Magic 7

Perhaps its a bit too much for anyone to hear me say that I’ve seen 12 Snow Leopards this year in Yushu and in my latest trip to the Valley of the Cats- 7 Snow Leopards in 4 hours.

The Magic 7 overwhelmed the entire group and i had to pinch myself for this magic encounter. The magic appeared on Day 2 after visiting a yak herder’s home for some yak-butter tea and received a tip-off that a snow leopard is on a kill and we wasted no time! Walking up the hill is no easy task at 4200m! While locals made to the top in 20min, we “urbaners” struggled. Nonetheless we survived the climb!

Spotting a snow leopard was a tall order as it was so camouflaged. Brian was the first to spot it thru his scope and soon everyone’s eyes were on their scope watching the snow leopard feast on the blue sheep. Below is Mark’s video footage of the snow leopard on the kill!

Snow Leopard in Yushu

It was dusk and cat had no intention to leave his kill but we decided to head back. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we were then informed of 3 Snow Leopards just down the valley and what great views we had!

3 Snow Leopards

3 Snow Leopards in Valley of the cats- can you spot them?

We reminisced with joy having seen 4 snow leopards but little did we know the excitement is not over. As we nimble our way back, our jeep came to a halt when an adult Snow Leopard crossed the road with 2 cubs! It was no more than 15m away from our car and the cats looked at us calmly as they continued their way slowly, giving us ample time to see their glowing eyes in close proximity!

So there! Thats our encounter of the Magic 7. 🙂

The valley of the cats is definitely THE PLACE to see the Snow Leopards. The local community and government work hand in hand to protect these rare animals in the valley. The Tibetan culture, religion and their firm beliefs in protecting the animals give chance for these rare cats to thrive in this area.

Things to be aware of when visiting the Valley of the Cats

  • Expect the Unexpected. No adventure is an adventure if everything goes as planned. Like any adventure, there are always things that could happen unexpectedly. Nonetheless, China is one of the safest country in the world to travel and Tibetans are the friendliest group of people I’ve ever met.
  • Permits. This is the first National Park in China that requires permit to enter. I saw foreigners got thrown out of the valley as they do  not have the necessary permits, so please apply in advance.
  • Embrace the people and culture! What a rare experience to stay with Tibetan yak herders! 🙂 The people here are Tibetans with a unique culture and religion and they lead a herder’s life. They can be sometimes over friendly but they open their homes to us. As much as it is a culture shock to you, its also a culture shock to the local Tibetans! My tip is to visit this amazing place with an open mind and leave behind our urban standards and this will undoubtedly be an adventure of a lifetime with endless memories to share and talk about. 🙂

Terry’s video on the Snow Leopards and the Tibetan Plateau sums up this wonderful trip.

Snow Leopards in June

Its my 3rd trip to the Valley of the Cats in Yushu, Qinghai and its still so exciting! In June, Tibetan yak herders are busy harvesting the caterpillar fungus, their main source of income that will bring them income to last for whole year. I thought the chance of seeing the snow leopards would be slim since people walked everywhere on the mountains, but I was wrong. We had 2 separate sightings of SNOW LEOPARDS in different sites within 2 hours.

After 2 days of sunshine, the weather took a dramatic change and snowed heavily on the evening of day 2. We woke up to snow-capped mountains! Perhaps the Snow Leopards like the snow? After spotting one on a mountain strolling leisurely where we camped, a second snow leopard was seen hunting a blue sheep at another site! 2 sightings in 2 hours, how cool is that?!

snow leopard in June

2 separate sightings of snow leopards in 2 hours

Apart from snow leopards, mammals such as Glover’s Pika, White-lipped deers will not be missed in the valley of the Cats. Tibetan Buntings, Monal Partridge, White-eared pheasants and many other bird rarities can be seen here at 4500m!

As I have recently bought a drone, I took the opportunity to fly it in the Tibetan Plateau! The landscape is amazing as always, and its always nice to visit the yak herders who always welcome us to their homes! Once again, Yak butter tea, Yak yogurt and yak meat served! To read more about my previous sightings of Snow leopard, click here. 🙂

white-lipped deer