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An incredible wildlife adventure in search of Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard and the legendary snow leopard

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What's Included

  • Seven days snow leopard spotting in Ladakh
  • Game drives in Gir National Forest, Ranthambore National Park and Jawai
  • Privately guided cultural tours in Leh
  • All internal flights and airport assistance
  • Private transfers
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

This is the ultimate wildlife adventure in India, a journey through deserts, Himalayan mountains and jungle in search of its iconic cats – Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, Asiatic lions and snow leopards – that will also be a unique experience of this vast country’s diverse culture and spectacular landscapes.

Begin in the appropriately named Gir Forest National Park in the western state of Gujarat, the last remaining stronghold of the Asiatic lion. Once ranging across India and the Middle East into Europe, they were hunted to the brink of extinction, with only a handful surviving in this area. Thankfully numbers have increased to over 600 cats and seeing them here is a real privilege.

Next, after a stop in Delhi, fly to the far north of India. Spend a few days acclimatising to the altitude in beautiful Leh, where you’ll get to explore the town and beautiful Buddhist temples that dot the Indus Valley. Then venture high into the mountains to a remote lodge for a week in search of perhaps the most elusive of all cats, the snow leopard. Seeing this incredible animal is by no means assured (which is all part of the adventure), but with the lodge’s team of expert spotters and utterly breath-taking surroundings, there are few finer places from which to try.

Return south to the famous Ranthambore National Park for three nights in a sumptuous luxury safari lodge. Here, head out on safari game drives to see Bengal tigers in a richly atmospheric place where the powerful feline can be seen prowling ancient fort ruines bathed in India’s golden late afternoon light.

Drive across Rajasthan, with an overnight stop at a charming family palace on the way, for a final three nights at JAWAI, another fine conservation focused camp surrounded by wilderness which is one of our favourite places in the country to see Indian leopards while learning about the fascinating culture of the red-turbaned Rabari herdsmen who share the landscape with them.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-4

Gir Forest National Park

Flights & Transfers

Flight

Flight from Mumbai to Rajkot

Transfer

Private transfer from Rajkot Airport to your lodge in Gir Forest National Park

Accommodation in Gir Forest National Park

Three nights in Gir Forest National Park Three nights in Gir Forest National Park

Spend your days exploring the park on private morning and afternoon game drives. Gir National Park is a vitally important protected forest that is home to the last remaining wild population of the Asiatic lion in the world. This iconic big cat once ranged across India, the Middle East and Turkey, but was hunted down to just 20 animals in the early 20th century. Since then, conservation efforts in the park and wider sanctuary have seen numbers return to over 650 in 2017. Locals, many living within remarkable proximity with the lions, are fiercely proud of their feline neighbours and the Asiatic lion is the state animal of Gujarat.

Distinguishable from its African cousins by a fold of skin running along their bellies and slightly shorter manes on the males, they are muscular cats ambushing prey such as deer, nilgai and boar in the dry teak and acacia forests of the sanctuary. Prides are small, usually containing a couple of females and cubs, with males protecting small territories.

Other wildlife to be spotted in the park on your game drives here include leopard, striped hyena, honey badger, chinkara gazelle, porcupine, pangolin and jungle cat. Mugger crocodiles and monitor lizards can be found beside rivers, lakes and reservoirs within the park and birdlife is prolific with some 300-species recorded here.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Rajkot Airport

Flight

Flight from Rajkot to Delhi

Days 4-5

Delhi

Accommodation in Delhi

Flights & Transfers

Flight

Flight from Delhi to Leh

Days 5-8

Leh

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Leh

Accommodation in Leh

Three nights in Leh Three nights in Leh

Nestled in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh one of India’s most remote and sparsley populated areas, a land of snowcapped mountains, vast barren plateaus and deep turquoise lakes. The capital, Leh, is the main gateway to the region, sitting at the literal crossroads of an ancient trade route between Tibet to the east, Kashmir to the west, the Indian plains to the south and China to the north. It's also a spiritual place where Mahayana Buddhism dominates and the town is dotted with monasteries, stupas and chains of fluttering prayer flags. The centre of town and its bazaar is geared towards tourists, but a short walk down the countless paths will lead to barley fields and houses seemingly stuck in time.

Leh town tour Leh town tour

Set out on a guided tour through the ancient bazaar and alleys of Leh town. In the afternoon visit to Sankar Monastery and wrap up the day program with a visit to Shanti Stupa built on a hill overlooking the town below, arriving in time to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the sun-drenched Indus Valley before the sunset.

Thiksey Monastery or Thiksey Gompa, Leh Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Thiksey, Shey and Hemis Gompas Thiksey, Shey and Hemis Gompas

Spend today discovering some of the most scenic Gompas in the Indus Valley. Gompas are ecclesiastical complexes somewhere between a fortification, a monastery and a university and are typical of Tibetan Buddhism. First is the architecturally impressive and spectacularly situated Thiksey with its twelve-story complex housing many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, thankas (a painting on cotton or silk) statues, wall paintings and swords.

