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Sunrise Birding LLC - Worldwide Birding Tours and Wildlife SafarisSnow Leopard by Bikram GrewalSNOW LEOPARD!
Quest for the Gray Ghost
February 25 - March 12, 2019

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Questions? Email info@stevebirdswildlife.com
Contact gina
@sunrisebirding.com to reserve your space!

There can be few more evocative animals in the world than the cat family and to top these is, of course, the Tiger. But for some wildlife enthusiasts, the most mystical and rarely seen Snow Leopard has become the most wanted to see cat in the world. Just over 400 western people have ever seen this staggeringly beautiful creature in the wild and, for many wildlife watchers this has become their "Holy Grail".

The magical Hemis Naitonal Park. Photo by Gina Nichol.Our tour takes us to a magical area of the western Himalayas in India where our local guides have been watching Snow Leopards for more than 10 years. Our spotters and guides are the very best available and indeed our main local guide is the same one that the BBC use to help them find the Snow Leopard for all of their wonderful documentaries. Our chances of seeing Snow Leopards are quite high as the guides now know the habits and best places to look. We would be very surprised to not get several sighting during our time in Snow Leopard country. Of course, we all know it is wildlife and not a zoo, so no guarantees.

Our recent visit in 2016 provided us with super views of 2 different Snow Leopards and a host of other exciting mammals and birds. What Tibetan Partridge. Photo by Steve Bird.can make or break a tour like this is the ground crew and team we have that attend to our every need. Cooks, assistant cooks, spotters, and guides all help to make this a fantastic adventure. We simply could not believe the quality of the food produced by our ground team, they made cooked breakfast, porridge, hot drinks all day long, they even cooked pasties, pizza, an apple pie, chicken, fish, fresh vegetables and wherever we were during the daytime they would arrive with hot drinks and a hot meal. With the incredible scenery all around us, these were the best picnic lunches anywhere!

Apart from our main goal of seeing Snow Leopard, we will also keep a look out for other mammals found in this part of the Himalayas such as Tibetan Wolf, Red Sheep, Eurasian Lynx and Ladakh Urial. We will search for birds as well including Solitary Snipe, Ibisbill, White-winged Redstart, Robin Accentor, Tibetan Snowfinch, Himalayan Snowcock and possibly Indian Eagle Owl.

If seeing a Snow Leopard is on your life-time bucket list, then join the very best team
on our quest to see the "Gray Ghost".

Photos: Snow Leopard by Bikram Grewal, the magical western Himalayas by Gina Nichol, Tibetan Partridge by Steve Bird.


ITINERARY - Start of Tour:

Start of Tour: Plan to arrive in Delhi, India on February 25, 2019.

Day 1: Arrive Delhi - February 25
Please plan on arriving this day into Delhi where we will transfer you to a hotel close to the airport. Please note this is just an arrival day with no activities planned. Because of varying arrival times from different destinations we are only including dinner today (D). Night Delhi.

Day 2: Delhi - Leh - February 26
This morning we will transfer to Delhi airport for our connecting flight to Leh. This must be one of the most sensational flights in the world. On a clear day from one side of the aircraft can be seen in the distance the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum and on the other side of the aircraft, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun Kun massif.

White-winged Redstart (photo: Steve Bird)Upon arrival in Leh we enter a different world and once through immigration we will be transferred to our hotel. Here we will take a little time to settle in and acclimatize since you have gone from a relatively low elevation in New Delhi to over (3,500m) 11,000 feet.

After lunch you can either rest or for those too excited to rest we will take a trip to a nearby river in search of our first birds, perhaps White-winged Redstart (photo: Steve Bird) or Solitary Snipe. Remember this primarily a rest and acclimatization day. There is also the option to look around the old town, beneath the Leh Palace, where you can get oriented to this fascinating city. Overnight in hotel in Leh. (B,L,D)

Some of the wildlife possible on this tour:
  • Snow Leopard
  • Tibetan Wolf
  • Ladakh Urial
  • Solitary Snipe
  • Ibisbill
  • Asiatic Ibex
  • Royale’s Pika
  • Mountain Weasel
  • Tibetan Partridge
  • Tibetan Snowfinch
  • Blue Sheep
  • Eurasian Lynx
  • White-winged Redstart
  • Lammergeier
  • Chukar
  • Brandt’s Mountain Finch
  • Brown Accentor
  • Hill Pigeon
  • Wallcreeper
  • Red-fronted Serin
  • White-browed Tit-Warbler
  • Robin Accentor
  • Great Rosefinch
  • Twite
  • Himalayan Snowcock
  • Argali
  • Asiatic Wild Ass
  • Hume's Groundpecker
  • Black-necked Crane
  • Tibetan Sandgrouse

Day 3: Leh - February 27
Ibisbill (Photo: Steve Bird)Today offers a full day of acclimatization and for those that wish we will have an easy day looking for some of the key birds near to town. Our first goal will be the much sought after Ibisbill (Photo: Steve Bird), a bird that inhabits the rocky cold rivers running along the edge of Leh. Other birds along the river can include shorebirds most of us are familiar with such as Green and Common Sandpipers, as well as the very smart Himalayan race of White Wagtail often called Masked Wagtail. We could also find Citrine Wagtail and Brown Accentor, but another of our target birds in this wet habitat is the difficult Solitary Snipe.

