The magic of the Indian wilderness goes a step further when you reach The Jawai Leopard Camp.
Sprawled between Udaipur and Jodhpur, Jawai is one of a series of hamlets strung around the Jawai dam in the Aravalli hills of Rajasthan. A place of dramatic beauty, the panoramic vista is dotted with small African Kopje-like hills which surround the water body, Cactus-like scrub, Flame-of-the –forest trees and sparsely populated farmland.
The picturesque dam is teeming with exotic birdlife and the hills are the home of the Jawai leopard.
This land also belongs to the Rabaris, a tribe of ancient nomadic shepherds and herders who once roamed the deserts of western India. Their sparse farmlands encircle the hillocks and extend to the water bodies further down to the plains. The bizarre incongruence of this setting is reminiscent of Noah’s Arc where predator and prey lived side by side, in harmony. In the face of rampaging human population, where land is always at a premium especially to the mining, timber and other interest groups- these herdsmen need to protect this heritage, and the leopard is their unlikely mascot.
SUJAN Naturalist, Adam Bannister, a big cat expert, who has also studied Leopards and Lions in Africa and Jaguars in Brazil, believes these leopards to very happy and healthy. “These are some of the largest leopards I have ever seen. There is a good population on these hills, breeding, raising cubs and fairly safe from the dangers of human intervention.”
Jawai is a one-of-a –kind, or should I say the last-of-its-kind places on earth, a beautiful little dot on this planet where at least for now, life exists as it should, in equal splendor, for all creatures great and small.
Many thanks to The JAWAI Leopard Camp, which is no doubt the best vantage point from which to experience this little Eden in luxurious tented comfort, but more importantly in the company of people who totally ‘get it’. Jaisal Singh, Yusuf Ansari, Adam Bannister and their colleagues, who aren’t just great hosts but also formidable champions of wildlife conservation and Ecological awareness.
Can’t wait to do this again.
Written and photographed by Abhinav Dhar