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On this holiday we focus on a verybeautiful mountain region at thewestern end of the Great Himalaya.Ladakh must simply be the most starklyspectacular mountain region on earth.Situated in the rain shadow beyond theHimalayan barrier, right on the edge of theTibetan Plateau, it is a dry and aridmountain kingdom, dominated by themagnificent gorges, cliffs, plateaux andrugged peaks of the Zanskar, Ladakh andKarakoram ranges. The lush green barleyfields, and willow and poplar groves of thewell irrigated valleys offer great contrast tothis wild scenery. So too do the colourfulBuddhist Ladakhis in their maroon robesand peculiar eared hats. Here we will findbirds, plants and mammals that are typicalof Tibet and central Asia. Our holiday begins, after a day'ssightseeing or birdwatching in Delhi, with aspectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh.Situated at 3,505 metres in the Indus Valley,this tiny but ancient capital of Ladakh,dominated by the crumbling old royalpalace that towers from an outcrop justabove the town, and filled with friendlytraders, is the hub of Ladakhi life. We willspend three days in Leh, which will give ustime to acclimatise to the altitude, and toenjoy the cultural and ornithologicalhighlights of the Indus Valley. Along theriver, beneath the majestic Tikse Monastery,we will look for Ibisbills, Citrine Wagtailsand Mountain Chiffchaffs. In the rocky hillsand valleys close by, we will look forWallcreepers, Red-fronted Serins, andSulphur-bellied Warblers. We will have timealso to visit some of the other importantmonasteries, all of them of interest to thenaturalist since the Buddhist monks'aversion to killing has made each a havenfor wildlife.We next embark on the major journey of theholiday, a 9-day trek into the beautifulMarkha Valley, in the Hemis National Park.Spanning 4,100 square kilometres, this highand spectacular region forms one of thelargest protected areas in the entireHimalaya. Snow Leopard find refuge here(though our search for them is not likely toreveal more than scats and footprints), as doWolves, Lynx and Dholes (the Indian wilddog). The mammals that we will more likelysee include wild sheep and goats-Shapu, Tibetan Argali, and Bharal (BlueSheep)-Himalayan Marmot, Woolly Hare,Mouse-hare and Fox. Highlights amongst aninteresting birdlife will be HimalayanSnowcock, Lammergeier, Himalayan GriffonVulture, Golden Eagle, Common and EasternGreat Rosefinches, Shorelark, DesertWheatear, Hodgson's and Brandt's MountainFinches, and Tibetan Snowfinch. A surprisingdisplay of colourful and interesting plantsmay also be found, from beautiful roses inthe valleys to the gentians, edelweiss andlouseworts of the damp meadows.The Markha Valley itself is one of the mostbeautiful in Ladakh. Surprisingly wellwooded, we will often be walking throughorchards of apricot, apple and walnut trees,and thick riverside willow, poplar andtamarisk groves. To enter and leave thevalley, we must cross high passes at over4,880 metres, but the rest of the walkingwill be more straightforward. At the head of the Markha Valley we willspend two days exploring the NimalingPlains, and the tributary valleys to the footof the glaciers that tumble from the6,400-metre peak of Kang Yizay, thehighest in Markha. Here, we should find an excellent selection of Ladakh'shigh-altitude birds, mammals and plants,before we cross the Gongmoro La pass to reach Hemis Monastery and the IndusValley again.We must now reluctantly leave thespectacular mountain environment of Leh,flying back to London via Delhi. However,for those keen to sample more of thisunique mountain kingdom, a 4-dayextension to the Nubra Valley may bearranged. Situated on the Tibetan border,this high and remote region is home tosuch specialities as Wild Ass, Wild Yak andBlack-necked Crane. Alternatively, for theculturally minded, an extension to Agra andthe Taj Mahal may be preferred.Ladakh's Markha ValleyA 17-day holiday, including a 9-day trek in Ladakh's beautiful Markha Valley in search of the mammals,birds, plants and cultural aspects of Buddhist Ladakh, plus wildlife walks in the Indus Valley.Friday 19th July - Sunday 4th August Cost: £2,695Nubra Valley extension: to Thursday 8th August Cost: £595Agra extension: to Monday 5th August Cost: £295Outline itinerary Day 1Depart London.Day 2Delhi. Day 3/5Leh. Day 6/14Markha Valley Trek. Day 15 Leh. Day 16Fly Delhi. Day 17Fly London.Nubra Valley extensionDay 16/18Nubra Valley.Day 19Leh.Day 20Fly Delhi.Day 21Fly London.Agra extensionDay 16Fly Delhi; transfer toAgra.Day 17Full day's sightseeing inAgra; evening train toDelhi.Day 18Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotel in Delhi, asimple but comfortable hotel inLeh, both with private facilities; fullyserviced camping elsewhere.FoodIncluded in the price, except for mainmeals in Delhi. Allow £20.TrekkingGrade B/C. Moderate. Between3,350 and 5,180 metres.FocusMammals, birds, flowers and theculture of Ladakh.LeaderKaran Modi, Indrajit Latey or ManojSharma.Single room supplement£650 (Nubra extension: £125; Agra extension: £50). Web quick search: IND28242Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryTIBET NEPAL PAKISTAN NEW DELHI LEHHEMIS THE GREAT HIMALAYA AGRA(EXTENSION)INDIA NUBRA VALLEY(EXTENSION)River Indus, LadakhHemis Monastery

Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information243The rich and varied wildlife of this vastand fascinating country presents achallenge to any wildlife enthusiast. Upuntil now most travellers have concentratedon northern India. This Naturetrek holiday,however, will introduce you to the tropicalsplendour of the Nilgiri and Cardamon Hillswhere the wildlife of the subcontinentflourishes in national parks of outstandingbeauty and solitude. These hills, togetherwith the Western Ghats which extendnorthwards to Bombay, bear the brunt ofthe south-west monsoon. The result is afertile, tropical land, markedly different fromthe north. The culture, too, is unique. Adifferent language, Malayalam, is spokenand there is a notably more relaxed attitudeto life. Since the beginning of civilisationKerala has supplied spices to the world,and this trading history has fostered anun-lndian diversity of religions within thestate: as early as 52 A.D. Christianity is saidto have arrived here.The flora and fauna of southern India bearmany striking similarities to those of thetropical Indo-Malayan realm, despite theirseparation by thousands of kilometres.Bio-geographers talk of mountaincauseways, long since eroded, over whichthe Indo-Malayan forms spread. Theisolated fauna has evolved a number ofunique species and subspecies which wewill make particular efforts to find during ourtour.Bangalore is our point of entry into India.From here we drive to the historic city ofMysore for an overnight stay and somesightseeing before we drive south toNagarhole National Park. In this vastlandscape we are able to experience thesounds, sights and exhilaration of a southIndian jungle -unchanged since timeimmemorial. We will stay at the Kabini RiverLodge. With its gracious old-world air andsplendid lakeside views, it is a trulydelightful setting from which to commenceour wildlife exploration. We will travel injeeps out into the surrounding grasslandsand forests to watch Elephants and Gaur(the Asian bison) and with luck we may seea Sloth Bear or a Leopard, both of whichare quite common. In the large forestcompound which surrounds the lodge, wecan walk in safety and look for some of thebird specialities.Our journey now takes us upwards to theold British hill station of Ootacamund at2,600 metres. It is here that we will searchfor the endemic birds of the Nilgiri Hills:Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-belliedShortwing, the beautiful Black and OrangeFlycatcher and Nilgiri Laughing-thrush.From Ootacamund we continuesouthwards. We pass through the city ofCoimbatore to Annamalai Sanctuary. Set atthe foot of the Cardamon Hills, Annamalaiinspired many to write enthusiastically of itsbeauty and splendour. Forests of teak androsewood give way to rocky precipices andgrassy ridges. This is one of the bestplaces to see two endangered primates:Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur. Wewill search for them, and for the birdspecialities: Malabar Pied Hornbill andWhite-bellied Treepie. The high tops areinhabited by the endemic Nilgiri Tahr (aspecies of wild goat), but as they are hardto see here we will stop at Munnar on theway to Periyar. Above the tea plantations ofMunnar is a small reserve where the Tahrare easier to see and where we willhopefully find two more endemic birds,Nilgiri Pipit and White-breasted Laughing-thrush.Periyar Tiger Reserve is justly one of Asia'smost renowned sanctuaries. Although theconstruction of a dam in 1895 floodedsome of the best forest, it has benefited thesanctuary in helping to protect thesurrounding forest and by providing aconstant water supply for the largemammals. It has also made Periyar one ofthe most picturesque sanctuaries in theworld. We will explore the sanctuary byboat, but our aim is also to spend time onfoot in the heart of the jungle -an excitingconclusion to our wildlife tour of southernIndia. We will then spend a night aboard ahouseboat cruising Kerala's backwaters,before a final two nights in Kochi (Cochin)to relax and sample the cultural andhistorical delights of this colourful port.For those with time to spare we stronglyrecommend our Andaman Islandsextension. These unspoilt tropical islands,over 1,600 kilometres from the Indian coast,hold an outstanding collection of endemicbirds and mammals in their denserainforests, and offer excellent snorkellingfrom their many coral islands. We will makethe most of this tourist-free environment, torelax, swim and enjoy a unique naturalhistory. NICOBARISLANDSANDAMANISLANDS(EXTENSION)(EXTENSION)BAY OF BENGAL PORT BLAIR ANNAMALAISANCTUARYMUNNAR PERIYAR TIGER RESERVE KOCHIOOTACAMUND NAGARHOLE SANCTUARY MYSORE BANGALORECHENNAIMUMBAI Outline itinerary Day 1Depart London. Day 2Bangalore.Day 3Mysore. Day 4/6Nagarhole NationalPark. Day 7/8Ootacamund. Day 9/10Annamalai Sanctuary. Day 11/12Munnar. Day 13/15Periyar Tiger Reserve. Day 16Houseboat, Kerala'sbackwaters. Day 17/18Kochi. Day 19Fly London.ExtensionDay 18 Fly Chennai. Day 19/22Andaman Islands. Day 23Fly Chennai. Day 24Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels andsimple forest lodges, all withprivate facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A.FocusBirds and mammals. LeaderM.S. Sudheesh, Dilan Mandana orSaravana Kumar.Single room supplement£795 (extension: £395). Web quick search: IND34Cardamon HillsThe National Parks ofSouthern IndiaA 19-day wildlife holiday to the Nilgiri and Cardamon Hills, and the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Nagarhole, Annamalai and Periyar.Saturday 10th November - Wednesday 28th November 2012 Cost: £3,495Andaman Islands extension: to Monday 3rd December 2012 Cost: £1,695Saturday 9th November - Wednesday 27th November 2013 Cost: £3,495Andaman Islands extension: to Monday 2nd December 2013 Cost: £1,695Nilgiri TahrMalabar Pied Hornbill