January 24th - February 5th, 2020
It’s time for an adventure! Join Dan in the wondrous world of Ladakh, home to the majestic and mysterious snow leopard. From Delhi, we’ll fly north to Leh, an enchanting village enclosed in the world’s two mightiest mountain ranges, the Himalayas and Karakoram. We’ll spend three days here to acclimate and take in Leh’s modest culture, beautiful monasteries and palace, interesting markets, and of course, the picturesque snow-capped mountains that surround us.
From Leh we’ll make our way to the Ulley Snow Leopard Lodge in northern India. No tenting! Recently built as an alternative to tenting, the Snow Leopard Lodge provides comfortable accommodations while searching for the snow leopards that reside in this area. It’s likely we’ll have this lodge all to ourselves, making for a private, comfortable stay.
Daily treks will be organized based on morning scouting reports from our expert trackers and spotters. With their expertise and a bit of luck, encounters with these beautiful yet elusive cats are very possible. Keep your eyes peeled for the many awe-inspiring ungulates and other creatures that also inhabit this extreme terrain.
We’ll have access vehicles available to get you as close as possible to any cats. Every sighting will be different. We’ll do our best to work around everyone’s physical abilities, but you do have to be in good health and mobile to join this tour.
A snow leopard sighting may be one of the highlights of this trip, but not the only one! We hope to see and photograph ibex, urial (wild sheep with long legs and relatively small horns), wolves, red foxes, bearded and Himalayan griffon vultures, and golden eagles. Expansive landscapes and the rich Himalayan culture will make this the trip of a lifetime.
2020 Snow Leopard Photography Tour Travel Plans
Friday, January 24
Arrive at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in Delhi, India, any time of day. Our welcome team will meet you at the airport and transfer you to our five-star hotel for a couple of days of relaxation and being pampered. Feel a little “Royal” at the Capital’s only Modern Palace hotel. Always a great way to start a trip!
Overnight at the luxurious Leela Palace Hotel
Saturday, January 25 (B, L, D)
Today is a buffer day to recoup from jetlag and get ready for our adventure north! Take advantage of the spa or infinity pool at the hotel, or maybe take a rickshaw ride through the narrow alleys among 350-year-old markets built by the Mughal Empire. Pass through the shops of bustling Chandai Chowk, one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia. We’ll have an optional sightseeing tour in the Walled City of Old Delhi. Colorful, vibrant, noisy, and chaotic are words that best describe Old Delhi. The photography opportunities are endless! We’ll gather for our welcome dinner tonight at the famous Jamavar Restaurant, a culinary experience not to be missed!
Overnight at the Leela Palace Hotel
Sunday, January 26 (B, L, D)
Grand buffet breakfast at the hotel and then we’ll head to the airport to catch our flight to Leh. Upon arrival in Leh we’ll transfer to the Grand Dragon Ladakh. We’ll take some time to get settled in, behold the breathtaking views, and breathe the pristine mountain air.
We’ll spend two days in Leh to acclimate to the altitude and prepare for our snow leopard safari. Sitting at nearly 12,000 feet amongst the mighty Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, it’s important to take it slow, drink lots of water, and not put too much stress on the body these first couple of days.
Overnight Grand Dragon Ladakh for two nights
Monday, January 27 (B, L, D)
Spend the day at leisure for proper acclimatization.
Leh sits in the high altitude desert plateau of Ladakh. Once an important stopover along trade routes between Tibet, India, and China, it’s now a favorite destination for adventure seekers in trekking, mountaineering, and whitewater rafting.
Beautiful monasteries, interesting markets, and picturesque views provide a great deal to photograph. Visit charming Old Town Leh, where traditional stupas and Ladakhi mud-brick houses connect by a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys and stairways. Dating back to the 17th century, Old Town is considered one of the most historic places to visit in all of Ladakh.
The once royal Leh Palace, snuggled among the mountainside, towers nine stories and is the dominant structure in Leh. Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 16th century, the palace today remains an important hub of Buddhist culture and religion. The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of crowns, ceremonial dresses, jewelry, and 450-year-old paintings, which still hold their vivid appearance from the powdered gems and stones that were used to create them.
