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    In search of the ghost

    In search of the ghost

    Ladakh

    • Periodo Ottimale: 18 - 29 Ottobre 2020
    • Giorni: 12–15
    • Zona di interesse: Ladakh
    • Costo: € 2630,00. Estensione opzionale al Lago Tsokar € 480
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    Wildlife viewing trip through the high altitude desert of Ladakh, enclosed by the Himalaya and Karakorum, in search of its stunning montane fauna and the legendary Snow leopard.

    • Trekking through the unspoilt valleys of Ladakh, the Himalayan ecosystem
    • Observing the elusive, almost mythical Snow leopard into the wild
    • Argali, Tibetan wolves, Urial, Blue sheep and the other protagonists
    • Lake Tsokar, the Asiatic ibex and the Tibetan wild ass
    • The avifauna of rock habitats; the Himalayan griffon
    • Tibetan buddhist monasteries; the culture of the Gelug-pa monks
    ATTENTION: this is an experimental trip, relatively spartan but totally safe and secure. Excursions are not technical and are within the reach of everyone in good physical conditions but with some basic high altitude hiking experience (>4000m).

    ClimateBiogeographic ProvinceBiodiversity and Cultural heritage

    Arctic cold desert areas of Ladakh have a little extreme climate, the summers (May-August) can get a little harsh with direct sunlight falling at such a high altitude (temperature up to 33°C) and winters (October-May) can be really cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing point (-20°C).

    Enclosed by the Karakorum and Hymalaya, Ladakh (with its capital Leh) is the highest plateau in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, with a population of 232.864 residents split roughly in half between Tibetan Buddhists and Shia Muslims, and some small minorities of Hindus. Subsistence agriculture is the main economy, with extensive barley and apricot farms along the Indo and Zanskar rivers. The last nomadic Khampa pastoralists can be encounter in the south, whereas in the Nubra Valley apricot farms and Bactrian camel livestocks prevail. Pashima fibre has emerged as a new product of commercial importance in recent times. Closed to tourism until 1974, Ladakh is now one of the best destination for Buddhist pilgrims, hiking and rafting on Indo and Zanskar rivers.

    Biodiversity: Hemis National Park is a high altitude national park (between 3000 and 6000 m above sea level) that extends over 4400 sq. km on the Karakorum – Western Tibet plateau alpine steppe. This wild, rocky and untamed landscape is an amazing area for spotting its most famous, most enigmatic, and most elusive inhabitant: the Snow leopard, but it harbours a rich community of rare and ecologically significant species, including the Argali, the Bharal (the Blue sheep), the Urial, the Asiatic ibex, the Tibetan wolf, in addition to bears, lynx, etc. The avifauna is equally significant, and among highlights it’s worthy to mention the Bearded vulture, the Golden eagle and the Himalayan griffon.

    Over 200 snow leopards live in the area, and the population appears healthy.

    The area of Lake Tsokar (a high altitude salt lake surrounded by mountains up to 6300 m high) is home to many different montane mammals, including the Tiang (the Tibetan wild ass), the Tibetan wolf, the Argali, the Tibetan gazelle and the Asiatic ibex.

    Cultural heritage: Leh has a population of 10.000, and is dominated by the ruined Leh Palace, the former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace and the magnificent Tsas Soma Mosque. It is also famous for the frequent visits by the XIV Dalai Lama. Other interesting places are the Buddhist villages of Lamayuru, Atitse, Bagso, Hemis (famous for its massive homonym monastery), Alchi and its monastery with impressive wall paintings, Likir, the Shia villages of Draas and Karghil, on the Pakistan Azad Kashmir border. Ladakh is not subject to terrorism acts as the adjacent Kashmir, and Buddhist – Muslims relations are built on religious tolerance.

    Detailed Program

    • Day 1: Flight to Leh (via Delhi) and transfer to Hotel. Full day rest to acclimatize altitude and visit Leh. Overnight stay at hotel.
    • Day 2: Early morning birding around Indus River and Visit Thiksay monastery. Overnight stay at hotel.
    • Day 3: Drive to Zingchen (45 minutes drive), this is entry point to Rumbak (Hemis National Park). Walk to camp site 01, (an hour and a half). Overnight stay at Camp – see below for camp site characteristics.
    • Days 4-10: trek in search of the Snow leopard and the typical montane wildlife through Husing Valley or in Tarbong Valley. Overnight stay at Camp.
    • Day 11: Trek back to Zingchen and drive back to Leh, Overnight stay at hotel.
    • Day 12: Flight Leh – Delhi and flight for onward destination.
    • Optional trip extension
    • Day 12: Land transfer to Lake Tsokar (170 km, 5-6 hours drive). On the way stop at Rumtse Village for wildlife and landscape observations. Walk around Lake for some birdwatching. Overnight stay at Eco – Resort.
    • Day 13: Full – day trek around Lake Tsokar (fair chances for Tibetan wild ass, Argali,Tibetan wolf, Golden eagle, Black – necked crane, etc.). Overnight stay at Eco – Resort.
    • Day 14: Drive back to Leh. On the way stop for wildlife observations. Overnight stay at hotel.
    • Day 15: Flight Leh – Delhi, then flight for onward destination.

