Have you ever wanted your out-of-office reply for 13 days to read, “I’m sorry, I am currently out tracking snow leopards in India and have no connectivity — I will get back to you as soon as I return”?
A new Snow Leopard Expedition from luxury safari company &Beyond allows travelers to track the ultra-rare snow leopard in the Indian Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, one of the big cat's natural habitats.
We first told you about &Beyond when we went on safari with them in South Africa. The experience was great, but just as important were the company’s conservation efforts and the fact that they give back to their communities. In this case, the small communities in and around Ladakh are the scene for an immersive experience about the endangered snow leopard, as well as the locals who cohabitate with it.
Snow Leopards! (6 images)
There are approximately 5,000-8,000 snow leopards left in the wild, and mining, hunting and habitat disturbance make the species particularly vulnerable. One of the activities on this trip involves meeting with the Snow Leopard Conservancy to learn about local efforts to preserve the spectacular cat, which is bookended by extraordinarily scenic drives to scout them. The first of three expeditions begins in April and lasts 13 days. The $5,726 price tag covers your airfare, lodging and meals. You will be with a small group and have a well-organized itinerary. You’ll also see a ton of other critters, like golden eagles, Tibetan hares and blue sheep, as well get a good dose of the region’s local culture.
It’s a good deal better than animal tourism that center on trained animals, which has been widely criticized for being exploitative — from elephant riding to photo ops with sedated beasts to Sea World and the circus. The popularity of such attractions is understandable: We get a rush from seeing and interacting with unfamiliar creatures. It taps into something animal in our own nature. I say this as someone who wields her love of animals like a cudgel.
But you do not need to touch or even interact with wild animals to experience that awe: you can just look at them, in their wild habitat, and admire them. Observe them. Learn about them.
And if you'd like to do those things with a snow leopard, this is probably your best shot.