Yes, there is plenty to explore in Leh, and it’s small enough that you can walk to many places. Just remember to take it slow and keep it to a minimum—a strenuous trek lies ahead!
In the early evening, as the sun sets, we’ll gather as a group and go to Leh Palace to photograph the Buddhist white-domed Shanti Stupa from a distance, the stunning snowcapped Himilayas as our backdrop.
Overnight Grand Dragon Ladakh
Tuesday, January 28 (B, L, D)
Today we’ll head west, following the Indus River on the road to Kargil and Srinagar. We’ll pass through some notable areas, including the small town of Nimmu, a popular rafting destination where the Zanskar River meets the Indus, and Likir, the site of one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries in all of Ladakh.
Be on the lookout for snow leopards and ibex as we head up the winding, narrow dirt road to our final destination, Ulley. For the next several days, we’ll stay at the new Snow Leopard Lodge in Ulley. Past trips to this region consisted of only tented camps and had no vehicle access—things have changed. There is now more access and comfort, but it is still remote and adventurous.
Sitting at 13,000 feet, the lodge commands excellent views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Eleven bedrooms and dining and sitting rooms provide simple yet comfortable accommodations with heat(!) and little luxuries like real coffee, cozy beds, toilets, and washing facilities. Indulge in traditional flavorful cuisine prepared fresh daily and learn of the lifestyle of the in-house Ladakhi family.
Recently built for snow leopard tracking, Ulley offers a pleasant alternative to camping and is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped other snow leopard destinations. It began as a home owned by one of Ladakh’s top snow leopard trackers, Tchewang Norbu, under the auspice of a program initiated by the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Tourism revenues go directly into the local community and toward preservation of the snow leopards and their ecosystem. Included in your tour is a $200 donation to support the Snow Leopard Conservancy.
Overnight at the Snow Leopard Lodge
Wednesday, January 29 – Sunday, February 2 (B, L, D)
Today we begin our search for one of the world’s most mysterious cats, the beautiful and elusive snow leopard.
Ulley is not only renowned for its high numbers of snow leopards, but it’s also one of the best areas to see Asiatic ibex, urial, bharal (Himalayan blue sheep), Tibetan wolf, red fox, yak (wild ox), bearded and Himalayan griffon vultures, and golden eagles. This is excellent ibex country, and there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male ibex standing vigil on some impossibly narrow outcropping, a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff.
Our exceptional and experienced trackers and spotters will wake before us to interact with the locals and search the three surrounding valleys for any hints of snow leopard movement. They are experts in snow leopard behavior and tracking this evasive cat’s movements. Feel free to join them if you’re up for it!
After breakfast, excursions will be organized based on the their findings. Lodge vehicles coupled with short walks (easy to medium difficulty) will take us to vantage points and possible sighting areas. Depending on the day’s plan, hot lunch will be served either at the lodge or in the field. We’ll return to the lodge in the evenings for dinner and a recap of the day’s events.
January through March is the best time to spot snow leopards. This is when the ungulates move to the lower, often snow-free, valleys to feed and graze. Snow leopards and other predators, like the Tibetan wolf, will follow, since the ungulates are the primary source of their diets.
Overnight at the Snow Leopard Lodge for five more nights (six nights total)
Monday, February 3 (B, L, D)
A final breakfast at the Snow Leopard Lodge, and then we’ll make our way back to Leh. Upon arrival, we’ll check into the Grand Dragon Ladakh. Spend the day at leisure; tomorrow we’ll head back to Delhi. Take the opportunity to further explore the town of Leh. Visit the hotel’s spa for a little R&R or simply sit back, reflect, and take in the spectacular views of the magnificent scenery that the snow leopards call home.
Overnight Grand Dragon Ladakh
Tuesday, February 4 (B, L, D)
All good things must come to an end. After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll transfer as a group to the Leh airport for our flight back to Delhi. Day rooms at the Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport. We’ll bid our farewells during our group dinner tonight before transferring to the airport for our evening flights home.
Wednesday, February 5 (B)
Most flights leave Delhi after midnight so your flight will likely depart early morning (after midnight) today.
