Snow Leopard, Mongolia by Tumen Khumbaa

Provisional Tour Dates
TOUR 1: Saturday 1st – Friday 14th August 2020 (Ulaanbaatar to Ulaanbaatar) 
TOUR 2: Monday 17th – Sunday 30th August 2020 (Ulaanbaatar to Ulaanbaatar) 
Guide Price: £3,999pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Ulaanbaatar (via Moscow) approx. £800 return
Deposit: £500 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £300 – £400
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 5 people

Target Species
Mammals: Snow Leopard, Pallas’s Cat, Przewalski’s Horse, Wild Ass, Black-tailed Gazelle, Mongolian Gazelle, Siberian Ibex, Corsac Fox, Siberian Marmot, Steppe Polecat, Marbled Polecat, Long-eared Hedgehog, Great Gerbil, Midday Gerbil, Mongolian Gerbil, Daurian Pika, Pallas’s Pika, Desert Hamster and many more!
Birds: Demoiselle Crane, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Mongolian Lark, Mongolian Accentor, Brown Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch, Mongolian Ground Jay

Tour Summary
This exciting tour is very much an adventure as we visit the vast open wilderness of Mongolia in search of its fabulous wildlife. We will be visiting some of the more easily accessible areas within this great country. Most journeys will be done on tarmac roads with limited dirt road travel and as with most tours to Mongolia, accommodation will involve a large amount of camping and some walking in mountainous areas. Therefore this tour is for the more adventurous traveller with a good level of fitness and prepared to accept more basic accommodation and facilities but the wildlife experiences and scenery should be simply spectacular! The beauty of this tour is that unlike other Snow Leopard focused tours in other parts of the world, the temperatures in Mongolia should be more comfortable!

Our time will be focused very much on trying to see Snow Leopard as well as other key mammals such as Pallas’s Cat. This means much of our time will be spent in one area scanning mountains for many hours in the early morning and late evening. Though not the best time for a birding itinerary, we will still make an effort to look for key species outside of the key mammal focused times and we should see a good selection of the specialities. The later tours should also produce a number of interesting migrant birds. We will have a team of drivers, a cook, interpreters & assistants in a convey of Toyota Land Cruisers so everyone will have a window seat.

Accommodation: 13 nights in Mongolia with a mix of hotels, Ger Tents & smaller tents
Between 8 – 11 nights in Gers / small tents and 2 – 5 in hotels all dependent on our success with seeing Snow Leopard
Inclusive Meals: Full board

DAY 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (UB)
After arriving into Ulaanbaatar in the early morning we will then head south to Dalanzadgad. We will travel the 590Km by road making birding stops en route. Birds we hope to find en route include Demoiselle Crane, Mongolian Lark, Pallas’s Sandgrouse and both Himalayan Griffon and Black Vultures. Overnight Dalanzadgad Hotel

Pallas’s Cat, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 2: Mountains west of Dalanzadgad
Today we will travel by dirt road to reach our Ger Camp. En route we will look for mammals and birds. Our camp will be ready for us and will be our base for the next 7 nights to focus on searching for Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat. Species we are likely to see today include Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon as well as numerous Isabelline Wheatears and White-winged Snowfinch. Common mammals we will hope to find include Siberian Ibex and possibly Corsac Fox before we spend the first afternoon focusing our attention to the Snow Leopard! Overnight in Ger tents with camp shower, toilet & food catering tent

DAYS 3 – 8: Ger Camp at around 2,300M
During the next few days our time will focus on Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat with much of our time spent scanning from viewpoints. Our plans will very much depend upon the latest information from our trail cameras and speaking with local herders. Generally, we will focus on cats from early in the morning until mid morning and late afternoon to early evening. We may drive short distances to vary our viewpoint at times and use small tents overnight before returning to base camp later the next day. We will also spend time looking for key birds in the day and other mammals at night. If time allows we will make a visit to the Khongor Sand Dunes for species such as Saxaul Sparrow and Asian Desert Warbler.

Marbled Polecat, Mongolia by Chris Townend

During 2017/18 Snow Leopards were coming to drink at our exclusive site almost every day, but of course each year is different depending on the amount of rainfall available. During July 2018 Mongolia experienced exceptional and unseasonal rainfall! However, at this time of year, it should be very dry and therefore increase our chance of connecting with this amazing cat. The area will be monitored by trail cameras and local nomad herders will share information with our local guide and therefore give us the best chance of succeeding with our quest.

