Turtle, Ecuador


Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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1 Review

  • 6 Snow Leopards, two Oracles and a Woolly Rabbit!

    Ladakh is a beautiful region of Northern India. Add to that the friendly welcome and the variety of wildlife and culture and you have a destination that it would be hard to find fault with. This was my second visit and this time I was there to see Snow Leopards. Except, of course, they're so rare that the chances of spotting just one would be very low. And indeed spotting just one was impossible - I saw a total of 6 during the 10 days I was there, including relatively close sighting of a mating pair on our first day in the mountains, a mother and her two cubs and a solitary Snow Leopard rolling in the dust to hide its scent before hunting. Our group as a whole saw 12. This amazing tally was due largely to the experience, skill and dedication of the spotting team and our leader, Valerie, who between them took us to the right places at the right time and found the well camouflaged big cats where we may have only seen a buff coloured rock. And let's not forget the Blue Sheep, Lammageier Vultures, Bearded Griffon, Golden Eagles, Woolly Rabbits, Uriel Goats and Alpine Chough. This is a challenging trip - cold, altitude and remoteness all add to the adventure although its well within the abilities of anyone with the right kits and who has trudged the hills in the UK. But it's worth it for the experience of the incredible Himalayan landscapes, the unique culture and the amazing flora and fauna. If you have the chance, book the trip that coincides with the Stok Festival, a colourful and spectacular celebration of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of music and dance culminating in the appearance of the village oracles.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational 'stand out' moments for me. These are a few of my personal ones. Watching the mating behaviour of a pair of Snow Leopards; the Oracles in a trance at Stok; having a local ask me if he could take a photo of me and his little daughter; the 'Street Kids' walking tour of Old Delhi. I loved standing outside the tent at 6.30am, watching the mountains light up while drinking a cup of steaming hot black tea. The rush up to the viewing platform when one of the spotters shouted 'Snow Leopard'. One of our crew demonstrating the correct way to slide down a frozen river on a flat stone.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This is my second trek with Valerie and she proved to be every bit the excellent leader on this trip as she did on the previous one. Knowledgeable, understanding of individual and group needs, Valerie's decades of experience in the region enabled her to be flexible with arrangements and cope with the changes forced on us by the Covid-19 outbreak at the end of our trip. Evenings were spent listening to her tell us about the region, the wildlife and the people. The crew she had picked were excellent and dedicated to the roles they played. They were clearly very loyal to Valerie.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In general, come prepared for cold weather. The nature of this particular trip means you will be standing around searching for wildlife or viewing and taking photographs so the heat normally generated trekking will quickly go. I found I was wearing a thick down jacket most of the time simply because although the sun can be warm, there is usually a cold breeze in the valleys and much of the time is spent stationary. If you're out all day, as soon as the sun disappears below the mountains the temperature drops very quickly. I wore thick winter socks for the same reason. The terrain underfoot was, in general, no harder than UK hills and a 3 season boot would probably suffice. We didn't need crampons but 'yaktrax' or similar might be useful as we had to cross a couple of frozen rivers. The Exodus kit list is a good starting point; vary it according to your own preference for cold weather. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag as this is your refuge and a good night's sleep is important. You don't need lots of changes of clothing because you don't end up sweating a lot and everyone is in the same situation. Exodus provide top quality spotting scopes (Swarovski) but you might want to bring your own, which can help with spotting and will enable you to digiscope. The nature of our encounters with Snow Leopards meant that big lenses were necessary because of distance and digiscoping would be ideal in these circumstances. Some great photos were taken with scope and mobile phone. Our encounters lasted a while, so a tripod (or at least a monopod) would makes things easier on the arms. But don't forget camera kit to cope with the amazing landscapes, villages and festivals too. Be aware that there is close scrutiny on the internal flights - all our camera kit had to come out of the back packs and was checked by the security people at Dehli before boarding the internal flight.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Approach this trip with realistic expectations and you won't be disappointed.