Tracking the Grey Ghost of Himalaya
Delhi - Chandigarh - Rampur - Kaza - Kibber - Rampur - Delhi
13 nights, 14 days
Known throughout the world for its beautiful fur and elusive behaviour, the endangered snow leopard is found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia. Snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude home, but human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Despite a range of over 2 million sq. km, scientists estimate that there may only be between 4,000 and 6,500 snow leopards left in the wild, and India is one of the best place to spot this stunning creature. This tour will start from one of the metro cities of India, and take us through the spell-bounding Himalaya, up to the roof of the world. We will experience the hustling and bustling cities such as New Delhi and Manali, to the barren and frozen mountain dessert of the Spiti valley. The route and timings cannot be planned to the T since a lot on these rugged and ruthless mountains depends upon the weather, but in this case, the journey is as good as the destination itself. We will need to make sufficient and well-planned stops as well to make sure all of us get properly acclimatised to the dizzying altitude we are ascending to. On our final stop at Kibber, we will be approaching 15,000 feet/ 4,500 meters above mean sea level. We will be staying in homestays in Kibber, and for almost a week, and our days will consist of some very high-altitude trekking through snowy landscapes while looking for the grey ghost of Himalayas. We will be having the company of the best of the local trackers and a few porters who will assist us with our luggage and camera equipments. We will live more like a family, than a travel group, marching through arguably the toughest terrain humans can come across. Apart from the grey ghost, we will come across the most unique wildlife here, such as ibex, blue sheep and birds like snow cock, bearded eagle griffons, and much more. Thereafter, we will start descend back into civilisation.
This is how your trip will go about
Arrival in Delhi
Upon your arrival in Delhi airport/ railway station, you will be met by one of our IWS tour guides. He will take you to your hotel, and en route, he will explain to you in detail the plan. He will stay with you for the entire duration of the trip and he’ll make sure you have a hassle-free and smooth experience! The rest of the day will be at leisure, and you can recover from your journey and prepare for the travels ahead!
Half-day Delhi exploration and overnight train to Chandigarh
Your IWS Guide will meet up with you early in the morning and you’ll kick off your adventure now. Delhi has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some amazing monuments and places of historic and religious significance. You’ll be taken around by your IWS Guide and you will be trying to cover all you can in the limited time. You’ll eat some of the best food in this part of the world, and you’ll sense flavours we guarantee you would never have imagined existed. After a soul-filling half day in the capital, by late afternoon, you’ll start off for Chandigarh, a city 280 kms/ 4 hours drive away from Delhi. You will reach Chandigarh by 8 in the evening, check-in your hotel, have dinner, and unwind after a day full of action and adventure.
Transfer to Rampur
After a good night’s sleep in the beautiful city of Chandigarh, you will start off early today, preferably no later than 8 in the morning, and within an hour you’ll hit the Himalayan foothills. With the northern plains in the rearview mirror, you will spend the next few days in the majestic Himalayan terrain. You’ll have great hill food on your way in carefully planned pitstops where you can stretch out. Your IWS Guide will make sure you get a taste of all the local delicacies, and in a hygienic and safe environment. Rampur is a night halt where you’ll spend your evening going around the small hamlet at 3350 feet/ 1020 meters above sea level, and sleep and replenish at the pre-booked resort.
Day long drive to Kaza
You will be starting off pretty early in the morning for a 12 hour drive to Kaza. On the drive to Kaza, you will see the landscape shift drastically from the lush green Himalayan forests, to absolutely barren cold desert. You will have the urge to stop your car for some brilliant landscape photography every few kilometres, but you should try and resist this temptation and try and get to Kaza before nightfall. Your IWS Guide will make sure you stop at the best places on the road for some stunning landscape compositions! Kaza is the district headquarters of Spiti. Kaza is where the market is located, ATM, petrol station, shops, tourist information center, bus-stop, cafes, bike rentals etc. Kaza is a bustling tourist town in summers. Most of Kaza is closed in winters. As you reach Kaza, you only have a little bit of travel left. You will get the well-deserved sleep in Gaza after 12 hours long drive from Rampur on the mountain twisties.
