of the world’s biggest mountain ranges which are home to numerous monasteries. We will visit a few palaces and monasteries that will also be helpful for the visitors to get acclimatized with high altitude gradually before we start our snow leopard safari that involves a good amount of strenuous trekking in Husing valley in search of Snow Leopard.
Overnight at hotel
Day 3: Leh
In general half day of acclimatization would have been enough but considering that the group is arriving by flight on the previous day and then they need to go for trekking on the following days in search of elusive snow leopard, ideally we will again have the relaxed day with few visits.
After leisurely breakfast we drive just over half an hour to Thiksay monastery, set on a hill it is one of the most impressive Gompas in Ladakh, It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the Future Buddha. After visiting Thiksay we return to Leh for lunch.
Late afternoon we will drive to visit Shanti Stupa followed by visit to The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa of Ladakh which was founded by King Tashi Namgyal in the early 15th century, around the year 1430. This fort was once the royal residence of the Namgyal dynasty and is flanked by some temples built in veneration of the guardian deities, these temples are still standing today, unlike the fort which is almost in ruins, temples are visited everyday by a monk who opens the doors to light the butter-filled lamps every morning and evening in adoration of the deities.
Overnight at the hotel.
Day 4: Leh – Zingchen and trek to Husing (camp)
After breakfast drive from Leh to Zingchen (2 hrs drive) and from there trek starts to Husing (2 hrs trek). Husing is one of the better areas for the snow leopard. There are 3 valleys that meet here and these are all used by the snow leopard as they move to lower altitudes following their prey species.
Snow Leopards are some of the most elusive big cats remaining in the world because they live in such remote areas of Central Asia. There are thought to be between 3,500 and 7000 snow leopards left in the wild.
Due to the rugged terrain of the Himalayas most of the herbivores are related to the agile footed sheep and goats. They can move easily through the mountainous regions of the Himalayas from one pasture to the next. During the winter months the Bharal or Blue Sheep move down to lower altitudes where there is food and they are followed by the snow leopards and other predators like the Tibetan Wolf and the Himalayan Brown Bear. These ungulates form the primary snow leopards diet and it is through the movements of these ungulates and trails left by snow leopard moving across habitats that one can improve the chances of seeing the snow leopard in its natural environment.
Walk around Husing / Rumbek or Trabung in search of Snow Leopard.
Day 10: Husing – Leh
Morning possibility of wildlife viewing. Later trek to Zingchen to drive back to Leh. Upon arrival in Leh, check into your hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 11: Leh – Delhi
After early breakfast transfer to airport for flight to Delhi. Flight departs at 0835hrs and arrives Delhi at 1005hrs Meeting assistance on arrival and transfer to hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 12: Delhi – Nagpur – Pench
Early morning transfer to the airport to board flight for Nagpur. Flight leaves Delhi at 0730hrs and arrives Nagpur at 0900hrs. Upon arrival, transfer to the Pench National Park.
Pench National Park: located in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, is the 19th Project Tiger Reserve and has been one of the best-kept secrets among wildlife enthusiasts who have long been acquainted with and bedazzled by its immensely varied flora and fauna. No wonder the area providing a backdrop for its animal character dominated by fairly open canopy of mixed forest, predominantly teak, with open grassy patches, the park with its undulating land boasts the highest density of herbivores in any Indian park.
Upon arrival check-in at Jamtara Wilderness Camp. Evening Jungle Safari.
Overnight at Jamtara Wilderness Camp.
Highlights of the stay at Jamtara camp include a night out under the sky on their star bed – with no compromise on comfort, beds have been set on stilts and allow guests to have their fill of star gazing and look out for wildlife.
Days 13 & 14: Pench
Leave for your morning Jungle Safari, accompanied by a resident naturalist and forest guide in 4x 4 Jeep. Afternoon jungle safari by 4×4 open jeep accompanied by resident naturalist and forest guide.
Overnight at Jamtara Wilderness Camp.
Day 15: Pench – Nagpur – Delhi – Onwards
Morning transfer to Nagpur airport to board flight for Delhi. Flight leaves Nagpur at 1245hrs and arrives Delhi at 1425hrs. Upon arrival our representative will meet you and transfer to the hotel for Wash and Change. Later transfer to International airport for your flight back home.
NOTE: Please bear this mind that due to the nature of this tour and the area visited, there might be possibility for schedule / itinerary changes.
Wildlife viewing: Please note that seeing a snow leopard is not in any way guaranteed. They are wild and by necessity elusive creatures with no fixed routine and finding them requires not only the skill and patience of the trackers/guides but also considerable luck
Minimum 5 Paying Pax – USD 4180.00 Per Person
Minimum 8 Paying Pax – USD 3826.00 Per Person
Minimum 10 Paying Pax – USD 3743.00 Per Person
Single Room / Camp Supplement – USD 982.00 Per Single
*Airfare Supplement – USD 581.00 Per Person
(For sectors Delhi-Leh-Delhi & Delhi-Ngapur-Delhi in economy class)
City / No of nights Hotels
Delhi / 1 The Radisson Blu (Superior Room)
Leh / 2 Omasila / Mahey Retreat
Husing / 6 Camping Accommodation
Leh / 1 Grand Dragon (Deluxe Room)
Delhi / 1 The Radisson Blu (Superior Room)
Pench / 3 Jamtara Wilderness (Tented Suite)
Delhi / Wash & Change The Radisson Blu (Superior Room
The above costs include:
- Accommodation on double / twin sharing basis at hotels mentioned above or in similar category.
- All Meals (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch & D=Dinner)
- Airport transfers in Delhi by A/c Tempo Traveler or A/C Coach –depending upon numbers & transfers, sightseeing & drives during Snow Leopard Trip in Leh by Non AC Vehicles (preferably Toyota Innova) & Ngapur-Pench-Nagpur transfer by A/c Toyota Innova.
- National Park / monuments / monastery fee.
- Heating charges of dining tent while SL trip.
- Generator for charging batteries etc while camping.
- Ladakh Environment entry fee (subject to change).
- Meeting / assistance on arrival/departure at both airports & hotels.
- Hemis National parks entry fee, activities and all trekking excursions with your expert spotter guides and wildlife experts, local guides.
- Pench – Game drives by 4×4 open jeep, morning snack/water/juices, gate entry permit fee, guide fee, and booking/admin costs including camera fee.
- Govt. Service Tax @ 3.09% on total bill.
Cost does not include:
- Any Airfare, any insurance fee
- Any meal other than what is specified above or anything not mentioned in inclusion above.
- Any services of accompanied escort.
- Any expenditure of personal nature like tabled drinks, camera fee, laundry, telephone calls, soft/ hard drinks, Tips.
Any sudden increase in price due to steep hike in park Entry Fee, steep hike in fuel cost, change in government tax policy or for any reason beyond our control like acts of god, natural calamity, law and order situation, riots etc and any forced change in itinerary for any unforeseen situation or reason beyond our control.