Jungle Sutra’s “Snow Leopards and Brown Bears” safari introduces animal lovers to the exceptional wildlife of the Himalayas in the Ladakh region of far northern India.
The region’s extreme diversity results from the unique landscape and weather conditions. Rather than the animals normally associated with India, the wildlife has more in common with the Tibetan Plateau. Among the region’s many mammals are the snow leopard, brown bear, Tibetan wolf, Eurasian lynx, weasels, Tibetan fox, ibex, blue sheep and yak.
Meanwhile, a wide variety of birds use Ladakh as a summer escape from hot and humid lowland India. For such an arid area, the diversity of avian life is truly surprising, with around 225 species recorded. In the summer, many types of finches, robins, redstarts and the hoopoe are common, while the brown-headed gull can be seen on the upper reaches of the legendary Indus River and on some Changthang lakes.
Resident water birds include the Brahminy duck and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane — a rare species from the Tibetan Plateau — is also found in parts of Ladakh. The raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock and chukar also frequent the area, as well as raptors like the lammergeyer and golden eagle.
Our 14-day itinerary starts in Delhi and heads straight to Leh, Ladakh’s largest city, for two days of acclimatizing and area exploration including a visit to the Snow Leopard Conservancy. The following three days includes exploration of the villages around Drass and hopefully spotting the Himalayan brown bear.
The safari continues in the Uley Valley — looking out for animals like the snow leopard, Himalayan wolf, Himalayan fox, ibex and marmots — before returning to Delhi via Leh.
Because this safari includes areas between 11,500 and 16,000 feet in elevation, the two days of acclimatization in Leh is imperative. Guests should spend time resting and undertaking short walks.
Perched along India’s frontiers with China and Pakistan, Ladakh is an military base and security is always tight. Satellite phones are not permitted and there is no mobile connectivity in the area where we trek.