In the high mountains of the Himalayan realm rules a mysterious cat. Stealthy. Powerful. Legendary. And Endangered. It is the grey ghost – The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)!
Darter Photography takes you on an adventure to the hidden jewel in the Himalayas – Spiti – in the winter of 2018. Temperatures plummet way below freezing and a white blanket of snow covers most parts of this primeval landscape. The herbivores descend from the highest reaches of the mountains in search of food and water. And, following its prey, so does the Snow Leopard.
Join us on this exclusive expedition through some of the most breathtaking landscapes while travelling in one of the harshest terrains of the world. Photograph the diverse wildlife that survives in this extreme habitat. And possibly lose yourself in the hypnotic stare of the grey ghost of the mountains – the Snow Leopard!
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Darter’s Wildlife Unexplored photography tours are designed to photograph rare wildlife and push the boundaries of wildlife exploration in remote regions.
March 03 – 17, 2018
Max. Participants – 6
Dates & Itinerary
Tour Dates: March 03-17, 2018
Day 01 – (Saturday) Arrive in Shimla. Tour orientation and photography sessions.
Day 02 – (Sunday) Drive from Shimla to Kalpa. Overnight in Kalpa.
Day 03 – (Monday) Drive from Kalpa to Mane. Overnight in Mane.
Day 04 – (Tuesday) Drive from Tabo to Kibber. Overnight in Kibber.
Day 05 – (Wednesday) Rest day in Kibber for acclimatization. Overnight in Kibber.
Day 06 (Thursday) to Day 12 (Tuesday) Explore around Spiti Valley for Snow Leopard and other wildlife. Plan would vary based on sighting records at the time of the tour.
Day 12 (Wednesday) to Day 14 (Friday) Drive from Kibber to Shimla, with overnight stops at Kaza/Mane and Kalpa.
Day 15 (Saturday) Travel onward from Shimla to Chandigarh/Delhi and back home
Scroll down to Detailed Itinerary for more details on each day of the tour.
- Travel to one of the most remote regions in India (possibly on the planet too) in winter
- Explore and photograph rare wildlife of the mountains in their snowy realm
- Possibly see and photograph one of the world’s most elusive cats – the endangered Snow Leopard
- Drive through and photograph some of the most amazing landscapes filled with snow in the high regions of trans-Himalayas
- Sessions and discussions on wildlife photography and wildlife in the high mountains
- Constant interaction and assistance on field by photography experts in wildlife and landscape photography
- Get your photographs reviewed by your photography mentors regularly through the tour
Frequently Asked Questions
This tour is for wildlife photographers and wildlife enthusiasts who want to explore the high altitude realm of Spiti Valley in winter for rare wildlife. Note that the participants are not required to be experts in photography or carry professional equipment. Due to the small group size, beginners as well as serious photographers benefit through our personalized attention to photography sessions and on field assistance. Non photographers interested in exploring wildlife of Winter Spiti are welcome too.
How do we tackle the extreme cold weather?
During this tour, we may encounter temperatures as low as -25C or even lower. The only way to manage such low temperatures is to be very well equipped. We will send you a list of must-have equipment that will help you face the cold weather. When you are well-equipped, you should be able to fight the cold weather well after your body gets acclimatized in a day or two. There would still be some discomfort but nothing that would prevent you from actively enjoying the tour.
However, this tour is not recommended for those who are very sensitive to cold weather. Also, a reasonable degree of fitness (equivalent of being able to walk a few kilometers in normal conditions) is desirable for this long tour.
I am not a keen photographer. But I want to visit Spiti with your group. Can I still join?
Yes. If you are interested to explore the pristine Himalayan landscapes and view rare alpine wildlife, you are welcome to join this tour. Please note that we do not offer a separate non-photographer pricing.
Can I bring my non-photographer partner with me?
Yes, you can. We visit one of the most pristine landscapes in the country and actively look for rare wildlife. Your partner will enjoy the journey with the group. Please note that we do not offer a separate non-photographer pricing.
Is there a lot of walking/trekking involved?
To track the Snow Leopard, moderate walking (2-3 hours) may be required to reach places where wildlife sightings are reported. Basic fitness is required as we’ll be at an altitude of over 14,000 feet. We believe that most people in good health should not have any problems with most of the activities through the tour. Please speak to us if you have any doubts.
What photography equipment is needed for the tour? Can we hire porters for carrying the equipment?
On this tour, we’ll primarily focus on photographing wildlife of Spiti. For this, telephoto lenses are recommended to photograph wildlife at a distance. We’ll also be photographing landscapes and culture when the opportunities present themselves. Please talk to us to decide on the photography equipment that you need to carry for the tour.
If you need help in carrying your equipment during the tour, we can engage porters locally at an additional cost. Please write to us for details.
Also refer to our tours faq for more information.
Tour Price: Rs.1,46,250/- per person (inclusive of all applicable taxes)
The tour price includes
- Accommodation on twin sharing basis at hotels in Shimla and Kalpa. Basic homestays/camps elsewhere
- Ground transportation during the tour
- All meals (basic vegetarian food) during the tour, except on Day 1 and Day 15
- All permits and fees
- Photography sessions, expert advice and assistance and image reviews during the tour
- All applicable taxes
The tour price does not include
- Travel to Shimla from your location and return travel from Shimla to your location
- Additional food/snacks, bottled water or other beverages ordered
- Anything else that is not part of the includes list above
- In addition to the above, please budget for expenses towards procuring cold weather gear that is required for travelling to Spiti in winter. We will help you with the list of warm clothing that you need to carry for this tour.
