My name is David Urbina. I had the wonderful good fortune to stumble upon Manzoor Billoo and his Kashmir based trekking and expedition company Snow Leopard Expeditions. Manzoor himself is a charming lovable man who makes you feel right at home and welcomes you as his guest the minute you meet him. He goes to great lengths to make sure that you are comfortable and happy during your stay and his knowledge and expertise far surpasses any other trekking guides who may also be leading expeditions in the area. I opted to take a shorter backpacking trip instead of one of his longer trekking routes due to time restraints, but in the end I found that the shorter backpacking trip that he offers traverses some of the most beautiful and unspoiled mountain terrain in the region. Manzoor makes you feel safe no matter where you are and his persona and personality will enrich your experience fill it with wonderful stories and lasting memories. The team that Manzoor puts together for each of his expeditions is one with only the most competent and trustworthy men as your guides/pony men/chefs. The chef in particular is a wonderful character and will provide you with the most delicious food in one of the most inhospitable places in the world…talk about luxury! For anyone out there looking for the most beautiful mountain scenery in India combined with the most experienced and trustworthy expedition leader in the Himalayas, then Manzoor Billoo and his Snow Leopard Expeditions team is your surest bet!
I know Manzoor Billoo as a result of having been a client of his on a recent trek in northern India. Manzoor was the trek leader and had full responsibility for the organisation, planning and smooth running of the expedition. He also held the position of manager of two staff assisting him in the running of the 6 week long expedition.
Throughout my time under Manzoor’s leadership I had complete confidence in his ability to manage all aspects of expedition guiding. His “customer comes first” philosophy was the backbone of his approach to his business. He addressed the diverse and often difficult tasks of managing the smooth running of the expedition with a calm and relaxed competence which earned him a great deal of respect both from myself and from his employees.
Manzoor is a hard working person who measures his success by the satisfaction of his customers. He has developed his successful Kashmir based trekking agency from scratch, often under difficult circumstances. He has had many years experience in the service of people from all parts of the world and has an in-depth knowledge of the cultural background of many of these people. He has a particular fondness of Australia and Australian values in addition to the culture of his homeland, Kashmir.
At a personal level, Manzoor is easy going, amiable and easy to make friends with. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Manzoor.
Summarised In 1991, on a trip around the world, I enjoyed the great privilege to go on an individual trek in Kashmir, the north-western range of the Himalaya, led by Manzoor Billoo and his well-organized team: one dedicated cook, several pony-men, a driver and many other locals were involved to realize a safe and convenient tour. They made me feel like “maharajah” in this unique and beautiful region, at high altitude with changing weather conditions and temperatures. Manzoor, a well-experienced mountaineer, planned all trips according to my personal preferences to make the adventure as exciting as possible. I had much fun and remember countless contacts with friendly mountain people of Kashmir. I passed a great and successful tour and can fully recommend Manzoor Billoo’s expedition and travel services.
Travel Highlights All began in Delhi where Manzoor’s brother arranged a smooth transfer to the floating houseboat “Billoo Star” on the Lake of Srinagar.
Stage 1 The unexpectedly mild climate and the quite “Dal Lake” with its carpets of water-lilies, the beautiful rose garden nearby, the tall fortress, the white shiva temple surrounded by mountains at the horizon made me feel being in paradise – a paradise that was not only admired by the maharajah of India centuries ago, but also inspired many other famous people, such as photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson (Magnum) or bestseller author Salman Rushdie, who often referenced this place in many of his books.
This initial stage at Srinagar was a good opportunity to relax and prepare for the trip to the mountains.
Stage 2 Guided by Manzoor with his profound mountaineer skills and experience made me feel safe at all time. His excellent cook and the iron pony-men were also an essential part on my two-weeks expedition. Even when the weather got rough or a trail led steep upwards to breathtaking peaks or across wild and cold waters, all team members kept smiling and remained extremely helpful to make the tour a full success. To my surprise, every day started with an original “cauha“ (Kashmiri) tea served to my tent by one of the gentle pony-men and the day regularly ended with a delicious 3-course dinner, freshly made by the cook, before sunset. Manzoor’s excellent relationship to native people was a big advantage to meet with countless friendly people of all age and to share wonderful moments – moments, I’ll never forget. The splendid scenery and view to skyrocketing peaks (Nanga Parbat, K2), wild falls, rivers, frozen lakes and the presence of rare species: apes and even (footprints of) snow leopards topped all my expectations. Moreover, I enjoyed the wonderful world of small plants, ferns, hemp fields which were also wonderful treasures to discover. All treks were planned by Manzoor on a daily basis, taking weather conditions and my individual preferences into consideration – to slowly increase from easy and relaxing to hard tours.
And now, I’m desperately hope to return to Kashmir – when time allows.
I, Kendy McLean, have known Manzoor Billoo for over 5 years and have employed him as a trekking guide on 2 seperate occasion, each for several months. At all times I have found Manzoor to be highly reputable, of sound character and judgement, and capable of delivering an extraordinary high level of service that could not be faulted in any way.
Manzoor is a strong team leader and coordinator, often supervising up to six people in his command for long and intense periods of time. He performs this task most competently in often trying conditions, given difficult terrain, weather and other human obstacles. Manzoor manages both his team and clients effectivly and always in a calm and logical way, no matter what confronts him. In any type of crisis or need for conflict resolution, Manzoor has the skills that enable him to diffuse such situations.
Manzoor’s attention to detail and his overriding concern that his service is of the highest standard possible enabled our trips to be world-class and certainly the best I have ever undertaken. I commend his ability to deliver this high quality service and would fully expect him to perform competently in any area of service delivery.
Manzoor holds an extremely positive view of life and is very adept at interacting with people. He has a lovely sense of humour and a sound perspective on events unfolding around him.
Snow Leopard Expeditions is a small customer focused, professional trekking operation run by its owners Manzoor and Jill Billoo from their lodge in Srinagar, Kashmir. Our experience was a 12 day stay, consisting of 3 days sightseeing and acclimatisation in Srinagar before 7 days of trekking in the Himalayas.We were a group of 5 with varying degrees of fitness.
Jill met us at the airport with 2 taxis driven by 2 very professional drivers specially selected by Manzoor.
The lodge is an old, large Srinagar house that is very comfortable with good rooms and plenty of hot water. It is tastefully decorated and we instantly felt at home. The food was really good and always more than we could eat. Jill was always on hand to make sure all our needs were met.
Manzoor led all the sightseeing using the taxis that had picked us up from the airport. Srinagar is a most interesting city with its old gardens, houseboats on the lake and the chaos that makes the place vibrant. This time allowed us to begin to acclimatise to the altitude and gave Manzoor an insight into our fitness.
The planned trek was for 7 days crossing 3 passes of 4000, 4200 and 4000m. The party of trekkers was well looked after with Manzoor as guide, 2 cooks and 4 men to look after the 10 horses that carried our supplies. One horse was kept as a saddle pony to be used by a trekker if the conditions became too strenuous.
After crossing the first pass on the third day in snow, Manzoor took the decision that we would not try the next passes because one of our trekkers was finding the conditions too hard. This was the correct decision that everyone agreed with. From our third camp we spent two days resting and took side trips to visit two lakes.
The trip home took us back over the first pass.
We were blessed with good weather and the scenery is quite spectacular.
This was the trip of a lifetime and I cannot speak highly enough of the professionalism and courtesy of Manzoor and his whole team.
I have no hesitation in recommending Snow Leopard Expeditions and this trek to anyone who has reasonable level of fitness and an adventurous spirit.