Snow Leopard, Mongolia by Ganaa

Tour Dates: Sunday 11th – Wednesday 21st February 2024 (Ulaanbaatar to Ulaanbaatar)
Tour Price: £4,650pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Ulaanbaatar (via Frankfurt) approx. £800 Rtn
Deposit: £700 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £100 – £200
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Mammals: Snow Leopard, Pallas’s Cat, Wolf, Corsac Fox, Siberian Ibex, Argali, Mongolian Gazelle, Black-tailed Gazelle and Przewalski’s Horse.
Birds: Bearded Vulture, Upland Buzzard, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Mongolian Lark, Daurian Partridge, Wallcreeper, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Pere David’s Snowfinch, Mongolian Finch, Kozlov’s Accentor and more!

Tour Summary
Mongolia in winter focused on looking for Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat and other wildlife.
We are very excited to be able to offer this tour again, after our highly successful first tour in January 2023 as shown in this video below.

Our previous tours to Mongolia have always visited in late Summer for a good selection of bird and mammal species. However, more recently our local guides have discovered an exciting new Snow Leopard area frequented during the winter months. At this time of year the chances of finding Snow Leopard becomes higher due to their tracks being more visible and it is also the mating season when the cats are more visible. Seeing these beautiful cats in the snow becomes a whole new experience!! Despite being winter, there is still a good selection of other wildlife that we can see including a number of quality resident birds and other mammals.

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 will be simply spectacular! Having said that, the Gers are very comfortable! Average daytime temperatures at this time of year are around -12C based on the 2023 tour.

Accommodation: 10 nights in Mongolia with a mix of hotels (2 or 3 nights) and traditional Gers (7 nights), each with their own woodburning stoves.
The Gers are very comfortable! They have beds, basins and water will be supplied. Shower facilities depend on our location but long drop toilets will be available regardless.
Inclusive Meals: Full board

The video below is from our first very successful tour in January 2023

DAY 1: Ulaanbaatar – Dalanzadgad
After arriving into UB we will set off on our long journey into the South Gobi region. We will travel by road to the town of Dalanzadgad which is situated approximately 600Km south of UB. We will make a number of birding stops en route and any mammals that we may find, like Mongolian Gazelle. We will also try for Pallas’s cat en route. Birds we hope to find whilst travelling include Mongolian Lark, Horned Lark, Pere David’s Snowfinch, Pallas’s Sandgrouse and both Steppe Eagle and Cinereous Vulture. Overnight DZ Hotel

Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 2: Dalanzadgad (DZ) – Base Camp
This morning we will take a journey of around 2 hours across the vast Steppe and to the edge of the mountains where we will find our base camp. Once settled into our Gers we will head out for our first day searching for Snow Leopards! Overnight Ger Camp

DAYS 3 – 8: Base Camp
Over the few days we will focus all our effort on searching for Snow Leopard. Our local guides know this area very well and have had some excellent observations at close range and animals have even been seen from vehicles! However, each year is different and our daily plan will depend on the latest local information and news from the local herders.

Whilst searching for this amazing cat we will also have plenty of other wildlife to keep us entertained. Bearded Vultures and Upland Buzzards will be regular as well as Horned Larks and White-winged Snowfinch. Other birds we should find close to camp include Mongolian Finch, Pere David’s Snowfinch, Brown Accentor and the endemic Kozlov’s Accentor, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch and maybe Great Rosefinch and Wallcreeper. Of course there are plenty of mammals other than Snow Leopard that we will be looking for too. Siberian Ibex should be seen on a daily basis and we have a good chance of finding the impressive Argali and Wolves. Pallas’s Cats are regularly seen in these mountainous areas and will also be a key target species during our stay.

Our Ger Camp is very comfortable and we will have a dedicated cook to provide us with meals. The Gers will be heated by woodburning stoves and each Ger will have traditional beds and very warm sleeping bags!

Azure Tit, Mongolia by Chris Townend

DAY 9: Ger Camp – UB
If we have been successful with our two main targets of Snow Leopard and Pallas’s Cat, we will then make the return journey to UB. Though mostly a travel day, we can still find time for birding stops and  any birds of interest or maybe a Corsac Fox as we near UB.
Alternatively, we have the option to continue with our quest to try and see Snow Leopard and have another full day to keep focused on the target species. We would then return to UB on day 10 instead. Overnight UB Hotel / Ger Camp

DAY 10: UB – Tuul River – Hustai National Park
Today we have a few options available to us and we will try and fit in as much as we can on our last full day in Mongolia. Birds just a short stroll from the hotel that we will look for may include Azure Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, White-backed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll and maybe Arctic Redpoll as well as the chance of some of the rarer thrushes that sometimes overwinter such as Red-throated or Black-throated Thrush.
Depending on our priorities we have time to:
EITHER visit an area of forest to the south where we could find a number of interesting birds that we are unlikely to see elsewhere on the tour. These may include Spotted Nutcracker, Willow Tit (baicalensis subsp.), Marsh Tit and possibly Black and Grey-headed Woodpecker too. A visit to a park near the centre of UB gives a good chance of Daurian Partridge. 
OR we can visit Hustai National Park which  lies to the west of UB and it is a drive of only 1.5 hours to the park entrance. The park is most famous for its re-introduced Przewalski’s Horses, though there are plenty of other mammals to see here as well as birds and a beautiful landscape. There is a healthy Wolf population in the park with fairly regular sightings and Corsac Fox are also present in certain areas. We will certainly try hard to find both species if we have been unsuccessful so far. Birds present at this time of year are obviously less than in summer but we should still find Golden Eagle, Meadow Bunting, Daurian Partridge, Mongolian Finch, Twite (altaica subsp.) Rock Sparrow and Red-billed Chough. Other key mammal targets we will look for include Mongolian Gazelle and Red Deer. Overnight UB Hotel

Przewalski’s Horses, Hustai NP by Chris Townend

DAY 11: UB Airport Transfer
We will take the 20 minute transfer to Ulaanbaatar airport for a morning flight 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 guides
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: £200 (includes own Ger and hotel rooms)
Transport: Toyota Landcruisers throughout the tour
Difficulty: Moderate
A good level of fitness is required as walking will generally involve short steep walks up steep scree tracks in snow, particularly when looking for Snow Leopards. However, this is not necessary for more distant views. Plans need to be flexible dependent on recent information on the animals’ movements.
Climate: Generally very cold with typical daytime temperatures typically around  -15 degrees Celsius and nights dropping to below -20C. 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: Lufthansa via Frankfurt

Hustai National Park by Chris Townend