Next is Shey Palace and Gompa which was once the residence of the royal family. The palace, built in 1655, is now mostly in ruins while the monastery is known for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha, the largest of its kind.

Last up is Hemis Gompa, the wealthiest, best known and biggest Gompa of Ladakh, which dates to 1630. Its popularity stems from the major annual festival held here in summer held festival is in honor of Guru Padma Sambhavaa. It also has the largest thanka in Ladakh which is unfurled only once every 12 years.

Days 8-15

Ulley

leh-ladakh-india
Private transfer from Leh to Snow Leopard Lodge Private transfer from Leh to Snow Leopard Lodge

Drive west on the road to Kargil and Srinagar, generally following the Indus River. You 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 you head north on a road into snow leopard country. The landscape here is even bigger, more expansive and open, until you turn off onto a dirt road, winding up a narrow valley, following a stream called the Ulley Chhu. Smaller valleys intersect and the guides have their heads craned all the time, scanning the hill sides and the skyline for any silhouette. 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 over a plunging cliff.

Accommodation in Ulley

snow-leopard-ladakh-india
Snow leopard spotting from Ulley (7D/6N) Snow leopard spotting from Ulley (7D/6N)

The plan for your time here is flexible and guided by maximizing the chance to see snow leopard. Generally, spotters head out at the crack of dawn to try and find signs of the almost phantom-like feline in the surrounding landscape. The chief spotter will meet you over a hearty breakfast and share the morning’s findings and lay out the day’s plan, which may involve hiking straight from the lodge or driving to distant valleys to then trek up to vantage points. Hot lunches will be served in the field as you continue to scan the landscape, returning to the warm lodge for in time for dinner. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, but the incredible landscape and other wildlife make it a unique experience even if the cats are not seen.

Snow leopards are high altitude specialists which hunt bharal blue sheep and ibex in what seems like an otherwise inhospitable environment. They survive the bitter winters in the Himalayas due to their amazing thick (and perfectly camouflaged) fur coats, huge feet covered in this insulating fur that act as snow shoes, and long tail which helps to maintain balance in the rocky terrain. The tail is also very thick due to fat storage which allows the cat to use it like a blanket to protect its face when asleep. Like their other leopard cousins, snow leopards are solitary except when with cubs or mating, and very hard to spot. Although it is of course these magnificent felines that are the main attraction here, other predators you may see include Eurasian lynx, red fox, golden eagle and the Tibetan wolf.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Leh

Days 14-15

Leh

Accommodation in Leh

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Leh airport

Flight

Flight from Leh to Jaipur via Delhi

Days 15-18

Ranthambore

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Ranthambore National Park

Accommodation in Ranthambore

Three nights in Ranthambore National Park Three nights in Ranthambore National Park

Explore Ranthambore National Park on morning and evening game drives with plenty of time to relax and unwind at your luxury lodge between. With its population brought back from the brink late last century to over 50 by 2015, Ranthambore’s tiger density makes it one of the most popular places to get close to these remarkable animals. Ranthambore’s forest is also alive with the alarm calls of chital and sambar deer, galloping nilgai, leopard, striped hyena, loping sloth bears and wild boar. The lakes are also brimming with crocodile and a huge draw for some 272 species of bird.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer from Ranthambore to Shahpura Bagh

Days 18-19

Shahpura Bagh

Accommodation in Shahpura Bagh

Day at Shahpura Bagh Day at Shahpura Bagh

Spend the rest of the day relaxing at this charming family owned palace. Whether relaxing by the pool, exploring the grounds and its working farm, birdwatching or perhaps boating out on the lake, life is unhurried here.

Days 19-22

Jawai

Transfer to JAWAI Transfer to JAWAI

You will be transferred close to JAWAI where you will board a jeep for an introductory drive to the camp.

Accommodation in Jawai

Three nights at JAWAI Three nights at JAWAI

Explore this remote corner of Rajasthan on a variety of beguiling activities. Morning and evening you, will be taken out to track leopard with the camp’s experienced trackers and drivers, travelling in customised 4x4 safari jeeps. While taking the jeep drives and other than searching for leopards, you will see what is known in the India as “Gaudhuli” or the cow dust hour, a name which is result of the dust raised by cattle leaving or returning home at this hour. It is a magical time to be out in the countryside. Sunrise and Sunset are considered auspicious times in India, and as you drive through the village you will see small rituals performed to welcome in the night and to ward off the dark spirits, a rare opportunity to see life in rural India. There are 170 species of birds here including flamingos to spot and you can take strolls with the local shepherds or more challenging treks. You can also visit nearby temples and forts, take mountain bikes out to discover the landscape or relax with yoga sessions in wonderfully secluded locations.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Udaipur airport

Flight

Flight to Mumbai

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