Spot the snow leopard! This optical illusion has netizens confused

A recent travel photo has left Twitter users scratching their heads. 

At first, it just looks like a rocky incline with a bit of snow. Nothing crazy, right? But wait till you read the caption:

Yes, there’s an actual snow leopard hiding in this picture! Can you see it?

The photo, captured by Utah native Ryan Cragun, shows the big cat sneaking down the slope in the centre-right, its brownish-grey coat giving it perfect camouflage. 

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We don’t know about you, but it took us a good 10 minutes to spot the animal—and this certainly lives up to its reputation as an elusive ‘phantom cat’. 

snow leopard sits in snow

A snow leopard, up close

Even if you go with seasoned guides, the snow leopard is one of the hardest animals to find on wildlife expeditions. The animal enjoys tough terrain, prowling remote areas in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. An estimated 450–500 of them are left in the wild in India.

Crossing paths with a snow leopard is rare. It requires a lot of patience (and faith) to sit through freezing temperatures. But that first sighting? It’s the memory of a lifetime!

Where to see snow leopards in India

Ladakh’s Rumbak Valley is known as the best place to spot a snow leopard. Summer is a comfortable time to visit, but the big cat is more likely to come out between December to March, when the mountains are blanketed with snow. 

snow leopard bares fangs

Fun fact–snow leopards can’t roar! Image credit: @aon/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

The high-altitude areas the snow leopard inhabits also holds animals you won’t find in your average national park, such as ibex, bharal (blue sheep), chukar partridges, the Tibetan wolf, red foxes, Argali sheep, marmots, bearded vultures and the Himalayan brown bear. 

A proper snow leopard tour with local operators usually includes a lot of these animal sightings. These tours last around 8–12 days and also cover food, homestays/camping, local sightseeing and cultural immersion.

Now that you know the basics, here are 8 places where you can spot a snow leopard in India:

  1. Hemis National Park, Ladakh
    Nearest airport: Leh
  2. Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
    Nearest airport: Bhuntar, in Kullu–Manali
  3. Pin Valley National Park, Himachal Pradesh
    Nearest airport: Bhuntar, in Kullu–Manali

    Birds-eye view of Pin valley National park, India during midwinters

    Aerial view of Pin Valley National Park

  4. Gangotri National Park, Uttarakhand
    Nearest airport: Dehradun
  5. Govind Pashu Vihar National Park, Uttarakhand
    Nearest airport: Dehradun
  6. Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand
    Nearest airport: Dehradun
  7. Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh
    Nearest airport: Dibrugarh
  8. Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
    Nearest airport: Bagdogra

All of these national parks go into tough terrain, and we recommend taking guided tours for the best experience. 

To keep your trip hassle-free, make sure to check each state’s current travel rules before booking any tickets. Good luck in finding the big cats!