    The trip will be led and accompanied by one Biosfera Itinerari expert biologist guide who will be responsible of logistics, activities and tour guidance.

    This trip offers an excellent chance of seeing Snow leopards in their natural habitat (>70%). Nevertheless, any sightings will probably be at some range, so dig scoping or a big lens and converter are the best options. Viewing with spotting scopes however can be extremely rewarding. The air is very clear, and heat haze is not a problem except on the warmest of afternoons. However, as the sun sinks, the viewing conditions return to optimal just as the Snow Leopards typically arise from their afternoon nap.
    The price includes:
    • All transfers to/from Leh airport
    • Hotel in Leh and Eco-Resort during the trip extension to Tsokar
    • Camping fees
    • Wildlife fees
    • Tents (single or double), 7,6cm mattresses, heated dining tent, toilet tent
    • Carriage of personal baggage to/from camp using horses/mules
    • Excursions as described
    • Three meals per day until breakfast on last day
    • Tea, coffee, potable water
    • Services of camp cook, camp staff, local guides/spotters
    • Guidance from a Biosfera Itinerari Biologist
    • A comprehensive travel insurance package
    Not included:
    • All flights and airport taxes
    • Cost of  Procedure Management (30 euro)
    • Visas
    • Cancelling insurance (facultative)
    • Personal items, tips, laundry, phone calls
    • All drinks other than tea coffee, potable water
    • Additional renting of sleeping bags
    • Additional meals not included in the section “The price includes”
    • Additional costs incurred due to flight delays/cancellations, road closures or any other factors beyond our control
    • Personal Porter (you will not need to carry anything from the trailhead up to camp at the beginning of our camp, nor back to the road at the end of the camp. However, on all days whilst we are searching for the Snow leopards, anything that you want with you, such as your camera, tripod, telescope, small daypack with extra clothing layers, etc, you will have to carry. However, you may, for a small additional fee, opt to hire your own personal porter for the duration of the camp)
    • Voluntary activities and service tips, and in general everything not mentioned in section “The price includes”
    Some technical notes:

    Clothes and Equipment: we will send to all participants the specialist items that are particularly noteworthy, including high–tech mountain clothing, camp and camera equipment. We will carry with us a professional spotting scope.

    Temperature and Weather: Expect daytime temperatures to rise close to freezing, or, on sunny slopes, above that. The early morning low to expect is around –10°C to –15°C although it could be colder, exceptionally down to around –25°C. Clear conditions will be interspersed with cloudier, even overcast days. Expect some light snowfall occasionally, eg 2–4cm but we are in an area that is in a “rain” shadow, so heavier falls are unusual. We may be walking in snow occasionally. Generally there is little wind – although a slight breeze often picks up on the afternoons.

    Camp and Food: the camping is full service, and fully pottered in and out, and though basic, we will be very well looked after, with a whole team of cooks and camp helpers attending to our needs. Two person (or single) tents are provided, along with lightweight mattresses. We’ll eat in a heated dining tent where we will be served hot meals at breakfast and dinner, and sometimes lunch too, although lunch is more likely to be a picnic in the field, with piping hot soup, a hot main course and tea/coffee, brought to us almost no matter where we have walked to. Mid morning, and again mid afternoon we will be brought hot tea/coffee and biscuits.

    Electricity: at camp there will be a toilet tent, and we will take a generator that we will use occasionally for battery charging, if and when needed.

    Trekking details: the amount of hiking you choose to do is, within certain parameters, optional. You may, if you wish, choose to stay around camp all day, and just head out when a Snow Leopard is spotted. However, it is our aim to hike a few miles every day, with the uphill sections being at a slow pace due to the altitude. You will certainly notice the reduced amount of oxygen when walking uphill. Most of the hiking will be on gentle inclines, on primitive trails, but occasionally we may want to get into a better position for viewing which may involve much steeper walking for short distances.

    Price

    € 2630 based for 6 pax. The travel package price can vary in case of change of the currency exchange rate. Optional trip extension to Tsokar: € 480

    Disclaimer 1: Please note this is an indicative and standard itinerary. Dates, activities and the succession and length of each part of the itinerary may change each year, and can be rearranged with the participants. Upon request by the participants, we will send the definitive and detailed programme to be evaluated at least some weeks prior to the confirmation deadline.

    Disclaimer 2: We will generally honor the posted prices, but these are subject to change at any time due to action or decisions made by local authorities. In such situations, and in the hope that will not happen, we will send all the ministries official communications to all participants, free from ambiguity and in total transparency. We reserve the right to correct the final price to the fullest extent permitted by law.

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