Reach Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary
After a relaxed morning in Kaza, visit the nearby Sakya Tangyud Monastery, walk through the market, interact with locals, have some local dishes, and then depart for Kibber, on the way to Kibber, you will visit the Ki Monastery. It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas, and is said to have been founded in the 11th century! After spending some peaceful time in the monastery, you will go further up the road to reach our destination Kibber village. In Kibber you will be assigned to your rooms, and given a brief orientation of the team who would be with you, on field and in the hotel. This Home stay will be your home for the entire snow leopard expedition. On this day you would be requested to take complete rest as the coming days would involve extreme trekking in snow and at a high altitude.
Tracking the Grey Ghost of Himalaya
Day 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
For 7 days straight, you will be heading out on the trail of the most elusive cat on the planet, the mythical snow leopard. The team of trackers, porters and your IWS Guide would be accompanying you on this daunting feat of trying to capture the cat on your camera.
Start the drive back to Rampur
Today, you will bid farewell to the tracking team and the beautiful hamlet of Kibber, and start your descend back to Rampur. Starting very early in the morning, you will drive down to Rampur using the familiar route. On reaching Rampur after nightfall, you will check-in your hotel rooms and have the night to catch up on the sleep and rejuvenate.
Transfer to Delhi
Today you will move out of the Himalayan hills into the plains and return back to Delhi. By evening, you will be in Delhi, where your IWS Guide will drop you at your place of preference, and bid you adieu for your adventures thereon!
Frequently Asked Questions
Doubts? Continue reading! We have answered few of the common questions in the minds of travellers. If this doesn't answer it, feel free to get in touch any time through mail or call!
What kind of a traveller does this expedition cater to?
We have designed this trip keeping in minds the needs of every kind of travel enthusiast. You need not be a hardcore wildlife buff or a super-dedicated wildlife photographer to enjoy this trip. Like all the other IWS itineraries, this one aims to get you close to the wilder and unexplored side of India, and you would enjoy it irrespective of the category of traveller you fall into!
Will be have someone who will accompany us during the trip?
Yes! We will a lot you one of our IWS Guides who will travel with you and coordinate everything during your travels, from taxis, to hotel rooms, from safari timings and zones, to interaction with the locals. He/she will have it all laid out properly for you so that you don't have to get into the hassle of logistics and enjoy your travels to the most!
What camera equipment is optimal for photography during this trip?
For the camera body, any D-SLR would be great. Ideally, something with a high burst rates of around 6fps and above (for those high speed action shots) and decent ISO performance (since we will be getting the best shots at either dawn or dusk) would be better. For bigger mammals, a lens with a reach of 400mm would be ideal. For smaller mammals and birds, 600mm would be just perfect. If you wish to exploit the stunning nightsky for some astrophotography, don't forget that fast wide-angle lens! And oh! Don't for get extra memory cards and hard drives for dumping the thousands of amazing shots you will be capturing!
I am not an expert wildlife photographer. Would I still be able to enjoy this trip?
Most certainly! The cameras we have today are smart enough to get you some great shots even in Auto mode. However if you do wish to learn about the finer nuances of the art of photography, do let us know beforehand. We have a special IWS Guide who is an expert photographer and has taken several photography workshops. He will certainly help you to kick your photography skills up a notch!
How will we be travelling between the stops?
The mode of travel between locations would depend upon the distance and the quality of roads or trains available. For road transfers, you will be taken around in AC MPVs. For rail transfers, we would prefer berths in 2nd Class (two-tier) AC express trains. Choice of airlines for even further away destinations would depend solely upon your timing and convenience.
What kind of vehicle will be taking us into the park during the safaris, and is it safe?
The safari vehicle is a standard open top 4x4 gypsy modified to suit the different type to terrains of Indian forests. Because of being open from all four sides, the gypsy does give a feeling of being exposed to the wilderness, but it is absolutely safe, and there has been no cases where the animals has tried to attack a vehicle unless it is provoked or harassed.