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The Indian subcontinent boasts nearly500 species of mammal protected inover 250 wildlife reserves, and is theonly place in the world that can still claimboth Tiger and Lion among its native fauna.Indeed, India has always been a Naturetrekfavourite and we are proud that a greatmany clients have been able to enjoy thespine-tingling thrill of seeing Tigers in thewild or observing One-horned Rhinoceroscrashing through the undergrowth. Now weare pleased to add yet another wildlifeexperience to our unmatched programmeof Indian tours, the opportunity to see a trioof rare Indian mammals - Blackbuck,Asiatic Wild Ass and Asiatic Lion. Therange of the latter once extended as far asGreece, but habitat destruction and huntinggradually diminished its population untiltoday, when a mere few hundred remain inthe relict Gir Forest on the SaurashtraPeninsula in Gujarat, India's westernmoststate. It is here that we will spend two fulldays, travelling from our base at acomfortable tourist lodge into the grasslandand forest domain of this magnificentpredator, encountering a stunning variety ofwildlife as we search for our quarry. During our stay in Gujarat we will also visittwo other wildlife reserves, each protectingimportant populations of endangeredspecies: Velavadar Reserve, 240 kilometresnorth-east of the Gir Forest, contains thehighest concentration of Blackbuck in India,while Dhrangadhra Sanctuary in the LittleRann of Kutch is renowned as the home ofthe Asiatic Wild Ass. We will also visitIndia's first Marine National Park andKhijadia Bird Sanctuary, near Jamnagar, toenjoy the excellent birding in this area. Our starting point in India is the city ofMumbai, but we quickly travel north tobegin our exploration of the VelavadarReserve. The graceful Blackbuck is one ofthe most attractive of all Indian mammalsand at Velavadar we should find large herdsgrazing in the scrubby grasslands set asidefor their protection. Our visit in February willcoincide with the rutting season and, if weare lucky, we may witness the black andwhite bucks contesting with each other toestablish dominance. We spend two nightshere at the Blackbuck Lodge which sits insplendid seclusion adjacent to VelavadarWildlife Reserve.Our next destination is the Gir ForestNational Park. With a rugged terrain of lowhills and tracts of deciduous forestinterspersed with areas of grassland, thenational park supports a great diversity ofmammals including Sambar, Chital, Nilgai,Chinkara, Four-horned Antelope and WildBoar. With such an abundance of prey it islittle surprise that Leopards maintain goodnumbers in the forests, and Striped Hyenasseek to scavenge any leftovers from the bigcats' meals. The Gir Forest is, however,most famed for its Lions and our focus willbe to find as many as possible duringtwice-daily excursions into their habitat.These Asiatic Lions share the languiddisposition of their African cousins,enjoying long periods of inactivity duringthe heat of the day, but such indolence isdeceptive and the spectacle of a pridesetting out on a purposeful search for preywould be an unforgettable dawn highlightof our time in this unique reserve.Elsewhere in India, the Tiger may be a rivalfor the epithet 'king of the beasts', but herein the Gir Forest, the majesty of the Lion isunchallenged. We spend three nights hereat a comfortable forest lodge. Next we travel to Jamnagar, the 'jewel ofKathiawar', which lies on the coast of theGulf of Kutch. From here we will head tothe Marine National Park at Narara Island,on the Gulf's southern shore, where we'lllook amongst the beautiful coral reefs forendangered sea turtles such as Green,Olive Ridley and Leatherback, as well asenjoy the excellent birding of this area.Finally, we travel to the DhrangadhraSanctuary. Established in 1973, this reserve embraces a huge area of flat, saline wilderness and was created topreserve a small population of theendangered Asiatic Wild Ass. Finding theseshy, sandy-coloured creatures is no easytask in this arid landscape. However, withluck, we should discover a small herdfeeding on their favourite 'bets' (islands ofcoarse grasses), which provide theirprincipal nourishment in this harsh terrain.Fleet of foot and wary of man, this is theonly wild horse in the Indian subcontinentand a herd galloping beside our vehiclewould give a wonderful experience to ourGujarat wildlife adventure. After two idyllicdays in the peaceful haven of the Little Rannof Kutch, we will head to Ahmedabad for ourflight to London, via Mumbai.Having focused on three of the country'srarest mammals, you may wish to extendyour holiday to see more of India'sremarkable fauna. An excellent transportinfrastructure makes it feasible to reach anypart of India from Mumbai, and we will behappy to arrange visits to any of thecountry's other reserves for you, eitherbefore or after the main tour.India - Lions, Blackbuck & Wild Asses A 13-day wildlife tour to Gujarat in search of three of India's rarest mammals - Asiatic Lion, Blackbuck and Asiatic Wild Ass - plus the other wildlife of this little-explored region. Sunday 18th November - Friday 30th November 2012 Cost: £2,795Sunday 17th February - Friday 1st March 2013 Cost: £2,795Sunday 17th November - Friday 29th November 2013 Cost: £2,795Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive Bhavnagar, viaMumbai.Day 3Velavadar WildlifeReserve.Day 4/6 Gir Forest.Day 7/8 Jamnagar.Day 9/11 Dhrangadhra Sanctuary,Little Rann of Kutch.Day 12 Fly Ahmedabad toMumbai, then London.Day 13 Arrive London.AccommodationSimple, but comfortable, touristcabins at Dasada, comfortablelodges at Gir Forest and Velavadar,and a tourist heritage hotel atJamnagar; all have private facilities.FoodAll included in the price, exceptmeals taken in transit in Mumbai.Allow £10.GradingA. This wildlife tour involves littlewalking.FocusMammals and birds.LeaderManisha Rajput, Dilan Mandana,Chiku Solanki or Arpit Deomurari.Single room supplement£495.ExtensionsA wide range of extensions isavailable on request.Web quick search: IND04236Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryINDIAARABIAN SEAGULF OF KUTCHGULFOF CAMBAYPAKISTANRAJASTHANMAHARASHTRAMADHYAPRADESHAHMEDABADGIR FORESTLITTLE RANNOF KUTCHDASADAJAMNAGARBHAVNAGARVELAVADARNATIONAL PARKMUMBAIAsiatic LionsAsiatic Wild AssesBlackbuck

