West Africa's Butterfly Eden
George Schaller’s seminal book on the hidden wilderness of the Chang Tang told of a region that few of us would have imagined we could visit, but twenty-five years after its publication we can explore the majestic snowy peaks and wide open high altitude plains that are home to some of the world’s most spectacular and rarely seen mammals.
The uniquely adapted Tibetan Antelope or Chiru thrives in this extraordinary landscape alongside herds of Kiang, an elegant two-tone Equid, and great hairy Wild Yaks. One of your leaders has conducted no less than forty-five trips to the region and has pioneered the vast majority of the sites you’ll visit. Indeed he has even seen Snow Leopard on one of these passes but seeing this ultimate high altitude cat on this tour would still be an exceptional piece of luck.
However another cat is one of our main targets, and whilst a sighting is not guaranteed, it is highly likely – the beautiful Pallas’s Cat. This fantastic ball of fur stakes out Pika colonies and so we’ll do the same… the photograph on the front cover of the 2018 brochure was taken on this tour! Other predators include Tibetan Foxes, Mountain Weasel, Steppe Polecat and Asian Badger, but most exciting will be encounters with Tibetan Wolves. We expect to see these on more than one occasion and have a reasonable chance that we’ll witness a hunt or see them at a kill. Maybe we’ll even encounter that ultimate Himalayan predator, the Snow Leopard, which was seen on the 2019 tour, or even Eurasian Lynx, also seen on the 2019 tour!
The high mountain passes have herds of Blue Sheep, the windswept ridges above the Chang Tang herds of Argali, and in narrow gorges we’ll seek Chinese Serow. This is a good trip for deer with White-lipped, Alpine Musk Deer, MacNeill’s Red Deer and Gansu Red Deer all likely, and an exceptional one for gazelle. We’ll see herds of Tibetan Gazelle, whilst Goitred Gazelle are rarer, and the highly endangered Przevalski’s has been recently found by our guide in an accessible location. Though this tour will concentrate strongly on the mammals, there is much of cultural and landscape interest, and some superb birding too. Some of the avian highlights will be Szechenyi’s Monal Partridge, White-eared Pheasant, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Black-necked Crane, Henderson’s Ground-Jay, both Przelwalski’s and Roborovski’s Rosefinches, Kozlov’s Bunting, Giant Laughingthrush and the lovely Crested Tit-Warbler.
An extension takes us high into the mammal-rich forests, meadows and mountains of Laba He in Sichuan. At this season Red Pandas gorge themselves on small fruiting trees and are incredibly approachable; we should have hours of close observation and photographic opportunity with these incredibly cute animals. We’ll also see Long-tailed Goral, Tibetan Macaques, and the fabulous Golden Takin as well as birds such as Great Parrotbills, Temminck’s Tragopan and the stunning Lady Amherst’s Pheasant.
Another extension – yes a tour with two extensions! – takes us Tangjiahe. Set amid amazingly beautiful forests and mountains (the autumn colour is sensational) is a reserve that not only protects some of the most sublime habitats in China, but also a quite exceptional hotel in the middle of it. Be careful when you are walking out of your door for Golden Takin graze the lawn here and they are not always friendly. You can expect to see many of these fantastic creatures daily. Daytime we’ll see Tibetan Macaques, Tufted Deer, Long-tailed Goral and a very wide range of birds. We saw Asiatic Black Bear crossing a river on the last trip. However it’s at night when the reserves’ mammals really come into their own. Short night drives and walks up and down from the hotel will yield many sightings of Takin, Chinese Serow and Chinese Goral, as well as views of Hog Badgers, Chinese Ferret-Badger, Masked Palm Civet, Malayan Porcupines and Leopard Cat.
Dates and Prices
6th October - 23rd October 2024 (18 days)
Optional Tour Extensions
Red Panda Extension
23rd October - 28th October 2024 (6 days)
27th October - 1st November 2024 (6 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
Mammals. Also Birds, Landscapes and Culture.
The minimum is 4 and the maximum is 9.
All flights. All transport, meals and accommodation in China. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, Chinese visas, tips, and items of a personal nature including travel insurance, are not included. Mammal and bird checklists are available.
For much of this tour you will be staying in comfortable hotels with en-suite showers/WCs, with just 4 nights in rather more basic inns or simple hotels. Here rooms will have wash basins and hot water supplied in buckets, but toilets are not en-suite. On both extensions we’ll stay in 4-star hotels with excellent en-suite rooms right in the middle of the national parks.
Moderate, though mostly because of the altitude rather than actual difficulty or length of any walks. The first four days have nights at a middle altitude and with day trips including some higher areas to allow your body to gradually acclimatise. We’ll do some longer walks of several kilometres through rolling mountainous terrain though more of the time will be spent scanning from vantage points easily reachable from the road. There will be some steep slopes and rough ground.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow, to Xining, via Beijing or Chengdu. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Autumn is the best time to visit for mammals. It is usually crisp and bright however there may be overcast conditions and above 3000m any precipitation may fall as snow, though amounts are likely to be small. Daytime air temperatures may only reach 2°C-14°C however this will feel warmer in sunshine. Conversely nights can be very cold with temperatures reaching -15°C and on overcast days the temperatures may struggle to only a few degrees above zero.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.