Please Note: We’re so fortunate to be getting into this area now that it’s more accessible and comfortable. The lodge we’ll stay at was just recently built. We’ll be at altitudes of 4,000-4,200 meters (approximately 13,000 to 13,800 feet) maximum.
All tracking is done mainly by car with variable amounts of walking, which you can adjust to your own requirements. Mules and porters can be provided if requested in advance. Walking varies based on sightings. Generally we’re not walking up steep hills. This has been the case in the past, but we can now get to good heights with the vehicles. We need people to be good hikers/walkers in their own backyards in the US. You do not need to go out and train for this trip, but you should be reasonably fit and able to walk and hike, especially considering the altitude change.
Please talk to your doctor about your health and visiting a high altitude location. They may prescribe Diamox (Acetazolamide) for high altitude sickness which would be good to have on hand if you have any issues. Emergency evacuation insurance is required by all participants due to the remoteness of the area.
This trip is more adventurous than our typical photography tours. This region has a lot to offer beyond snow leopards; it will be a true adventure.
Tour Extensions Available
February 11th - 27th, 2020
14 Guests Maximum
EXPLORER RATE: 8400 per person, based on double occupancy and shared bath at SSL
NON-EXPLORER RATE: ADD 500
ADD 475 per person for private bath at SLL (based on double occupancy, limited availability)
Single supplement available, please inquire
Under 10 guests booked, ADD 400 per person
All pricing in US Dollars
SLL = Snow Leopard Lodge
$1500 Per person due at time of booking
Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover, or check accepted
Deposits are non-refundable. If cancellations are necessary, we require this request in writing. We will do our best to resell your space. Only if we can resell your space, we will refund (minus deposit and discounts given to sell your space). No partial refunds are possible for unused services.
June 1, 2019: $3500 per person first installment
October 1, 2019: Final payment
Check only for first and final installments. Please make checks payable to Natural Exposures and mail to:
810 N. Wallace, Suite E
Bozeman, MT 59715
- Meals where indicated (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner) in itinerary
- Accommodations as noted in itinerary
- All beverages with meals
- Internal flights Delhi-Leh-Delhi
- National parks, monuments, and monastery fees
- Ladakh Environment entry fee
- Ladakh hill counsel fees
- Gratuities for guides
- Old Delhi tour
- Airport transfers in Delhi on scheduled arrival and departure days
- Government service taxes
- Donation to the Snow Leopard Conservancy, $200 per person
- Trekking excursions with expert naturalists and wildlife experts
- International flights / departure taxes
- Visa fees
- Travel/medical evacuation insurance (emergency evacuation insurance is required due to remote area)
- Miscellaneous personal expenses – laundry, phone calls, beverages, etc.
- Excess luggage fees
- Airport transfers on non-itinerary days
Flights to Book
January 24, 2020
Arrive in Delhi (DEL) any time of day.
February 4, 2020
Depart Delhi (DEL) late evening February 4th or early morning February 5th.
Emergency Evacuation Insurance
All guests MUST carry emergency medical evacuation insurance. It is required by our tour operators and the information will be collected prior to trip time. We recommend InsureMyTrip.com and/or Global Rescue (use code natexp).
Terms & Conditions
Natural Exposures cannot control nor is responsible for abnormal weather, natural disasters, or any other disaster that might affect the trip. Travel insurance should be purchased to cover any missed flights or medical problems that may affect/delay your travel. National Parks have the right to change our itinerary.
By booking a trip with Natural Exposures, you agree to the following CANCELLATION AND LIABILITY POLICY
Accommodations for 2020 Snow Leopard Photography Tour
January 24-25, 2 Nights
Leela Palace Hotel
Enjoy luxury at Delhi’s modern palace hotel. This lovely hotel provides upscale accommodations and decadent rooms in the precincts of Diplomatic Enclave, residence of India’s Prime Minister and the seats of Government.
Rooms and suites offer free high-speed wireless Internet, complimentary tea and coffee, and a newspaper delivered daily. The onsite spa provides the perfect retreat. Take in views of New Delhi from the rooftop infinity pool or sample something delicious at The Qube or at one of their other onsite restaurants, including their signature Indian restaurant, Jamavar; Japanese restaurant, Megu; and fine-dining Franco Italian restaurant, Le Cirque Signature.
