Day 1: The tour starts this morning at Ulaanbaatar International Airport, where we will take a domestic flight to a small city near the Altai Mountains. From there we will travel for three hours overland to where our Ger base camp is located. With the mountains to the west and a vast lake surrounded by semi-desert steppe to the east, our base is operated by a local wildlife conservation society.
Days 2-7: During the next six days we will be focused in finding our target mammal, the incredible and near-mythical Snow Leopard, also known as the grey ghost! Professional trackers and local guides will help us search for this elusive cat amidst some magnificent scenery in the Altai Mountains. Our chances of seeing it are excellent, with the major draw of being at a lower altitude with warmer temperatures than at other classic Snow Leopard sites in the Himalaya. Average temperatures in September range from 1°C at night to 14°C at midday, and we will be below the elevations where altitude-sickness can become a problem. Most of the viewing points can be reached by driving our 4WDs and then taking short walks of a couple kilometres over mostly easy, flat terrain. However, on occasion it may be necessary to take a medium-length walk for a few hours that will demand a basic fitness and the ability to walk on rocky, uneven or steep terrain. Apart from the leopard, other mammals we might well see include Wolf, Altai Argali, Siberian Ibex, Pallas’s Pika and Tarbagan Marmot.
There will of course be plenty of opportunities for birding too, with Altai Snowcock, Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Hill Pigeon, Pere David’s Snowfinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Pied Wheatear and many siberian migrants all on offer. If we succeed with the leopards quickly, we can make an optional visit to an area where Mongolian Ground-Jay and Pallas’s Sandgrouse occur.
Day 8:Today we will fly to Ulaanbaatar for an overnight stay, but on the way we should have time to stop at Khar Us Lake which is an excellent place to see the threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Swan Goose, White-headed Duck and Pallas’s Reed Bunting.
Day 9: A transit day, driving east to our Pallas’s Cat (Manul) Camp. The first 500km is along a paved road, followed by 70km on a dirt track. We will spend the next four nights here.
Days 10-12: Our Pallas’s Cat trackers will help us search for this unique feline, and as with the Snow Leopard, we have really high chances of seeing it. Birding in the surroundings of the camp can be extremely rewarding, with many migrant passerines such as warblers, thrushes, buntings, pipits and flycatchers keeping us busy. Saker Falcon and Steppe Eagle are also quite common in the area, plus mammals like Corsac Fox, Mongolian Gazelle and Siberian Jerboa are also likely to be seen.
Day 13: Today we will drive back to Ulaanbaatar, where we will stay overnight. If we have time, we will stop at Gun Galuut Lakes, where we can expect to see large numbers of waterbirds and shorebirds.
Day 14: International departures from Ulaanbaatar International Airport in the morning.
Cost: $ 7,000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 400
Accommodation: We will be using eco-friendly and comfortable Ger camps. Each Ger has three beds, blankets and a hand washing sink. Both the toilet and the shower are outside in another tent. We will have two generators and each Ger has an electric plug. There will be separate kitchen and dinning Gers. We will have mobile reception and even WiFi!
Walking difficulty: Most of the viewing points can be reached by driving our 4WD vehicles, followed by a short walk of one or two kilometers over mostly easy, flat terrain, at a rather low altitude, unlike on other Snow Leopard tours elsewhere. However, on occasions it might be necessary to take a medium-length walk that will demand a basic fitness and the ability to walk on rocky, uneven or steep terrain for a few hours.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights, overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.