China’s Endangered Snub-Nosed Monkeys

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Deep within the high forested slopes in some of China's largest remaining natural areas, dwell two of Earth's most enigmatic and endangered primates.  Separated and isolated by almost a thousand miles and surrounded by agriculture, villages, towns and barren lands, these two spectacular species of snub-nosed monkeys are the subjects of our unique and highly productive primate photo safari.
The biologically rich Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi Province form an important east-west watershed divide between China's two great rivers, the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) and the Huang He (Yellow) River.  In the towering broadleaf woodlands of these "Szechuan Alps," the Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana qinlingensis) share this protected habitat with some of China's rarest plants and animals, including clouded leopards, takin and the iconic giant panda.  Cold winter winds buffet these forests and snow occurs frequently within the "golden-hair monkey" habitat range.  These amazing monkeys can withstand colder average temperatures than any other non-human primates—including Japanese macaques.
At the Foping National Nature Reserve we work with park rangers who feed these golden snub-nosed monkeys twice daily.  By special arrangement we accompany the rangers to the feeding station where the monkeys are human-habituated and come down from the trees—often with babies in tow.  We are there near the peak of the birthing season and we expect to "shoot" females and their babies at close range, along with the dramatically colored and long-haired alpha males.
Near the border with Myanmar—between the easternmost edge of the dry Tibetan Plateau and the Central Chinese Plain—the high-altitude mixed conifer/broadleaf forests form the green mantle cloaking the misted peaks of the Hengduan Mountains in Yunnan Province.  This is home to an even rarer primate—the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), also known as the black snub-nosed monkey.
An elusive species, Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys were not studied in depth until the late 1990s—and rarely photographed.  They are found at a higher altitude—from 9,800 feet to over 14,000 feet in elevation—than any other primate, except for man.  The mainly black coat is long and shaggy with a contrasting white front and flanks.  Males can have particularly long white hairs on their flanks.  They sport gaudy deeply pink lips framed by yellow-gray facial and shoulder hairs.  Noses, as per their name, are unusual—nasal bones are absent, nostrils upturned.
At the Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park near Tacheng we again accompany rangers to feeding stations where we have unfettered access to these monkeys—also at the height of their birthing period.  In this beautiful forest our group is able to shoot exciting close-up portraits, as well as stunning arboreal "treescapes" featuring the snub-nosed monkeys, in habitat, as an integral feature of the larger landscape.
Capping off our trip is a visit to the famous Terracotta Army of Xi’an.  These iconic treasures are certainly to be included among the most remarkable relics of ancient China and one of the most remarkable archeological discoveries of all time.
Join us for some photogenic "monkey business."  Few photographers have enjoyed the unique rewards of capturing China's incredible snub-nosed monkeys.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from home.
Day 2 (May 7 in Beijing)
Arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport and transfer to our Beijing city center hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6 PM for dinner at a nearby restaurant. (D)
Day 3
Fly to Xi’an.  With over 3,000 years of recorded history, this capital of 12 dynasties was once the starting point of the Silk Road.  This afternoon we photograph the famous Terracotta Army—more than 6,000 life-size statues of warriors created to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor to unite China.  The Terracotta Army has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  (BLD)
Day 4
A 130-mile (215 km) morning drive brings us to Foping Panda Valley in the forested Qinling Mountains of central China.  This is the habitat of the giant and red pandas, takin, snow leopard, Asiatic black bear and crested ibis.  Our goal here is to concentrate on the valley’s population of endangered Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys.  In a scenic valley amid a temperate montane forest a large population of golden snub-nosed monkeys can be photographed as they are fed by local wildlife rangers during morning and afternoon feedings.   We have scheduled seven photography sessions with the monkeys—our first session is this afternoon.  (BLD)
Days 5‒7
For these three days we have morning and afternoon photography sessions with the golden snub-nosed monkeys at their forest feeding location.  The "golden-hair monkey"—as the Chinese call it in English—is one of the most unusual primates in the world and aptly named.  The head, neck and underparts are bright gold, especially in males, and the yellow-red to bright orange-red coat is strung through with a layer of long silver threadlike hairs that catch the forest-filtered light.  The species was long hunted for that golden pelt and—like many other species—for use in traditional medicines.  (BLD)
Day 8
We return to Xi’an in time for a late afternoon flight to Chengdu.  Time permitting, we can download and have photo critique time this evening.  (BLD)  
Day 9
In the early morning we fly to Shangri-La, located on the border with Tibet.  Formerly known as Zhongdian, the city was renamed for the fabled paradise in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon in 2001 in an effort to promote tourism after logging operations were banned due to deforestation.  Shangri-La, at over 10,000 feet (3200 meters), sits on a high plateau among lofty snow-capped mountains and deep river gorges.  
We drive for 3 hours along the Mekong River to Tacheng for the next stage of photography at the Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park.  We have our first session with the Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys this afternoon.  Our lodging for the next several nights is conveniently located at the entrance to the park.  (BLD)
Days 10–12
We enjoy three full days of photography at the Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park—home to eight different troops ranging in size from 20 to 300 members, with a regional population of 800 to 1,000 endangered monkeys.  The loss of habitat and hunting pressure has contributed to their decline by isolating and fragmenting the population throughout this mountainous and deeply-valleyed region.  Although hunting snub-nosed monkeys has been banned since 1975, enforcement is difficult.  Originally part of a larger and more far-ranging wild group, our photo subjects are protected in a special reserve.  Now habituated, the monkeys are fed by park staff.  (BLD)
Day 13
Following a morning photo session with the snub-nosed monkeys we drive back to Shangri-La in time for late afternoon and sunset photography at the massive Tibetan Buddhist Sumtseling Monastery.  (BLD)
Day 14
After photographing Shangri-La in the golden hues of the early morning light and photo-exploring this Tibetan city, we fly to Kunming.  (BLD)
Day 15
We fly from Kunming to Shanghai.  If time and group enthusiasm permit, we visit the Bund, the iconic riverfront area adjacent to our hotel where colonial architecture photogenically contrasts with Shanghai’s modern Pudong skyline—especially when lit at night.  (BLD)
Day 16 (May 21 from Shanghai)
Depart Shanghai Pudong International Airport on flights home.  (B)
A note regarding elevation:  Our hotel in Shangri-La is situated at 10,000 feet elevation and elevations in Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park range between 9,180 feet and 10,170 feet.  We expect to photograph the snub-nosed monkeys at about 9,800 feet.  If high elevations pose a health problem or concern about participation on this trip, potential participants should consult their doctor before registering.
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

China’s Endangered Snub-Nosed Monkeys

May 06, 2017 - May 21, 2017

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa or MasterCard. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

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Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

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Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

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They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

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A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

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China’s Endangered Snub-Nosed Monkeys
  • Three and a half days of photography with golden snub-nosed monkeys in the Qinling Mountains
  • Four and a half days of photography of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys in Tacheng
  • Shoot the world famous Terracotta Army at Xi’an
  • Trip fee includes 5 internal flights and hotels in Beijing and Shanghai
May 06 - May 21, 2017
Fee: $7,695 from Beijing; departing from Shanghai
Deposit: $800
Limit: 14
Tour Leaders
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