After a lengthy break back home in South Africa I have returned for another season with SUJAN in India. I so enjoyed my first season helping set up, run and develop JAWAI that I simply had to return for more. Currently I am based in the head offices in Delhi helping out with odds and ends with regards to all the camps, but my heart is set on returning to JAWAI.
So what makes JAWAI special and why did I fly half way across the world to work there?
The population of leopards in the area is incredible. Not only are they numerous, but we get to see them frequently. Our first season was incredibly successful with at least 23 individuals being seen within striking distance of camp. What’s more is how unusual their behavior and lifestyle is. As a Big Cat specialist I find this fascinating. If you think you know everything about leopards, well I challenge you to come to JAWAI. You will be pleasantly shocked. It is awesome!
We have close on 30 large granite based hills, of various sizes, surrounding the camp. They are each magical in their own right. The scenery is unusual, unexpected and captivating. Sunrises at Jawai are magical as light dances over the rolling hills. The best way to explore these hills is to hop off the jeep and explore on foot.
The local Rabari people are wonderful! They have taken so well to our camp and our initiatives. We respect them and they respect us. Their culture and lifestyle has had a great influence on the look and feel of the camp. Any stay here will be enhanced greatly by opening up to the people of the land, observing them, learning from them and appreciating them. Timeless faces molded by the elements, together with extravagant moustaches create a photographers dream.
Over the summer we have managed to get some more young, talented and energetic people on board. They will add to our already delightful small group of tightly knit staff.
The Peace and Solitude
With a population of 1,3 billion people there is very little space in India. Around every corner you will find masses of people. I like to describe India as colourful chaos and something that everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. Jawai is a rarity, offering respite from the crowds and the noises. It is quiet. It is open. It will refresh the mind and soul.
There is something fantastic in being a keen birdwatcher and still ‘discovering’ species after having been in an area for some time. This is the case at JAWAI. I know there are still many birds still to be added to the camp bird list. I look forward to finding them, as well as appreciating those magical more familiar feathered friends.
There are few places in India where one is able to lean back in your chair , feel the warmth of a campfire tickle your feet, sip on a refreshing gin-and-tonic and stare up into the stars. Constellations dazzle the eyes.
I love the fact that each outing offers potential for exploration. This is not your traditional safari! In fact, I do not believe an experience exists like this anywhere else in the world. This is the most wonderful merging of wildlife, culture, history and exchange. It tests me as a guide, pushes me and allows me to learn with every minute.
If you have already been to JAWAI do let us know, in the comments below, what your highlight was. If you have not yet been, then come join me, and the exceptional SUJAN team this season at JAWAI, and experience it for yourself.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister