Spotting Leopards in Style at Jawai
What is it?
Jawai Leopard Camp is a luxury tented camp in the wilderness near Jawai Bandh, Rajasthan, halfway between Jodhpur and Udaipur and a couple of hours car ride from both.
What makes it different from the other safari camps in India?
While Ranthambore is more well known with the big ticket draw of tigers, at Jawai (where leopards are the attraction) you won’t encounter a mass of jeeps crowded around every animal. As Jawai is the only camp in the vicinity and has just nine double tents plus a family suite, the safari feels exclusive.
What’s the design concept?
Contemporary safari chic. Based on the idea of a moveable camp, it’s all canvas and metal with a black, white and red colour scheme – inspired by the local Rabari herdsmen’s outfits that are topped with striking scarlet turbans. Stunning black and white photographs of leopards and shepherds are dotted throughout. There are two open sided communal tents one for lounging and the other for dining, both overlooking the rocky Aravalli hills. The guest tents are a short walk away – after nightfall and before dawn (more of which later) you’ll be guided back and fore by shepherds carrying lanterns.
What are the guest tents like?
Very comfortable. The roomy bedroom has a double bed and liberal amounts of locally designed throws and rugs. Each tent has a private verandah complete with writing desk for that Out of India feeling. The bathrooms are particularly impressive: free standing wood and metal double basins and a large, wood slatted shower. Plus a proper loo of course – this is glamping after all.
Tell me about the leopard spotting
Personable and knowledgable guides take you on two jeep drives a day, skillfully negotiating the scrubland and granite hills to find the best spot for viewing the leopards. Days are dictated by the wilderness drives. You’ll be heading off before dawn for the first in the hope of a sunrise sighting (coffee and binoculars provided). Then back out around 5.30pm for an evening drive. Each time you arrive back at camp you’ll be greeted jeep-side with a refreshing drink and chilled towel. All very civilised.
Are there any other animals?
You’ll see monkeys and peacocks aplenty but a notable wildlife draw are the migratory birds. The area is a veritable twitchers’ paradise, particularly near the Jawai Bandh reservoir.
So I can go off piste from the leopard spotting?
Certainly. You may want to organise a private drive combining bird watching with a vintage jeep ride to catch the sunset (along with a few sundowners) at the picturesque reservoir.
When will I eat?
Meals are pretty flexible and worked around the safaris. Breakfast is available from the moment you get back from the early morning drive, there’s a leisurely lunch slot, afternoon tea before you leave for the evening wilderness drive and dinner available when you return – in a delightful al fresco and lantern strewn setting. You’ll want to sit around the campfire first for an aperitif though.
What’s the food like?
A mix of modern international and traditional Rajasthani and all very good. Chefs work from an open kitchen and source vegetables from their own garden. Meat is procured from local farmers and fish from the nearby lake.
What else is there to do?
With the early starts you’ll probably want a nap in the afternoon but there’s also a sleek looking swimming pool and massages are available either in the spa tent or on your own verandah. Nearby is the impressive Ranakpur temple complex and a little further afield, Kumbhalgarh, a stunning fort that’s doable as a day trip.
Anything else I should know?
Go dressed for your pick up. When you’re dropped off at the meeting point you’ll be straight in an open topped 4×4 then it’s about a 20 minute off road bumpy drive so an outfit you can clamber in and out of a jeep, sun tan lotion and a hat that stays on your head are advisable.
What’s the damage?
Rates start at HK$6,898 (59,000 INR) per tent plus taxes and a Conservation Contribution of HK$117 (1000 INR) per person per night, including all meals, two wilderness drives a day, WI FI and laundry.