In the depths of winter, the Bharal (or'Blue Sheep') of Ladkah in north-westIndia descend from the high peaks tothe lower slopes and valleys. They arepursued by hungry Snow Leopards, one ofthe world's most charismatic and elusivemammals. This beautiful cat inhabits someof the most remote and mountainousregions of Central Asia, in its element atextremes of temperature and terrain. Fewof you will have missed Steve Winter'simage of a Snow Leopard, making its waythrough a mountain pass at night, whichwon the 2008 BBC Wildlife Photographer ofthe Year competition. On this tour we go insearch of this extraordinary animal, goinginto the heart of the mountainous regionwhere this photograph was taken andexperiencing at first-hand a fascinatingblend of rare, high-altitude wildlife, as wellas isolated Buddhist communities.This pioneering 14-day tour is, quitesimply, one of the most amazing, originaland wild trips you are ever likely to do! Youmay not see many birds on this tour, youmay not see many mammals (exceptperhaps for the Bharal), you may not evensee a Snow Leopard (though the chancesare real, our success rate being 50% todate); however, the opportunity to visit thespectacular ancient kingdom of Ladakh,situated today within the Indian state ofJammu and Kashmir, in the middle ofwinter is not to be missed!This is a very adventurous tour, and shouldnot be undertaken lightly. Because ourchief aim is to see a Snow Leopard,absolute flexibility is the key. If we arescheduled to spend the night at a guesthouse, but we hear that a Snow Leopardhas been seen in another area where theaccommodation is extremely basic, or inwhich it would be better to camp out in theopen, we reserve the right to move thegroup there immediately. However,snuggling down into a 4-season sleepingbag in such a setting really is anunforgettable and magical experience. We begin our tour with a domestic flightfrom Delhi, taking us over the greatHimalayan range to Leh. The town of Lehis situated at a height of 3,500 metres andyou will have time to explore its windingstreets and bazaars while acclimatising tothe altitude. An impressive 16th centurypalace towers above the town and duringour first days we will visit nearby Buddhistmonasteries (or 'gompas'). One of thefinest examples of Ladakhi architecture inthe region is the gompa at Tikse. This is an incredibly atmospheric place and we will explore its artistic treasures,listening to the hypnotic chanting of monks as we walk round!Having fully acclimatised to the altitude, wewill then set off on our dedicated 6-daysearch for Snow Leopards in HemisNational Park. This is an incredibly sceniclandscape and raptors such asLammergeier and Himalayan GriffonVulture make an impressive sight here,rising up above the high peaks. A variety of other hardy birds, including Brown andRobin Accentors, and HimalayanSnowcock also remain for the winter. Thearea is home to some other rare mammalsincluding Wolves, Lynx and Tibetan Argali,though these are rarely seen. Morecommon are the Red Fox, Pika and WoollyHares which also brave the midwinter cold.Led by extremely experienced local, andNaturetrek, guides and researchers we willscan the mountainsides, valleys andgorges in areas that Snow Leopards areknown to frequent in the winter. It is thebest time of year for sightings and ourmovements will be dictated by signs offeline activity. If we find a kill we will sit andwait, hoping to see the Snow Leopardreturn to its meal. If we find fresh tracks,we will follow them and you will need to beprepared to trek through light to mediumsnowfalls for up to several hours a day,though it could be much less. There is nogreater wildlife thrill than seeing a SnowLeopard - whether at a kill or making itssolitary way up a remote mountain pass,blending into the wilderness in which it istotally at home and which to us seems so inhospitable!This tour is not luxurious, and you will needa high level of fitness to enjoy it. What itoffers you is a wonderful opportunity toexperience a genuine wildlife adventureand the chance of seeing a Snow Leopard,one of the rarest and most beautifulanimals on our planet!Ladakh - A Snow Leopard QuestAn exciting and adventurous 14-day expedition in search of Snow Leopards and other high-altitude winter wildlife in the mountains of Ladakh, north-west India. Friday 22nd February - Thursday 7th March Cost: £2,595Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationTIBET NEPALPAKISTAN NEW DELHI LEHHEMIS NATIONAL PARKTHE GREAT HIMALAYA INDIA Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive Delhi; fly Leh.Day 3/4Leh.Day 5 Hemis National Park.Day 6/10Trek/search in SnowLeopard country.Day 11Leh.Day 12Fly Delhi.Day 13Delhi.Day 14Fly London.AccommodationBasic accommodation. On trek thiswill involve camping or a villagehomestay; please note that on trekonly shared facilities will beavailable.FoodAll included in the price, except forlunches and dinners in Delhi. Allow£40.Grading C/D. You must be accustomed toregular, very strenuous hill treksand have a level of fitnesscompatible with trekking inmountainous terrain. Treks willcover uneven, snowy ground ataltitudes of up to 4,000 metres,where even gentle activity feelsmore tiring than usual.Focus Snow Leopards; other Himalayanwildlife, plus local culture.LeaderNick Acheson, plus local guides.Single room supplement£495; please note that singleaccommodation may not beavailable at some places on trek.Web quick search: IND27237Hemis NationalParkSnow Leopard