- The itinerary mentioned in this page is subject to favourable weather and road conditions. In case of bad weather and inaccessibility to a destination, we will do our best to make alternate plans. The tour price or any part of it will not be refunded in the event of unfavourable conditions anytime during the tour days.
- Wildlife sightings depend on various factors, including weather, availability of food and the animal showing up in our vicinity (in the vast mountain landscapes).
- No refunds will be made if a participant is unable to complete the tour owing to medical conditions or any other reasons, after starting the tour.
- All participants would have to sign a Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk & Arbitration Agreement before joining the tour.
Wildlife Photography Mentor – Shreeram M V
Shreeram M V is a professional outdoor photographer, specializing in travel and wildlife photography. He is the co-founder of Darter Photography that specializes in providing photography services such as workshops and outdoor photography tours. He lives in Bangalore, India.
What started off as a fascination for birds in a lake behind his house turned into a journey to different parts of India. For this IIM Bangalore graduate, the passion for travel and wildlife enabled him to charter his own course outside the corporate world. He has explored places as diverse as the rainforests of the Western Ghats, the salt marshes of Kutch, the grasslands of Tal Chapar, the deciduous forests of South and Central India, the high-altitude plateau of Ladakh, the coasts of peninsular India, the forests of North-east India and the islands of Andaman.
Shreeram has spent a lot of time in the high Himalayas, photographing the magic of the vast landscapes and the unique wildlife that is seen here. See some of his work at Visual Quotient
Landscape Photography Mentor – Manish Lakhani
Few people can boast of having travelled the high Himalayas like Manish has. For more than a decade, he has wandered these mountains on foot, on bicycles and on two and four wheels exploring the corners of the mountains and often making his own path. With this experience, he can also boast of a vast collection of magnificent images of these mountain ranges that can be a cause of everyone’s envy.
Manish was born with a love for mountains, which has carried him back to Spiti, Ladakh and other highlands many times over. He has captained some incredible expeditions in the high mountain regions, including the venerated Chadar Trek, which he has led nearly half-a-dozen times during the winter months in Ladakh. Besides being an experienced photographer, he is also a keen cyclist and a mountain enthusiast.
More of his work can be seen at withmanish.com
Day 01. Arrival in Shimla. Photography Sessions and Rest.
Arrive in Shimla, either by road from Delhi/Chandigarh or by flight from Delhi (please check flight schedules in winter). Check in to the hotel and relax during the day, getting used to the colder climate of the mountains.
We’ll have an orientation session about the tour followed by sessions on wildlife photography and landscape photography. Overnight in Shimla.
Day 02. Drive from Shimla to Kalpa
This morning, we set off on our long journey to the land of the Snow Leopard. On this 220km journey, we’ll drive through some beautiful alpine forests. As we arrive in Kalpa after a day-long drive, we might be greeted by some spectacular views of the Kinner Kailash range (if the weather is clear that evening). Overnight at a hotel/guest house in Kalpa.
Day 03. Drive from Kalpa to Mane
Today is another day-long journey, as we drive 150km to our next stop. En route, we’ll stop at Nako village to take in breathtaking views of the frozen lake here. When the lake freezes over in winter, locals use it as an ice-skating rink! Overnight at a homestay in Mane.
Day 04. Mane to Kibber
Today’s journey to our base camp – Kibber – is one of rapid ascent. As we drive through the Spiti Valley, we’ll see the semi-frozen Spiti river on one side. We’ll pass the famous Key Monastery – one of the largest in Spiti – along the way. Set on a cliff, the views of the landscape are breathtaking here.
Kibber and nearby villages will be our base camp for the Snow Leopard expedition. At Kibber, we’ll stay at a home stay with the local residents. Take complete rest for the remainder of the day to acclimatize to altitudes of around 14000 feet. Overnight in Kibber.
Day 05. Rest and Acclimatization at Kibber
Today, we rest out the whole day following the long journey over the past 3 days. It would also help us acclimatize well to the high altitudes. Chat with your host and take photographs of their winter customs. Your photography mentors will also review the photographs that you’ve taken over the past 3 days.
Day 06 to 11. Exploration for the elusive Snow Leopard
Finally, the day arrives when we actively start seeking out the Grey Ghost in its snowy kingdom. With the help of local experts and reports from nearby villages, we’ll explore the area around Kibber on these 6 days. There is no fixed itinerary for these days as we’ll shift base around Kibber based upon the information available at that point of time.
We might come across many other animals along the way, including Blue Sheep, Red Fox, Snowcocks, Golden Eagles, Lammergeiers and, may be, even a Wolf! Keep your eyes open for any signs of life in the seemingly deserted snow-scapes. At night, we’ll stay in home stays at Kibber or nearby villages like Langza or Tashigang.
Day 12 to 14. Drive from Kibber to Shimla, via Kaza/Mane and Kalpa
After a week in the amazingly beautiful Spiti Valley, it is time to bid goodbye and start our long journey back to Shimla. We’ll retrace the journey that we’d done a few days ago, with an overnight stop at Kaza/Mane and Kalpa. We arrive in Shimla on the evening of Day 14, hopefully with our memory cards brimming with photographs.
Day 15. Tour ends.
Nostalgia sets in as it’s time to head back home. After breakfast, we say our goodbyes to travel to Chandigarh/Delhi and further onward.
Previous Tour Reports
Contact us at the email/numbers below to book the tour. Trail of the Grey Ghost- Wildlife Photography Tour of Spiti in Winter will have a maximum of 6 participants. We recommend booking early, which also helps you get cheaper flight tickets.
Tel: +91-97400 83260 (Shreeram) / +91-98800 06460 (Arun)
Alternately, fill in the following form to get in touch with us regarding the tour.