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 Valley, 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, offers all the ingredients for a perfect wildlife photography trip.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Delhi
On arrival, transfer to our hotel, located a short drive from the airport.
Accommodation: Lemon Tree Premier Hotel, New Delhi, 1-night.
Day3: 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.
Day5: Explore Leh and environs
Day6: 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.
Days7-14: 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.
Day15: 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
Day16: 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
Day17: Transfer to Delhi airport and fly back to the UK
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 17 daysfrom £5,695 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 16 daysfrom £4,895 pp
Single supplement: From £2,200
Group size: 9
When to go: Feb-Mar
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
Included in the price/package:
Domestic flights between Delhi and Leh
4 nights hotel accommodation
9 nights at Ulley Homestay
An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.
Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.
Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.
The village of Ulley, which lies at the centre of three interlocking valleys, is surrounded by spectacular mountainous scenery, where you can observe the diverse wildlife of Ladakh. Highlights of the valley include Siberian (Asiatic) ibex, bharal, urial, red fox, wolf and the elusive snow leopard.
Ideal for viewing: snow leopard, Siberian ibex, bharal, red fox, Tibetan partridge
Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt
Leh, the capital of the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, and has a distinctly Tibetan feel. Sights include the Royal (Leh) Palace and the Shanti Stupa. It is the ideal place to acclimatise to the higher altitude before venturing into snow leopard territory.
Ideal for viewing: bharal, golden eagle, lammergeier, Siberian ibex, urial
Excellent for: Photography tours with Nick Garbutt
In the heart of Ladakh lies this comfortable homestay, the ideal base for a snow leopard quest. The small guesthouse provides comfort at sub-zero temperatures, with the added experience of living with a Ladakhi family. With superb views across the valley, you may see ibex, bharal or even wolf.