Join wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt in Ladakh's remote Ulley Valley on a quest to photograph snow leopards and other Himalayan wildlife, including ibex, fox, bharal, Tibetan partridge and red-billed chough.
Engaging specialist local trackers from the Snow Leopard Conservancy maximises our chances of finding and photographing these elusive cats. Other Himalayan wildlife we hope to see, both by vehicle safari and on walks, include ibex, bharal, red fox, Tibetan partridge, and even wolf,
Accommodation is in a comfortable homestay in the heart of Ulley Village, which lies at the centre of three interlocking valleys amidst spectacular mountain scenery. This beautiful setting, combined with expert guidance and tips from Nick Garbutt, makes a perfect wildlife photography trip.
On arrival, transfer to our hotel, located a short drive from the airport.
Accommodation: Lemon Tree Premier Hotel, New Delhi, 1-night.
Fly to Leh
Today we take an early morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Leh.
Accommodation: Grand Dragon Hotel, Leh, 3-nights
Today we have an extraordinary drive east towards Taglang La and the villages of Gya, Lhato and Meru. It is a fantastic drive away from the Indus Valley with dramatic scenery and chances of sighting wildlife including blue sheep, golden eagles and lammergeiers. Flocks of red-billed choughs perform synchronized aerobatics and in the fallow fields there may be beautiful Tibetan partridge and the more common chukor partridge. On our return we can stop at one of the great monasteries like Hemis, Thikse or Matho.
Tonight we have dinner at the Stok Palace of Jigmed Namgyal.
Explore Leh and environs
Drive to Ulley Valley
Today we drive west, following the Indus River Velly, on the road to Kargil and Srinagar. We 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 we head north on a road to Likir – one of Ladakh’s famous Buddhist monasteries. This area is all snow leopard territory.
The landscape here is even more expansive and open until we turn onto a dirt road and wind up a narrow valley, following a stream called the Ulley Chhu.
Smaller valleys intersect and by now our guides will have their eyes peeled, constantly scanning the hill sides and the skyline for any possible silhouette. This is also excellent ibex country and there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male ibex standing vigil on some impossibly narrow outcrop a few hundred metres over a plunging cliff.
Accommodation: Ulley Homestay, 9-nights
Search for snow leopard in and around Ulley Valley
Ulley lies at the heart of three interlocking valleys that support between eight and ten snow leopards (based on the most recent census data). These valleys also support the villages of Saspol and Hemis Shukpachen. All three of these valleys are connected by road and over the period of our stay we will explore the area by vehicle and on foot. All the time our guides will be tracking snow leopards, as well as looking for wolf, urial, ibex, fox and an array of birds that surprisingly thrive in this harsh winter landscape.
Ulley village and its surrounding area have only recently been developed for snow leopard watching. Unlike Rumbak Valley, there will be no other tourists in the area.
Drive to Leh via Alchi
We drive back to Leh via Alchi monastery. Alchi Gompa is located near the small village of Saspol, and was one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating from the 11th century. Built by King Rin-chen-Izghimpo, one of the first Ladakhi kings to engage in foreign relations, and built prior to the invading wars of the 15th century, Alchi is unusual in being situated in the lowlands, rather than on a hilltop as other later monasteries were, in order to protect them from marauding armies.
Afterwards we continue onto Leh.
Accommodation: Grand Dragon Hotell, 1-night
Fly to Delhi
This morning we return to the airport and depart Leh for Delhi. In the afternoon there will be a chance to visit Okhla Bird Sanctuary.
Accommodation: Lemon Tree Premier Hotel, New Delhi, 1-night
Transfer to Delhi airport and fly back to the UK