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Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary


Snow Leopard, Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary

Enjoy your vacations at an altitude ranging between 3300 and 6000 m above sea level, coupled with exotic wildlife, culture and art, and natural splendour. Established in 1981 as a small National Park to preserve the dwindling wildlife in Ladak, today, the Hemis High-Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary boasts of being the largest park in South Asia and highest in the world. Although the nearby area is barren and poor in vegetation, you will find several alpine and steppe trees. The major attractions of the sanctuary are Snow Leopards, Ibex, Shapu, Bharal, Wild Sheeps and Goats.


It was named after the Hemis Gompa/Monastery, established in 1630 by Lama Tagstang Raspa and built by Palden Sara under the patronage of King Sengge. Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of about 3350 sq km. and provides a habitat for more than 16 mammal and 73 bird species, most of which are endangered.


Flora And Fauna

A number of alpine and steppe trees and shrubs cover the valley bottoms. The upper mountain area, being moist, comprises of alpine vegetation including Anemone, Gentiana, Lloydia, Veronica, Delphinum and Kobresia. One can find a rich steppe vegetation characterised by Caragana, Artemisia, Stachys and Ephedra in the lower area of the sanctuary.

The major wildlife attraction lies are Snow Leopards (Uncia uncia) and the Ibex (Capra ibex). The Shang Valley, in the sanctuary, is the ideal area to see snow leopards. Other than these two animals, the sanctuary also has Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Wolf (Canis lupus), Pallas' cat (Felis manul), Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni), Blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Ladakh urial (Ovis vigne), Himalayan marmots (Marmota bobak), Tibetan Wild Ass or Kiang (Equus hemionus kiang), Wooly hare (Lepus oiostolus), Dholes (Cuon alpinus), Lynx (Lynx lynx), Mouse hare or pika (Ochotona roylei) etc.


There are about 73 varieties of registered birds in the sanctuary. Snow cock, chukor, magpie, Himalayan whistling thrush, white rumped shama, snow partridge, golden oriole etc. are the common birds. Other rare species of birds are Great Grey Shrike, the Red Mantled Rose Finch, the Black Throated Thrush, the Robin Acceptor, the Spotted Flycatcher, the Red Flanked Blue Tail and the Great Nose Finch.


Adventure

Hemis is one of the favourite places of adventure lovers because of the Safaris. Even at such an altitude, there are several areas that are easily accessible through jeeps. For higher altitudes, where Jeep Safaris are not feasable, people prefer trekking, another exciting activity.


How To Reach

By air: The nearest airport is at Leh.
By rail: Jammu, at a distance of 690 km, is the nearest railhead that is connected to all parts of India.
By road: The state highway to Hemis via Choglamsar, Thiksey, Karu and Martselang is a smooth route. Buses and taxis are easily available.


September to March is the best season for spotting wildlife, and March to May for bird viewing. People visit Hemis in the months of June to October for trekking and forest walks. Winters are really harsh for trekking. Although summer is quite soothing, snowfall is unpredictable.

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