January 26, 27, and February 3, 3 Nights
The Grand Dragon Ladakh
Experience the highest level of luxury at The Grand Dragon Ladakh. Rooms are well designed and luxuriously appointed with contemporary fittings like double glazing, centrally controlled air-conditioning and heating, LED Satellite TV, in-room electronic safe, and spacious en suite bathrooms. Large picture windows offer uninterrupted views of the snow-capped Stok Kangri Mountains, or Khardung La pass, Leh Palace, and Shanti Stupa.
January 28 – February 2, 6 nights
Snow Leopard Lodge, Ulley
Sitting at 13,000 feet, the Snow Leopard Lodge commands excellent views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Eleven bedrooms and dining and sitting rooms provide simple yet comfortable accommodations with heat(!) and little luxuries like real coffee, cozy beds, toilets, and washing facilities. Four rooms have private bathrooms and seven rooms have shared bathrooms.
The lodge is furnished with a/v equipment, board games, and expert naturalists to make long winter evenings social and fun. Indulge in traditional flavorful cuisine prepared daily and learn of the lifestyle of the in-house Ladakhi family.
Opened recently for snow leopard tracking, Ulley offers a pleasant alternative to camping and is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped other snow leopard destinations. It began as a home owned by one of Ladakh’s top snow leopard trackers, Tchewang Norbu, under the auspice of a program initiated by the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Tourism revenues go directly into the local community and toward preservation of the snow leopards and their ecosystem.
February 4, Dayroom
Radisson Blu Plaza
Proud recipient of Trip Advisor’s 2018 Certificate of Excellence, this business-style luxury hotel is located 10 minutes from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
Helpful Information for 2020 Snow Leopard Photography Tour
We’ll spend very little time in New Delhi, it is just a hopping on, hopping off place to get to northern India. We’ve included a luxury hotel to stay at upon arrival, along with an optional “Old Delhi” tour. The area we visit for the snow leopards is mainly Buddhist and also remote, similar to Tibet. The lodges in New Delhi and Leh are modern and luxurious; the Snow Leopard Lodge is very simple but comfortable for where you are at. In the past, the only way to see these beautiful cats was to tent it, and many still do. There are very few tourists in this region which is wonderful! Our goal is to try to photograph these wild leopards, but we will have also opportunities to photograph other mammals and birds too. The cultural aspect of the trip overall is a photographer’s dream…
The Snow Leopard Lodge has both private and shared bathrooms. Those that share have a ratio of about one bathroom per two rooms. Bathrooms are basic with hot water in a bucket for a shower. The lodge is heated by gas during the day but turned off at night. There is electricity, but there can be periodic blackouts. Hot water bottles will be provided at night in your beds to keep you warm. We’re in a very rural area, but it will be considerably more comfortable than tenting while staying at the lodge! The trip is over a year out, so there might be upgrades by the time we get there next year.
Patience is always needed with wildlife photography. Snow leopards in Ladakh are wild and by nature very elusive and solitary animals. Please note that seeing a snow leopard is not in any way guaranteed. We’ll stay in prime snow leopard habitat, visit during the best time to see them, and use highly experienced spotters and trackers. However, it is regarded as a great privilege to even catch a glimpse of one, as they are very elusive. Finding them requires not only the skill and patience of expert trackers and guides, but also a bit of luck 🙂 Keep your eyes peeled for tracks, scat, and carcasses! As more people visit this area, the acclimated these cats should become. Many great images are coming out of this area over the last couple years.
The activity level for this workshop is moderate. This trip is more adventurous than our typical photography tours. All tracking is done mainly by car with variable amounts of walking which you can adjust to your own requirements. Mules and porters can be provided if requested in advance. You should be in good shape and reasonable health. Remember, you’ll not only be walking (physical) but also at high altitudes.
Along with more moderate activity, guests should be aware of the altitudes of the areas we’ll visit. The village of Leh is around 12,000 feet, and Ulley is even higher at 13,000 feet. Altitude sickness is possible. Stay hydrated! Take it slow, and let your body adapt for at least the first 24 hours upon arrival in Leh. It is also recommended to avoid alcohol/sleeping pills for the first 24-48 hours. To compare, Cusco, Peru (the city you’re in near Machu Picchu) is at 11,152 feet.