We know quite a few good areas that this bird likes and we will check all these with the hope of finding this special bird. Time will be spent back at the hotel just relaxing and enjoying a cup or two of local tea while we get used to the altitude. Overnight in hotel in Leh (B,L,D)

 

Day 4: Leh - Zingchan - February 28
Our camp. After breakfast we will set off with all our bags and equipment in one or more vehicles towards Hemis National park about a 1 hour drive. An exhilarating drive through the mountains to the end of the road where our team and a set of Donkey's await. Here we leave the vehicles and transfer all of our luggage onto the Donkey's so as to make us as free as possible for the slow walk up the Rumbak Valley to our camp area in the heart of Snow Leopard country. The walk is only a few miles but we take it very slowly having our first hot soups and picnic lunch along the way. We expect to take about 3 hours to walk to camp where our team will have already put all the tents up, including kitchen tent, dining tent, toilet tent and for those camping your home for the next 8 days. Those who have opted for a home stay in the small village 10 minutes’ walk beyond our camp, we will have a hot drink while our luggage is transferred to the home stay, after which we will walk to the village and settle in.

Note that all meals will be taken in camp in our dining tent. The food our team prepares will astonish you and each day you are sure to be amazed at what they produce. The food in the home stay is probably OK but we prefer to use our superb team as the food they prepare is simply outstanding and perfect for our western palate. The scenery all around camp and the village is sensational and even without seeing any wildlife you just know you are in a very special place. Chukars will be around camp and Red-fronted Serins scout around in small flocks. The haunting call of Himalayan Snowcock echo through the valleys and a Snow Leopard could be spotted at any time. 1st night in tented camp or home stay (B,L,D)

 

Days 5 – 11: Rumbak Valley - March 1 - 7, 2019
Scenery.  Each day in these beautiful picturesque mountains will see us with some sort of routine. We will get up for a nice warm breakfast in our heated dining tent.   During this time our guides and spotters will already be out looking for signs of Snow Leopard activity and, of course, will alert if they see anything. Once we are full and warm, we will have the choice of just hanging around camp or the nearby lookout, an area just a few hundred meters away to scan the hillsides and mountain tops for the elusive Snow Leopard, or you can take a slow walk into one or other of the nearby valleys spending most of the day away from camp.

Wherever we happen to be around lunchtime, some of our camp crew will arrive, with hot drinks, soup and a hot lunch. After this they will head speedily back to camp to get tea, coffee and biscuits ready for when we arrive back in the late afternoon. Doesn’t this seem all very civilized?  Our team of cooks and helpers make it so.

Our guides are the most respected of all the local guides and as such we are privileged that they are working with us. Superb trackers and spotters, they spend dawn till dusk looking not just for Snow Leopard but also other mammals such as the very rarely seen Eurasian Lynx or maybe Tibetan Wolf.

Ladakh Urial Ladakh Urial are fairly common and are the favorite prey of the leopard so we always pay particular attention to these. Our team have so far led over 40 tours in search of Snow Leopard with 100% success. Even so, we reiterate that it is wildlife and nothing is guaranteed.

Depending on whether it has snowed or not this makes a difference to the tracking and indeed visual spotting of leopards. They are a little easier to see and track with a light covering of snow, and the area looks even more spectacular with white mountain tops. On our daily walks we can hope to see birds such as Red-fronted Serins and maybe flocks of Brandt's Mountain Finches and even Tibetan Snowfinch. Twite are fairly common, Lammergeier can be seen nearly every day, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Great Rosefinch, Brown Accentor and Robin Accentor are never far away, while Himalayan Snowcock and Tibetan Partridge can also be found.

Royale's Pika (Photo: Steve Bird)White-browed Tit-Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler and Wallcreeper are present in the rocky gorge below camp but both can be elusive. Royale's Pika (Photo: Steve Bird), Mountain Weasel and Stone Martin are possible and with luck we should enjoy views of one of the most mystical and spectacular cats in the world, the Snow Leopard. With 7 days to look for the "Gray Ghost" we have enough time to hopefully secure at least one view and maybe multiple views which then puts you in a very elite group of people to have ever seen this awesome creature.

At the end of each day we often spend a little time at the lookout before the sun drops along with the temperature and hot drinks call back at the dining tent. A wonderful meal will have been prepared throughout the day and we will enjoy this while going over the days stories of what we did and didn't see. For those camping, you will have a hot water bottle to take to bed and for those in the home stay a 10 minute walk to your house with a room and mattress, lots of thick blankets and a hot log fire. Nights in 1 or 2 person tents or in rooms in home stay (B,L,D)

 

Days 12 – 13: Rumbak - Tso Kar - March 8 & 9
Later this morning after a final look for Snow Leopard we will trek back to Zingchan and then drive to Tso Kar. Here we all stay in a home stay far up in the mountains. The house owners farm and live of the land and our visit helps enormously to supplement their hard existence. Our team of cooks will still be with us and happy to look after our needs as normal. Here we have more chances to see Snow Leopard but our first chance to see Asiatic Ibex and possibly Ladakh Urial, Asiatic Wild Ass or the rare Argali as well as one of the best places to find Tibetan Wolf.

