In our ever-changing world today extraordinary experiences are but a handful, in the world of wildlife the optimum experience is priceless, however, the experience that only a handful seeks is life-changing.
That mythical experience, which sounds like folklore, leaving you haunted by its stories is the one that will transform you. As winter sets into the Trans-Himalayan region, it’s time for us to head up to Ladakh and rekindle our romance with the ghost of the Himalayas – SHAAN in Ladakhi a.k.a. The Snow Leopard.
A member of the genus Panthera (Panthera uncia), the snow leopard is actually more closely related to the tiger (Panthera tigris) than to the leopard (Panthera pardus), and the two share a few strands of DNA in common.
Like the tiger, it’s a territorial feline. Watching two Snow Leopards fighting ferociously with one another is a once-in-a-lifetime moment — a true collectible for a wildlife lover or photographer’s treasure trove. But regardless of whether you capture it with the naked eye or with your lens, this feline is captivating. As it raises its head to look at you, you’re transformed. Encounters Asia regularly leads world-class photography expeditions to capture the snow leopard on camera. We have worked with world-renown photographers, as well as our teams have worked with organizations such as National Geographic, Planet Earth and Human Planet, to name a few.
Our snow leopard expeditions are accompanied by expert trackers and a support team of chefs, porters and guides who make the experience spectacular.
If needed, they will scoop you up in their arms, and carry you and your camera equipment up the mountain! There is no trekking or mountaineering required, and anyone who is a good hiker can enjoy the trip comfortably. While we use vehicles, there are times when we need to hike, to see the best sightings. From Swaroski scopes to walkie-talkies, Diamox to oxygen cylinders, our team is well prepared.
Winters are rough in Ladakh. There are no fresh vegetables, so we send supplies from Delhi. But we ensure that we leave almost no ecological footprint behind.
Despite freezing temperatures and harsh terrain, our team whips up freshly brewed coffee and tea, sizzling omelettes, and mouthwatering kebabs to keep you well-fed.
Sing along with our Ladakhi chef at dinner, and huddle around a warm stove as you visit with a local family, and chat with them, while they prepare a meal. Our lodge is a community-driven, sustainable tourism initiative, and has comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and a cozy common dining area.
Our expedition benefits the entire village. Initially, the snow leopards were perceived as a menace to their cattle, and a threat. Today, the story has been turned around on its head.
We work closely with organizations such as the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust and 1700 ft. as an active partner to fund community development and conservation efforts, in order to protect the species. The locals not only benefit from tourism during the tough winters, but also raise their children to save the Snow Leopard from extinction, and preserve its habitat.
Despite valiant efforts and a holistic approach to conservation, snow leopards still get hunted by poachers for their fur but in India, its more problems with human animal conflict.
Today, there are less than a hundred of these gorgeous creatures left in Ladakh. Tracking the Snow Leopard is an epic experience, even by the most experienced safari standards, and we make an enormous effort to keep it that way. If you’re up for the adventure, this is a wildlife lover’s dream, — for us, each Snow Leopard expedition is a once in a lifetime experience, unlike any other.