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Above the roof of the world
---a snow leopard & plateau wildlife photo safari in Qinghai 

 Snow leopard on Qinghai Plateau

Gorgeous Qinghai is the origin of life, for it is the source region of several big rivers in Asia. In the vast remote land of southwestern Qinghai, there lays the "Three-River Source Region" or Sanjiangyuan where the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Mekong river originate. It is also known as an Eden for plateau wildlife, among them is the fabulous Snow leopard, top predator and keystone species of Central Asia, a symbol of the mountains. 
Because of the severe living condition, the plateau is never an ideal habitat for human but a peaceful homeland for wildlife. There are many big animals live on the plateau without human interruption including large carnivores like snow leopards, brown bears, wolves and lynx, supported by their prey species like Blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Argali sheep (Ovis ammon), Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan woolly hares (Lepus oiostolus), Himalayan marmots (Marmota himalayana) and black-lipped pika (Ochotona curzoniae).    Several other ungulate species inhabit the alpine steppes as well, such as Wild yak, Kiang, and some endemic animals that you can only see on this highland such as Tibetan antelope or chiru (Pantholops hodgsoni), Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), White-lipped deer, Przewalski’s gazelle, Goitered gazelle and so on.
On the vast plateau, you can see wildlife walking, running, hunting, sometimes even sleeping right before your very eyes. With snow-covered mountains, icy peaks, the Gobi deserts, and vast pastures standing behind as the background, Tibetan plateau is definitely a paradise for Snow Leopard Photography
In this plateau wildlife safari with a particular mission of snow leopard searching, we are going to loop around the whole province and deep experience the plateau climate and Tibetan lifestyle. The best season for wildlife safari on the plateau is winter when the wildlife has the best coat and come down to the lower altitude for food. However, the low temperature is indeed a big challenge. We are going to embrace this big challenge and set our expedition in winter just for the best photo for these plateau spirits. Our odyssey is consisting of two major parts: snow leopard searching and photo safari for other plateau wildlife.
Starting from Yushu, the core distribution ranges of Snow leopard, we will spend the first week searching for the elusive big cat in "our destination" under the guidance of our snow leopard expert. We camp in the mountain valleys where snow leopard researchers concentrate and monitor snow leopard with local herders making snow leopard photography an irresistible temptation for both animal lovers and professional photographers. The second part will be a road trip searching for other plateau wildlife we mentioned above. We are going to drive to Hoh Xil nature reserve along Qinghai-Tibet highway, the highest highway in the world, searching for wildlife while feasting on nature beauty etc. Venturing north to Qinghai lake, the largest salt water lake in China, we are searching for the endemic and critically endangered Przewalski’s gazelle and finish our adventure in the capital city Xining.


  • Snow leopard photographing. China owns the biggest snow leopard habitat (1,100,000 km2) with the most population of snow leopard (around 2,000–2,500) in the world. We are going to explore the core area of their habitat, trek snow leopard, photograph this elegant creature with researchers working in the institutions of snow leopard study.

  •  Plateau wildlife photo safari.  China is one of the countries which have the most species of mammals around the globe. And the "Three-River Source Region" or Sanjiangyuan is the best place to see those big animals and many endemic species. Except for snow leopard, we are going to spend our time with other plateau wildlife such as wild yak, Kiang, argali, blue sheep and some native residents like Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelles, white-lipped deer. etc. 

  • Experience the harmony of human and nature. The wildlife on the plateau live happily without human interruption. Tibetan people respect all living creatures as much as respecting their gods.  The wildlife on the plateau don't see human as a threaten.  You can photography the wildlife in an extreme close distance, observe their behavior and feel the affinity between human and nature.

  • Explore with a team of experts, photographers and local guides. Besides our snow leopard expert, our experienced wildlife photographers who know the best time and location of photographing those animals will be your company along the way.  

  • A spiritual experience on the Tibet Plateau. It is quite a unique visual and spiritual experience while enjoying the stunning scenery feast from mother nature and watching the pious local people praying with prayer wheels and crawling all the way toward their holy land. 


He Bing
For more than 10 years, He Bing has been working for wildlife research and conservation in Southern China and Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. During the last 6 years, he worked for Shan Shui Conservation Center, one of the biggest environmental NGOs in China, mainly focusing on Snow leopard and the alpine ecosystem conservation on the plateau. He participated several Snow leopard surveys in Qinghai and Sichuan with world-renowned zoologist and naturalist Dr. George Schaller, and other Chinese snow leopard scientists. Read more>>

Trip manager

Philip He

As a half Kangba Tibetan, Philip is the founder of AbsolutePanda and is native of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He has a deep love of his Kangba Tibetan heritage and the land where he was born and raised. Philip is an active and knowledgeable birder, and a dedicated photographer. He is known for his ability to plan and execute unique and exciting adventure trips exploring the sights off the usual tourist routes.Philip will also keep you company in the trip. If you have any questions, please contact him for more information. Read more>>

What make AbsolutePanda’s wildlife safari excellent?

  • Travel with wildlife expert. In this plateau wildlife safari, we are going with snow leopard expert who has been working on snow leopard conservation for more than 6 years. He is going to guide us trekking this mysterious creature with his 6 year’s field experience which could enormously increase the chance.

  • Accomplished Local Photographer guide. Our China Photography Tours are led by famous local photographers who are specialized in nature and wildlife photography, also with plenty of patience and enthusiasm to answer all your questions and provide technical supports.

  • Extensive on-the-ground network. AbsolutePanda maintain good relationship with experts and local people which helps us to organize stunning trips based on fresh information updated all the time.

