A remote winter Wildlife Camp.
Typically referred to as the Trans Himalayas, Ladakh nestles between the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges. As a tourism destination Ladakh as a Union Territory has gained immense popularity and one can easily forget that it is a relatively ‘new’ travel destination having opened up to travellers only in the 1970s. The reason the region still retains its authenticity of culture and landscape. The landscape is filled with plateaus, valleys and peaks , each with a distict seaosnal hue - offering almost ethereal vistas unlike any other place on this planet. Given its altitude and access, for many this is a one time aspiration, especially to seek snow leoplards with LUNGMĀR Remote Camp.
The LUNGMĀR Remote Camp is located in the valley of Sumdoh, which was once a part of the Great Silk Route. Translated as Red valley the camp rests on a gentle cliff with stunning mountains that look like red mud heaped upto the heavens. With a seasonal stream at its feet, the camp site has stunning views of villages and the scrub forest around. The landscape is home to unique flora and fauna, also the elusive ghost of the Himalayas - one of India's big cats, the snow leopard ( Panthera uncia ). The camp’s location at 12,000 feet above sea level along with the proximity to Hemis National Park is prime habitat for this mysterious cat along with prey species like the blue sheep.
With the quality of concept and service at LUNGMĀR, besides the wilderness and snow leopards, the camp is a perfect base to explore ancient cultures, spectacular landscapes and living history.
The LUNGMĀR Remote Camp's values, concept, location and experience make it a perfect RARE experience. A community-led experience, the focus on conservation never strays, the teams for service and tracking all sourced and trained from around and also remote villages in Ladakh.
Know Your Host
The team at The LUNGMĀR includes conservationists and some of the best snow leopard trackers and guides with experience across habitats.
The LUNGMĀR is modelled after the complete bush camp experience with wildlife interactions and conservation at its core. Drawing inspiration from Ladakh’s role as part of the silk trade, the camp blends elements of arts and architecture of the ancient caravan serais with thoughtfully designed private and common spaces built for cold Ladakhi winters, that coincides with the best possible time to sight the snow leopard.
Although the camp is set amidst 25,000 hectares, there is a conscious choice to keep the inventory low so as to provide an intimate experience. The Sumdo Sarai doubles up as the dining area and lounge, built with stone and wood forms the heart of the camp, warm and comfortable, its a place for conversations and heart warming meals. The Hammām near the Khurkang Tents adds to the glamping experience and its a thrill to wrap onself in this heat after a long day outdoors. The décor makes use of stone framed beds, hand-embroidered throws, pillows, Afghan kilims and custom-made heavy duvets. Look out for paintings by the 19th-century painter Nicolas Roerich, famous for his depictions of the Himalayas, Ladakh, and the Silk Route of the 1920s.
Suites & Tents : All categories of stay ensure a world class experience especially with the temperatures in peak winters while the décor remains true to the region's rich cultural and textile traditions. All rooms are very well insulated and centrally heated to ensure warmth from the bitter cold where temperatures can plummet to -20 degrees centigrade.
The LUNGMĀR Predator Suites come with wooden floors, traditional poplar and willow ceilings, and walls alternating between wood and stone creating warm welcoming spaces. Suites and ensuite bathrooms are powered by electicity from the main grid and supported by solar energy, that ensures heating and running hot water for showers. Large windows frame spectacular south-facing mountain views while the rooms lead out to the cliff's edge where you can sit out and take in the sun and views. Named after four of the major predators the Eee (Eurasian lynx in Ladakh), the Shanku (Tibetan wolf), the Denmo (Himalayan brown bear) and the Watsey (red fox), these are spacious one-bedroom suites with attached baths that have running hot water irrespective of the temperatures outside.
The Denmo and Watsey suites combine to form The LUNGMĀR’s Shan Suite that are perfect for those on long stays, familes or a group travelling together that affords the comfort of extra space. When combined, the suite offers over 600 sq. feet of living area and can be used as a two-bedroom unit or as a one-bedroom plus living room space.
The Kurkhang Tents provide a classic ‘bush glamping’ experience using hand-stitched canvas, layered with custom insulation and central heat, with no compromise on comfort. These tents come with a king-sized bed or twin beds. Guests staying here have quick access the Hammām, with four bathrooms - each includes a sink, shower and a flush toilet with attached dressing rooms.
