How to plan for Kibber Snow Leopard Expedition
Ramshesha N, after contemplating for over five years, finally, could not resist his temptation to capture the Himalayan snow leopards through his lens. He has shared with us his experiences. Is there anything else that you would want to ask him?
Tell us a bit about yourself Ramshesha. How did you take to photography?
I am from Bangalore working with Resil Chemicals Pvt Ltd. I started doing photography about ten years back. However, I have always been interested in photography. I used to use the camera of my friends and relatives on trips. I did not even own a point and shoot back then. Then I graduated from a point and shoot to a SLR. It was a trip to Biligirirangana Hills reserve that really got me hooked onto wildlife photography.
Is this the first time you have been to a snow leopard tracking trip?
Yes this is my first time
How did you go about planning for the trip? How many months in advance did you book for it?
The trip was on my mind from the past five years when I read about the Red Bull Snow Leopard expedition and saw Dhrithiman Mukarjee’s snow leopard photograph. Ever since, it has been a dream to photograph snow leopards. I booked the trip five months in advance.
Could you help us a bit with the budget that one should keep in mind while going on a snow leopard trip?
With basic package and renting gear, you would have to keep aside roughly about INR 1.5-1.7 lakhs (USD 2500).
Where all can one see snow leopards? How does one select the location?
You can see snow leopards in the upper reaches of the Himalayas as well as trans-Himalayan range. In India, I had to decide between Uley (Jammu and Kashmir) and Kibber (Himachal Pradesh). I choose Kibber based on its popularity among people who go for snow leopard expeditions.
What is the best season?
Winter is the best time as the leopards are seen at lower altitudes in search of food and prey. Kibber is at an altitude of 14900 feet.
Any special photography equipment that one needs for this trip?
The sightings are not very close and range from 150 meters to 300 meters or may be more. Hence you would need a lens of above 500mm prime with a 1.4 converter and a full frame weather sealed body. You would also need a good tripod, a gimbal head, a weather-sealed bag. I also suggest carrying secondary body and lens to be on the safer side.
Do we need to take special care about our clothing and other accessories?
Yes most important to be protected from extreme cold. The temperature dips to -20 °C to -25 °C during peak season. You would need to pack a good pair of water-proof shoes, atleast two layers of weather-proof jackets (protection from cold and snow fall), thermals, a fleece jacket, UV protected glasses, dual-layered gloves, gaiters, woollen socks and probably a balaclava. Also keep your first air kit and a medicine for high altitude acclimatisation after consulting your doctor
What all did your bag to the snow leopard trip have?
- Clothes & accessories to withstand -20 °C cold
- Extra batteries
- Gopro with accessories
- Medical kit including medicines for high altitude sickness
- Head torch
- Emergency contact details
- Sun screen
- Cold cream
- Coconut oil
- External drive
- Pen drive
- Power strip for additional power points to charge
- Two camera bodies
- Two lenses
- Additional memory cards
- A small notepad and a pen
Who organised the trip and who were your travel partners?
Sanjeet Mangat organised the trip for us. Prakash Ramakrishnan, Raghuram Kosalram, Rajnish Ganesh, Santosh kumar, Chaitanya Ramesh, Rantel Pereira, Shiva Shankar, Sunil and I were a part of the group.