  • Appropriate group size. A group of 6 people are the maximum to optimize your unique experiences so that we could provide meticulous service to each individual and make sure everyone has equal chance to have the best photo in those precious moments.

  • Best logistic supplement. We have guided many expeditions on the Tibet Plateau. We are   very experienced at dealing with high elevation conditions.  We will prepare all the necessity on the plateau to guarantee your safety and comfort. You will stay at the best local hotels or guest houses and dine at popular local restaurants. We will adjust our logistic plan according your interest and preferences.


Bing and the body of blue sheep ate by a snow leopard

Plateau scenery

Tibetan antelope

Tibetan gazelle

White-lipped deer

 Wild yak


Przewalski’s gazelle

Gazella subgutturosa

Blue sheep ( snow leopar's prey)

 Wooly hare

Tibetan marmot


Gathering in Yushu, we will pick you up at the airport in Yushu and check into hotel. We can also arrange a domestic flight booking service upon your request.  

Overnight: Yushu
Waking up at leisure, we will spend the day adjusting to the time change and acclimating to the altitude. Some photo excursions will be arranged nearby Yushu. We are going to start our photo safari with carnivores living in the lower altitude such as Tibetan fox, wolves, lynx, buzzard, vulture together with the little ones like black-lipped pika, Himalayan marmot etc.
Overnight: Yushu and nearby county
Driving to Sanjiangyuan nature reserve, we are going to start our adventure searching for snow Leopard with help of our snow leopard expert and local Tibetan guides.  After settle down at our camp site, we’ll trek to nearby valleys looking for snow leopard trace and its prey, blue sheep, because the snow leopards are also looking for blue sheep. The everyday program for snow leopard photography is not fixed. Everything will depend on weather conditions and snow leopard movements. The idea is to have the best possibility to track this "ghost cat” (snow leopard).
We will camp or stay in local Tibetan households and spend the evening enjoying Tibetan hospitality with the locals. At the end of the first part of the trip, we are going to stay in a big county to refresh from the tough days in the valley. 

Overnight: Camping or local Tibetan households.
Beyond snow leopard, there are so many beautiful wildlife on the plateau. We try to make the most of this trip to capture as many of the wonderful moments of these amazing plateau spirits. In the beginning of second part of our adventure, we drive to Hoh Xil, one of the largest national nature reserves in China, to photograph Wild Yak, Kiang, Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Fox, white-lipped deer etc.  

Overnight: Camping or local Tibetan guest house

Day 13 Drive to Golmud and fly back home

AbsolutePanda exclusive extension to Qinghai Lake

If you want to explore more on Qinghai-Tibtet Plateau, we could continue venture east to Qinghai Lake searching for some endemic local deer species while reward yourself  a thermal spring  after the long journey.

Extension Day 1
Today we will search for Gazella subgutturosa near Golumd and drive toward Qinghai lake to search for an endemic Przewalski’s gazelle. We will stop by Dulan and reward ourselves by a nice hot spring.
Extension Day 2
Waking up at leisure, we departure for the north of the Qinghai lake searching for Przewalski’s gazelle. Until the early 20th century, Przewalski's gazelle was widespread across the high plateaus of northwestern China and Inner Mongolia. However, it had been extirpated across the great majority of its former range, and is now found only in a single small area around Qinghai Lake, with only hundreds of individuals left. It will be quite exciting to photography those extremely rare species who only live here.
Extension Day 3
Leaving early in the morning, we are going to photograph wildlife on the way. We will arrive our final destination, Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, and finish this great adventure. 
Overnight: Xining
Extension Day 4
Fly back home via Xining

We can customize this trip so as to better meet your timing, budget and interests or arrange a private extension to explore China as you wish. Please contact us for more information.


March 1 - 13                          Extension tour: Mar 13-16  (2017,2018)
October 25 - November 6   Extension tour: Nov 6-9 (2017,2018)
November 13 - 25                 Extension tour: Nov 25-28(2017,2018)
December 1- 13                    Extension tour: Dec 13-16 ( 2017)

One seat sold in 2017, one more seat to set departure!
Book now!



Upon request

Group size

2-6 people


1.    What is the weather condition in December in Qinghai?
The temperature at the elevation of 4000-5000 in December is around -20°C to -10°C.
Other weather attributes
•Strong sunshine
•Cold and dry
•Large day/night temperature difference
•Thin air
•Less oxygen content
•Lower boiling point

2.    What vehicle will be used in the trip?
According to the road condition, we will choose professional sport utility vehicles and off-road vehicles. Two optimize the photographing opportunity and comfort level, one vehicle will carry at most two of our guests. We will give you the best angle the first time when we encounter any photo opportunity.

3.    How is the accommodation level?
We are exploring some of the most remote areas or least populated area in China. The accommodation in the remote area in China are usually very simple and basic. We will choose the best hotel or guest house in the destination. When we go deep in the valley in search of snow leopard or other big mammals, we have to prepare camping outdoor. We will prepare the best facility as we could to improve your experience.

4.    What kind of food will be provided?
In the remote areas, there won’t be any western breakfast in the hotel. But we will prepare it for you. For lunch and dinner, you have opportunity to try Chinese cuisine and Tibetan cuisine with local flavor in the good local restaurant which meet our hygienic standard. We will try our best to let you try as many types of dishes as possible to help you refresh from the cold climate.  

5.    What kind of gears shall I prepare?
Except for the photography equipment which you will prepare for yourself, you should prepare the following staff you will possibility need during the trip:
•Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the strong sunlight on the plateau.
•Sunscreen ( SPF 30+), thermal mug, hat
•Warm clothes.

New itinerary, feedback coming soon!

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