Drive west about 2-3 hours on the road to Kargil and Srinagar, generally following the Indus River. You pass through the small town of Nimmu – one of the most important in Ladakh, where the Zanskar River meets the Indus. After a little over an hour you will head north on a road marked to Likir – one of Ladakh’s famous Buddhist monasteries. This is all snow leopard country. The landscape here is even bigger, more expansive and open, until you turn off onto a dirt road, winding up a narrow valley, following a stream called the Ulley Chhu. Smaller valleys intersect and the guides have their heads craned all the time, scanning the hill sides and the skyline for any silhouette. This is excellent Ibex country and there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male Ibex standing vigil on an impossibly narrow outcropping, a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff. Ulley Village, west of Leh is an area that is only recently being developed for Snow Leopard watching.
You will be staying at Snow Leopard Lodge – which apart from being more comfortable than camping out in sub-zero temperatures – puts money directly into local hands and strengthens the constituency of the snow leopard. This will be your base for your stay searching for snow leopards and other high-altitude wildlife. The lodge is built separately from the main house with a dining room, lounge and kitchen – all in the same low stone-built building. For our travelers, we bring in our own cook and camp staff with an assortment of important luxuries like extra gas heaters; a warm shower and bathroom; comfortable mattresses; linen; and an assortment of coffees, teas, snacks that go a long way to alleviate the cold and the altitude. Add to this the interest of living with a Ladakhi family in the depths of winter and understanding their life-style and you have a very special experience in store – especially sharing the large and warm kitchens that are the heart of a Ladkahi home in winter and resplendent with brass, copper and silver ornaments.
From the house and its terraced fields you command a superb view across the valley and are almost certain to see Ibex from here and if you are lucky much other wildlife including wolf, Red fox and perhaps even snow leopard. Settle in on arrival and acclimatize to the higher altitude of Ulley. You will be based here and the advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism. The other advantage is that from here you explore three valleys, which, apart from snow leopards, are great for finding urial, Ibex, wolf and Red fox.
Over the next few days you will explore the area on foot and vehicle with your guide tracking the snow leopard. There will also be plenty of opportunity for you to get insights into local folklore, as well as learn about local customs and traditions.
DAYS 5 – 9 : JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Spend your days tracking and photographing Ibex and other wildlife in the area. Snow Leopards are some of the most elusive big cats in the world because they live in such remote areas of Central Asia. There are thought to be between 3,500 and 7,000 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 Ibex move down to lower altitudes where there is food and they are followed by the snow leopards and other predators like the Tibetan Wolf. 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. Every day we head out in different directions to track this Grey Ghost. Other than Snow Leopard, the area has good number of species like Yak (wild Ox), Ibex, Tibetan Wolf & red fox.
DAY 10 : LEH
After breakfast, begin your drive back to Leh. Upon arrival in Leh, check into the hotel and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.
DAY 11 : END OF ITINERARY
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Leh airport for your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to a hotel to rest until your evening transfer to Delhi airport to board your international flight home.