We have 2 days to explore this valley with its clear mountain streams and endless snow-capped mountains. It will depend on whether the road is passable due to snow conditions as to whether we can get here, but if not we will visit another Valley the Ulla Valley where once again we have good chances for Snow Leopard and Tibetan Wolf. Birds around Tso Kar include the majestic Black- necked Crane, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hume's Short-toed Lark, Blanford's Snowfinch, Red and Yellow-billed Choughs and the superb Hume's Groundpecker. 2 nights in home stay (B,L,D)

 

Day 14: Tso Kar - Leh - March 10
After a final morning in this wonderful valley searching for more birds and mammals we head back to Leh. Night hotel in Leh (B,L,D)

 

Day 15: Leh - Delhi - March 11
Today we will transfer to Leh airport for our flight back to Delhi where, depending on your international flight departure time, you will either be transferred to Delhi airport departures or go to a hotel 15 minutes away to spend the night where you will then depart from Delhi the following day. Night near airport in Delhi (B,L).

 

Day 16: Departure - March 12
After breakfast we will transfer to the Airport in time for your international departing flight and the end of this tour.

 

Leaders: Steve Bird and Gina Nichol with local guides throughout

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Below: Solitary Snipe. Photo by Steve Bird.


Solitary Snipe. Photo by Steve Bird.SNOW LEOPARD!
Quest for the Gray Ghost
February 25 - March 12, 2019    
Questions? Email info@stevebirdswildlife.com

Registration Form>

TOUR PRICE: $3850.00 per person/double occupancy from Delhi, India (Airport Code: DEL).
Single supplement: $365.00

Deposit: $500.00 per person. Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise gina@sunrisebirding.com when you have made payment. 

Included in cost: All accommodation in Delhi and Leh based on twin rooms en-suite, all meals from dinner on 25 Feb to breakfast on 12 March, or as described in itinerary (B,L,D), all entrance fees to National Parks, transport throughout, all
taxes, services of local guides and leaders.

Not included: International and domestic flights, passport/visa fees, departure tax, insurance, drinks, laundry, tips, and items of a personal nature.

Tour Code:
This tour is focused on looking for Snow Leopard with a lot of additional mammals and birds to see along the way. This tour has a few physical demands such as walking several kilometers at high altitude.  We do this at a slow pace and also allow time to acclimatize in Leh before we trek to camp. You will need to be prepared for cold weather during the nights in particular, and it can get down to minus 25 degrees. Please make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing to allow for the conditions. We will provide a pack list so as you can prepare properly. We recommend high altitude expedition gear what can be rented if you do not have it.  

In the hotel in Leh, you will have a very comfortable room with heating at night, but the shower and sink will not have any running water as it’s too cold and the pipes would freeze causing all sorts of problems. Instead they will provide large containers of hot water to use in your bathroom.

Our ground crew while camping will provide hot water bottles as well as hot drinks which are available all the time. The food is outstanding and prepared to suit western tastes. For those opting for a home stay instead of camping this will involve possibly a 5 - 10 minute walk from the camp. All meals will be in the camp dining tent and you will just be using the home stay to sleep. The home stay are basic with you having a room for either 1 or 2 persons. There will be mattresses on the floor and plenty of thick warm blankets. Each room has a log fire which will be lit in the evening to warm the room, and warm water is provided in buckets and bowls to wash in, as is the case with camping.

The toilets are also basic with a toilet tent and hole in the ground for camping and a separate room in the home stay but also a hole in the floor. Note that we now provide where we can a western type toilet seat on legs to make life a little more comfy. During the day the temperature rise and can even be warm. The daily walks are done slowly and may be up to 3 - 4 kilometers from camp. It is optional whether you take the daily walks or just hang around camp which can be equally good for seeing Snow Leopards. This tour should be treated as an adventure, there may be a few hardships not normally associated with a wildlife tour, but note you are in a very remote part of the world looking for something very few people have ever seen. We feel the benefits outweigh the slight discomforts. What a story it is to tell everyone that you have been to the high Himalayas in search of Snow Leopard!


RESERVATIONS: This tour is now OPEN FOR BOOKING! To reserve your place on this tour, contact gina@sunrisebirding.com to hold your space! Then follow up with your completed registration form and deposit within two weeks to secure your place. Instructions are on the form. Reservations are held with a deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.   >Download & print the Registration Form. 


Once the tour is confirmed to go ahead, we will send you information about booking your flights. Please do not book flights until you receive this information from us and are notified that the trip has sufficient numbers to run. Final payment is due Oct 25, 2018.

Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:  All cancellations must be made in writing.  In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding, LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.  There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. 


Insurance: Sunrise Birding, LLC recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.

For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 07-0025.

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. 11.17 E7N

Questions? Email info@stevebirdswildlife.com

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