Passport and Visa (US citizens)
Your passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of arrival into India. Two blank pages are required for the entry stamp.
A tourist visa is required for this trip. Please visit the Indian government’s website for electronic travel authorization for additional information regarding the eligibilities and requirements for this type of visa. Visa requirements may change prior to trip time. Please visit the Embassy of India (Washington D.C.) for the most up-to-date entry requirements. Once you have received your visa, check it carefully to ensure that the type of visa and number of entries is appropriate for your travel plans.
It is advisable to carry photocopies of the bio-data page of your passport and the pages containing the Indian visa and Indian immigration stamps.
Please Note: Satellite phones are prohibited in India.
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), and polio. Also recommended, but not required are:
- Hepatitis A and B (combo shot series)
Some travelers may also consider vaccinations for cholera, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies, along with malaria prevention. Please consult with your doctor/medical professional.
There is no risk of yellow fever in India. However, if you are arriving in India from Sub-Saharan Africa or other yellow-fever areas, Indian health regulations require that you present evidence of vaccination against yellow fever. If you do not have such proof, you could be subjected to immediate deportation or a six-day detention in the yellow-fever quarantine center. If you transit through any part of sub-Saharan Africa, even for one day, you are advised to carry proof of yellow fever immunization.
Visit the CDC for the latest requirements/recommendations for India health information.
Please talk to your doctor about your health and going to a high altitude place. They may prescribe Diamox (Acetazolamide) for high-altitude sickness which would be good to have on hand if you have any issues. Emergency medical evacuation insurance is required by all participants due to the remoteness of the area.
Dan will phone each guest personally prior to trip time to discuss camera gear and make suggestions for what to bring. Please feel free to email at any time if you have questions regarding camera gear for the trip.
The Indian rupee is the official currency of India.
India, in South Asia, is the seventh largest country in area on Earth. It shares borders with six countries (Pakistan, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh), and its coastline is bounded by the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian Ocean.
Ladakh has a mostly Buddhist culture. The Snow Leopard Lodge (about a two-hour drive from Leh) is located in northern India, in the Himalayan mountains between Kargil and Leh.
Good to Know
The left hand is considered unclean (being associated with matters in the bathroom) and is never used for eating, passing/receiving objects, shaking hands, etc.
Cows are considered sacred in India.
India is a conservative society. It’s best to keep affectionate gestures private. Keep clothing looser versus tight/revealing. Cover your legs and shoulders, especially when visiting temples/shrines/mosques. Ladies will want to cover their heads in these places also.
Pay attention to your body language. Don’t point your feet/finger. A “Namaste” with both palms together is a safe alternative (especially for women) rather than a handshake.
It’s good manners to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home, and it’s required if entering a temple/mosque/shrine. If you see shoes at an entrance, it’s a good idea to take yours off as well. Feet are typically considered unclean, so don’t touch anyone with your feet/shoes.
Arranged marriages are commonplace. Family values are fundamental in daily life. Patriarchal families are the norm.
Additional information will be sent closer to trip time.
Have a question?
Have a question about this tour? We're happy to answer any queries you may have.
Testimonials from Natural Exposures' Explorers
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To our next encounters with nature"
Maud and Leon Soriano, Florida
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Sue Wolfe, Texas
"We have been friends and have traveled with Dan and Tanya for almost 20 years. We have had the privilege of being invited to join them on their wonderful photography adventures. Dan, a master of photography, is always willing to share his vast knowledge of cameras and photographic skills. Tanya has mastered the art of arranging great tours along with being able to please everyone involved. I keep thinking of how Dan and Tanya pass the Rotary International "Four Way Test". Is it the Truth? Is it fair to all concerned, will it build good will and better friendships and yes it will be beneficial to all concerned. We love, trust and feel safe with Dan and Tanya. Our home is filled with spectacular images we have taken on tours with Natural Exposures Photo Tours."
Ed and Pat Nahin, California
"Tanya and Dan’s logistic skills provide a seamless photo tour where one can truly enjoy the experience. With unlimited photographic opportunities Dan’s instruction has taken my photography to a higher level."
Linda Henry, Oregon