With only 4,000-6,500 individuals in 12 countries, Snow Leopards are among the world's most endangered big cats. However, Snow Leopard tourism can help raise funds for conservation and support local communities where they are a popular draw for visitors.
In 2022 and 2023, I joined Banjara Experiences’ Snow Leopard Expeditions led by tour guide Ismail Shariff, who is popularly known as the Snow Leopard Man of India. In February 2022, our group was extremely fortunate as we not only spotted Snow Leopards but also witnessed a mating pair which is truly a rare sight! This inspired me to plan and attend a second expedition with Banjara the following year.
This year's Snow Leopard expedition was even more memorable as I spotted the same mating female Snow Leopard, sitting with her two cubs, and a male Snow Leopard, who locals believe is the cubs' father. We were also able to witness a rare but thrilling moment of the mother and cubs on an Ibex kill!
The wild Himalayan mountains of Himachal Pradesh are home to various species such as Ibex, Blue Sheep, Red Fox, Bearded Vulture, Golden Eagles, and more. This diverse ecosystem allows for peaceful coexistence between humans and animals.
The Snow Leopard expedition is not for the faint-hearted and requires mental and physical endurance. The extreme altitude (~14500 ft) and temperatures that drop to -30°C make it necessary to prepare well in advance.
I was very impressed by how the local villages of Chicham and Kibber promote tourism and protect Snow Leopards by monitoring their movements. Overall, my experience on this expedition was truly amazing, and the views were absolutely breathtaking. I’m definitely planning to return for another expedition with Banjara and mentor Ismail in 2024!
This excerpt is written by passionate wildlife explorer and Banjara traveller, Lionel Falcao.