Our base camp will depend on recent news, but is most likely to be at around 2,300M close to areas that we can view Snow Leopard habitat. Temperatures during the night should be around 14 – 16C during the night and 20 – 25C during the day. The furthest trek required to one any viewpoint is an hour, but we may may not need to go this far this dependent on the latest information and what the trail cameras show.

Snow Leopards have been recorded at all times of day and night. On numerous occasions animals have been recorded during the first and last couple of hours of daylight and it is just a matter of perseverance until we hopefully succeed! Overnight in Ger tents with camping shower, toilet and food catering tent

** NOTE** This itinerary needs complete flexibility to maximise our chances of success. Therefore if we have still been unsuccessful by day 9, then days 10-12 will be re-scheduled to give us more time in Snow Leopard areas. Of course, nothing is guaranteed but we have an excellent chance with more time in the field.

Wild Ass, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 9: Yol Valley – Bulagtai Steppe
Dependent on our success with Snow Leopard we will visit the Yol Valley and Bulagtai Steppe area. Species today may include Wallcreeper, Mongolian Finch, Lammergeier and Himalayan Griffon Vulture. A search of the Steppe areas may reveal post breeding flocks of Greater Sand Plover and Oriental Plovers dependent on the time of year. We will check an area that is often productive for migrant birds and then visit a reliable site for Great Gerbil. Overnight Dalanzadgad Hotel 

DAY 10: Travel to Ulaanbaatar (if successful with SL)
Today is mostly a travel day as we head back north, though we will make a number of birding stops en route. Overnight Mongolica Hotel

Mongolia Camp by Chris Townend

DAY 11: Khustai National Park
Today we will set off to the west of UB and head for Khustai National Park. This day will take us to some very new habitats and we will see plenty of new wildlife. We will spend most of the day in the park where we hope to find species such as Daurian Partridge, Amur Falcon, Saker Falcon and Meadow Bunting. The park is also very good for mammals and we will look for Daurian Ground Squirrel, Corsac Fox and the famous re-introduced  Przewalski’s Horses. Though there is a healthy Wolf population in the park with fairly regular sightings, we still need some luck to have a sighting. Overnight Tourist Ger Camp Hustai NP

Przewalski’s Horses, Khustai National Park by Chris Townend

DAY 12: Lake Bayan – Ulaanbaatar
This morning we will head off after breakfast to Lake Bayan. This lake is a breeding area for White-naped Cranes and family groups should still be present. At this time of year many waders are on the move and amongst the commoner Long-toed Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers we may find small numbers of Asian Dowitchers. We will also be looking for Pallas’s Bunting, Swan Goose, Bar-headed Goose and migrants. We will return to UB during the late afternoon. Overnight Mongolica Hotel

Snow Leopard, Mongolia by Tumen Khumbaa

DAY 13: Gorkhi – Terelj NP
Today we head to the forested hills of Terelj where we will be in very different habitat compared to the previous days and as a result, we should find many new species. Dependent on the time of the trip we may find Taiga Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Thrush, Pine Bunting, Dusky Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat. Siberian Chipmunk is usually easy to find too. Overnight Mongolica Hotel

DAY 14: Transfer to Airport
We will take the 15 minute transfer to Ulaanbaatar airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader & local guide Tumen Khumbaa
Included in cost: Accommodation in a mix of hotels, tourist Ger Camps and tents, all meals, bottled water, ground transport and services of leaders.
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £100 – £200
Transport: Toyota Landcruisers throughout the tour
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
A reasonable level of finess is required, though walking will generally involve short walks there may be some longer walks on steeper scree tracks. Particularly when looking for Snow Leopards we could trek for up to an hour in mountainous terrain. Plans need to be flexible dependent on the most recent information on the animals movements.
Climate: Very mixed! Generally warm with typical daytime temperatures typically around 20 – 30 degrees Celsius and lows of around 10 degrees Celsius at night. Of course as with so many places in the world the weather is very unpredictable at this time of year and these should be taken as a general guide only!
Tour Start Point: Ulaanbaatar airport, Mongolia
Tour End Point: Ulaanbaatar airport, Mongolia
Suggested Airlines: Aeroflot

Khustai National Park by Chris Townend