Although “once in a lifetime” has become the travel cliché of the generation, a new Colorado-based exploration seems to actually fit the bill. Colorado-based Natural Habitat Adventures, voted “world’s best outfitter,” offers the first and only trip “In Search of the Snow Leopard” in Western Mongolia this summer. August 18-31, 2013.
Together with their partners at World Wildlife Fund, ultimate expeditioner, Olaf Malver, will lead a small intrepid group in quest of one of the most beautiful, elusive, and endangered cats on earth- the silver white snow leopard. This trip is rugged.
Fly from Ulaanbaatar westward into Ulaangom, the capital of Uvs Aimag, in the Altai Mountains of the Central Asian steppe. Accompanied by WWF partners, researchers and local conservationists, the group will trek into the high glacial valley of Yamaat to “hunt” the snow leopards. This region is also home to the Siberian ibex, a large wild goat which also happens to be the snow leopard’s meal of choice.
The landscape is filled with expansive reed beds and marshes which support a multitude of birds and other wildlife in Mongolia’s Great Lakes Basin, a designated WWF Ecoregion. These plains are also home to the Mongolian saiga, a migratory antelope, as well as to the hardy nomads who tend their grazing horses, Bactrian two-hump camels, and cashmere goats.
Snow leopards, aside, the expedition leader is himself a bit of a marvel adventurer and eco-activist, Malver has been trekking the world’s most dangerous terrains for more than 25 years and in at least 80 countries – just the type of guy you’d feel good about following into one of the most remote areas on earth. Malver earned a PhD in Chemistry and a Master’s in International Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University, and not parenthetically, he speaks six languages.
Although the snow leopard numbers are relatively high in this area, actual sightings are not frequent. Most important though, Olaf says, “We may or may not see one, but being in its habitat, finding signs of its presence, and learning firsthand about the efforts of global conservation leaders and traditional nomads to save the legendary feline, is worth the endeavor…”
Rated “Extreme Adventure,” those who sign on must be able to hike 4 to 8 hours a day (with breaks) over high mountainous terrain. Much of the route is trail-less, and spectacular … and surely an epic experience.