Ladakh the Snow Leopard Capital of the World
In the north of India, between Pakistan and China, lies the state of Jammu and Kashmir. A land made famous for its rugged wilderness, old-world culture and unique wildlife. It’s a land that starts at 300m (100ft) above sea level and stretches to the skies at 7500m (25,000ft). It offers rich bio-diversity and picturesque valleys such as the Kasmir, Tawi, Poonch, Chenab, Sind, and Lidder. The Himalayas divide this stunning land, they alter its climate and punctuate life’s balance.
It’s here that Ladakh, a place known as the ‘land of high passes’, gives travelers and conservationists something unique. Ladakh is the snow leopard capital of the world. A rare claim for an elusive animal, an animal known as the ‘Ghosts of the Mountain’ and with a territory that stretches over 200 km.
Snow Leopards are one of the planet’s big cats. They are also one of the most threatened, with research estimating that the global population could be as low as 3500 members. They live in rugged terrain and have become a dream for nature photographers, trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts, alike.
As the snow leopard capital, Ladakh is home to a variety of tour operators, with adventure tourism becoming an important industry for the local community. These are expensive tours by any standard, and they are not always easy. Most operations can’t guarantee that you will actually see a snow leopard. That is an uncontrollable variable, like a guarantee for a catching fish. They can, however, use their tracking skills, the seasonal norms, and years of experience to increase your odds; and they can use your time and investment into the tour to help local researchers.
Many tour operators are using this time-in-field to help install camera ‘traps’, and retrieve data from the region, as well as report on markings and other key trackable findings.
Exodus Tours is one operator that runs out of Ladakh that delivers responsible, seasonal, leave-no-trace snow leopard tours using highly trained wildlife guides. From mid-February to mid-March, Exodus offers travelers a 14-day small-group tour, with a comparably low price point to other operations, and it includes a flight from Delhi to Leh, in Ladakh. Trekkers, with a minimum age of 16, with also keep keen eyes open for Blue Sheep, wolves, Lammergeyers, Himalayan Griffin Vultures and Golden Eagles.