Dining at Sumdo Sarai : All meals are served at the Sumdo Sarai which also serves as the lounge space. Adorned with old maps that show High Asia’s rugged terrain and remote cultures, it is a stone and carved wood building sheltered within the mountain. Modelled after the fortified roadside inns that stood along the ancient Silk Route that provided warmth and comfort to travellers, it comes with a traditional skylight which gives you a peek of the mountains, changing colours through the day. It is the place to be to exchange stories after a day out in the wilderness tracking the snow leopard.
The menu at the Sarai is the curation of the uncle-nephew duo of talented mountain chefs – Chef Sajan Rai and Sous Chef Gagan Rai, who have cooked meals for some of the toughest mountaineering expeditions. The cuisine is inspired by the countries that were a part of the Silk Route with Indian and Ladakhi dishes too.
For those who would like a special intimate dining experience, a large heated bell tent with wooden tables with private service can be booked. The dinner has a set menu of a Kashmiri Wazwan prepared by a specialist Wazwan chef.
The LUNGMĀR experience is designed as an all-inclusive experience and begins with your acclimatisation at Leh while you are booked at The Grand Dragon. As winter approaches, all access to Ladakh by road is snowed in thus isolating the region, and leaving air travel as the only access. It is mandatory to spend two days acclimatizing in Leh before heading to camp.
Tracking Snow Leopards : The experience and activities are centred around snow leopard with the camp’s trackers and spotters heading out to scan the ridge lines and slopes across different valleys at dawn. Using Swarovski optics that guests can use too, the experienced trackers work through the day using their skills to spot the elusive cat. Once a leopard is spotted, the news is relayed back to camp and guests either walk or are driven to the vantage point for best sighting.
Trackers from other locations convene each day and along with the Chief Tracker chalk out the day’s plan to be able to optimise your time in the wild looking for the snow leopard. With conservation always a focus, they ensure there is no stress on the wildlife. As long as the snow leopard is visible, guests have the opportunity to keep viewing as meals, snacks and beverages are brought in from the camp. One can also choose to go tracking with the spotters and trackers. While the spotlight is the ghost of the mountains, the team readily share their wealth of knowledge about the habitat – covering birds, wildlife, local life and culture.
For those who prefer a private tracking experience, the team can organise this in advance. Species specific explorations to track the Eurasian Lynx or Tibetan Wolf as day trips can be booked. This is a day trip to Wari La and Nubra Valley.
The Sumdo Sarai has a small library - a collection of books on wildlife, flora, history, art and culture of the region. Board games are also avialable for the times one may want to stay indoors to enjoy the camp experience. A small shop adorns a corner of the lounge that showcase traditional textiles as throws, shawls, rugs and artefacts sourced from around the region.
Hiking to Villages : Begining with the village of Sumdo, hikes are possible to surrounding valleys like Shang Valley and Chokdo valley and to beautiful villages like Skitchen and Nakdang.
Hemis Monastery : Given the time of the year, you are not very far from the Hemis monastery and visits are made possible depending upon your interest and also time away from tracking Snow Leopards.
Conservation in Hemis : The team combines mindfully curated wildlife experiences while operating highly awarded snow leopard tours that combine conservation work. Community-based conservation is a central tenet as 99% of The LUNGMĀR‘s team hail from snow leopard landscapes. For each guest that stays at camp, about 20% of all revenue is contributed towards community projects such as predator-proof corrals and other activties to reduce human-wildlife conflict, in the region.
High Asia Habitat Fund : Separately, The LUNGMĀR funds ranger training and carbon mitigation projects across ecosystems critical for snow leopards in India, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan through the High Asia Habitat Fund. The field teams serve as advisors to both governments as well as leading international non-profits working in this space. The LUNGMĀR’s work positively impacts over 5 million hectares of snow leopard habitat internationally.
Camp Design : Operating in an ecologically sensitive landscape, great care has been taken to thoughtfully design the camp to have a minimal footprint while ensuring guest comfort. Limiting the number of keys ensures less stress on the natural resources consumed. Solar energy facilitates hot water at the camp while Fossil fuel consumption is tracked and accounted for and offset with a carbon-negative program. A cluster of dry composting toilets combine traditional Central Asian composting toilets with North American outhouses and come with western-style toilet seats. In Ladakh’s arid landscape, dry composting toilets drastically reduce the carbon footprint as it does not require plumbing and energy to pipe and heat water for flushing.