The Uncia Odyssey
In the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, high in the Himalayas, sits the cold desert valley of Spiti. A seemingly barren land that is home to the mysterious and elusive snow leopard among other species of fauna.
A land of winding roads, breathtaking valleys and snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see – Spiti is truly a magnificent sight for our city-sore eyes. Top that off with the recent spike in snow leopard sightings in the area, and it is now a land that is a must-visit for any wildlife and travel enthusiast alike. For beholding the sight of an animal shrouded in such mystery, in a land so beautiful, is sure to be a legendary experience.
- 10-night/11-day exclusive experience in the snowy valleys of Spiti
- A soul-enriching adventure in search of the snow leopard and other mammals and birds
- Stunning wildlife photography opportunities in breathtaking landscapes
- Evocative images of Spiti’s natural beauty, including its peaks and valleys
- A wealth of photography and natural-history learning under the tutelage of photography virtuoso, Jayanth Sharma
Commonly dubbed ‘The Middle Land’ Spiti is the strip of land that separates India from Tibet. Located in Himachal Pradesh and bordered on all sides by the snow-crowned Himalayas, Spiti Valley is situated at an altitude of 12,500 feet above sea level and is one of the coldest regions of the country.
The breathtaking village of Kibber, where we will spend a majority of our days, is situated in Spiti Valley amongst a cold desert surrounded by picturesque mountains and barren landscape. Reputed to be the highest motorable village in the world, Kibber’s landscape is not dissimilar to that of Ladakh or Tibet.
The snow leopards have undoubtedly found a safe haven in these regions as the sightings of these elusive cats are steadily on the rise. In the scantily populated region of Spiti, the residents have not only found a way of coexisting peacefully with these cats but also protect them while earning their livelihoods by being excellent guides to wildlife enthusiasts who visit the area keen on having their Grey Ghost dream fulfilled.
For millennia, the magnificent snow leopards have been kings of the mountains. Their ideal habitat being over 3000 meters above sea level, the mountains are rich with their prey such as blue sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas and hares. Dubbed the Grey Ghost for their elusive and mysterious quality, the very pursuit of this cat is an exhilarating one, to say the least.
With their powerful builds and long tails which aid in balance, snow leopards are simply the most graceful beings to ever walk the earth. Whether we catch a glimpse of the snow leopard sleeping, eating or just being, photographing its many dispositions is nothing short of making art.
The high elevation of the Himalayas is also home to the Asiatic ibex whose primary predator happens to be the snow leopard. With its majestic horns, it is truly the most photogenic mountain goat. The Himalayan blue sheep also known as the bharal, flaunts its own curved horns making it royalty in its own right, it is an animal that will tease your keen photographer’s eye with its magnificent camouflaging skills.
Watch out for the adorable yet feisty red fox, with its fluffy seemingly well-groomed mane as it stands out starkly against the white snow – making it a truly wonderful being to capture. The Himalayan wolf is an exotic endemic species of wolf you want to keep an eye out for and photograph while in Spiti valley.
The cold valley of Spiti is also known to house animals such as the lynx, pika or mountain weasel, Tibetan wild ass, Tibetan woolly hare. Also, keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready to capture the exotic avian life in these parts like rock buntings, European goldfinches, common rose finches, red-fronted serins, long-tailed shrikes and more!
23 February 2020, Sunday
On this day, we arrive in Chandigarh, head to our hotel and relax. Overnight in Chandigarh.
24 February 2020, Monday
Today, we depart early from Chandigarh on a 9 hour drive to Recong Peo. We spend the night at a guesthouse in Recong Peo which is a small town on the banks of the Sutlej river.
25 February, Tuesday
On this day, we continue on our drive deeper into the mountains through Kinnaur and onward to Spiti. It is a long day of which we spend most of it on the road. We reach Tabo by evening. Tabo is known to be the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in India as well as the Himalayas. We spend the night at a guesthouse in Tabo.
26 February, Wednesday
In the morning, we visit Tabo monastery. Built in 996 AD, it is home to priceless artefacts and spectacular murals. We embark on another short drive to Kibber village which is the base for our next few days and is a hotspot for snow leopard sightings among sightings of other fauna. We spend the night in a homestay.
27 February to 3 March, Thursday to Tuesday
We spend these days in search of snow leopards and other wildlife endemic to this region. We head out everyday post a hearty breakfast to areas scouted by our spotters to increase the chances of viewing the elusive cat. We spend the evenings in the warmth of our cosy homestay in Kibber.
4 March, Wednesday
On this morning, we embark our long drive back to Recong Peo. On reaching Recong Peo, we spend the night at a guesthouse there.
5 March, Thursday
We drive from Recong Peo to Chandigarh and our Tour comes to a close at Chandigarh Airport or your respective hotels not included in the Tour cost.
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Accommodation on twin-sharing basis according to the itinerary
- First night stay in Chandigarh
- All meals detailed in the itinerary
- Packaged drinking water
- Staff insurance
- All transport
- Services of a Toehold Skipper as well as spotters
What’s Not Included?
- All airfare
- Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals, alcoholic drinks and beverages ordered
- Guest insurance, laundry and phone calls
- Tips or gratuities
- Hotel in Chandigarh after completion of Tour (if any)
- Meals en-route when driving from Chandigarh to Recong Peo and Tabo
- Cost involved in changing of itinerary due to natural calamity or unfavourable weather conditions, medical emergency, political unrest or any other unintentional and unforeseen situation
- Anything that is not included in the Inclusions list
- 50% of the Tour fee as booking amount
- Remaining of the Tour fee before 1 October 2019
- 10% of the Tour fee on or before 1 October 2019
- 50% of the Tour fee between 2 October 2019 and 31 December 2019
- 100% of the Tour fee on or after 1 January 2020
Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.
While Toehold Photo Travel is one of our most popular offerings, we work as a travel agency without bringing the photography guide element in to your travel. In short you would be using our travel experts service to just plan the vacation and execute it.
- Unlike a Photo Travel experience, your Vacation is completely personalised.
- The dates, style of travel, class of hotels and lodges, destinations, everything is tailor-made to suit your custom requirement.
- A Skipper or a photography guide doesn’t travel with you to guide you unless you decide to take our customised and guided photo travel experience.
So take advantage of the immense experience and field knowledge that we bring in to your Vacation’s planning without having to pay for our time and costs. Plus, we don’t charge an additional fee for our time and travel planning services.
Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody interested in wildlife and/or photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold’s eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we suggest you be familiar with at least the basics. If you aren’t, we recommend you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop first.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
Considering the nature of the subjects and shooting conditions expected on this Tour, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is considered necessary, with longer focal lengths being welcome. A beanbag is strongly recommended to shoot both from inside the vehicle as well as outside.
How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
How many participants will share each vehicle on safaris on this Tour?
Our Photo Tours are designed to provide you sufficient space for comfortable photography without being excessively taxing on your pocket, so you can expect a maximum of three other people, apart from the driver, in your vehicle.
I do not have the requisite equipment. What should I do?
If you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Visit our Rental Store to see what we offer. What’s better, you enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours!