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A Trip to Remember

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

[UDATE: There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether elephants and tourists in Thailand can ever be a good mix. Here’s John Roberts, the founder of the Elephant Foundation (which works with the Four Seasons Golden Triangle) on the subject: “Certainly elephants should all be wild, where they’re free to make their own decisions and perform ecosystem services. This is the reason a large amount of the Foundation’s money and effort is spent keeping wild elephants wild.

“Thailand, however, has around 3,500 non-wild elephants and we also need to find ways to look after them. There isn’t enough wild to put them back into, so a well-planned tourism activity such as ours is a great way to do that – they get to walk around as a group, meet new people and lead a rich and varied elephant life. The elephants enjoy it: there seems to be a modern misconception that captive elephants live entirely in misery and fear no matter how you look after them. I have to say that in 16 years of living among elephants I have seen no evidence of this – I have seen elephants looked after badly and I would never seek to bring a wild elephant into captivity but I’m entirely comfortable with this as a way to keep those already in captivity fed, watered and amused.”]

Sitting on top of an elephant, I look down over Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meeting at the Mekong river as the sun begins to rise. I’d ridden the gentle giant, called Thong Kam, up the mountain to watch dawn breaking over the Golden Triangle and now she’s taking a well deserved break and snacking on banana trees. Her foot effortless crushes the tree trunk into smithereens and she eats enthusiastically – it’s time for me to dismount and breakfast myself on fresh fruit and coffee the guide has set up for me.

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Spotting Leopards in Style at Jawai

 

jawai-tent

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.

Jawai shepherds

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.

Jawai guest tent

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.

wilderness-drive-05.jpg

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.

Jawai pool.jpg

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.

www.sujanluxury.com/jawai

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip You’ll Never Forget

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

Sitting on top of an elephant, I look down over Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meeting at the Mekong river as the sun begins to rise. I’d ridden the gentle giant, called Thong Kam, up the mountain to watch dawn breaking over the Golden Triangle and now she’s taking a well deserved break and snacking on banana trees. Her foot effortless crushes the tree trunk into smithereens and she eats enthusiastically – it’s time for me to dismount and breakfast myself on fresh fruit and coffee the guide has set up for me.

Read more

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