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Jawai leopard safari

Best Off-beat Itinerary for Rajasthan

“Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.”  

– JRR Tolkien  

And secrets don’t exist in places accessible by everyone! 

The best thing about traveling off-beat is tranquility & exploring the local taste of a place. Without constantly worrying about the crowds, you can spend more time with your fellow travelers. Get away from the hustle of the cities and explore the offbeat hidden gems of the royal city of Rajasthan. Starting from Jaipur, on a road trip: Visit Sambhar Lake, Lakshman Sagar, Deogarh Palace (Rajsamand), Rawla Narlai, Jawai Bandh, & Ravla Bhenswara!

Off-beat itinerary for rajasthan, varawal, leopards, narlai, ravla, rawla, sambhar lake, lakshman sagar, deogarh, jawai, bhenswara
  1. SAMBHAR~ THE SALT LAKE 

A short drive from the Pink City of Jaipur lies the sun-kissed landscape of Sambhar Salt Lake, the largest lake of Rajasthan. It is the largest inland saline lake of India. With an ancient folklore and legendary mentions in the Hindu “Mahabharata”, the Salt Lake known for a story involving the companion of Hindu God ‘Lord Shiva’ & the guardian goddess of the lake, ‘Shakambhari Devi’. A temple with her idol still exists near the lake.  

The place is highly famous for its ‘Salt-making’ process. If you’re interested in the process, an activity called ‘Salt Production Train Tour’ will satisfy you. Get a glimpse of the workers extracting salt from the water. Other experiences such as adventure sports like archery, ATV’s, rock climbing can give an adrenaline rush. However, nature & wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy birdwatching, village visit, camel riding & stargazing! Sambhar Heritage Resort is the most recommended place to stay. With all amenities provided, experience the opulent luxury amidst tranquility for a night.  

Contact No. +91(0) 7073901555 ; Email-Id: info@sambharheritage.i

2. LAKSHMAN SAGAR~ The Relaxing Destination 

Known for its history of connections of Lakshman Singh Ji~ Thakur of Raipur with other noble families & British emissaries. It was built in the late 19th century. The property, Lakshman Sagar Resort by Sewara is known for its Rajasthani architecture merged with sustainability. The 12 cottages are designed with according to the heritage and culture of the local life that also reflects the concept of ‘slow living’. All the cottages are similar in concept, however unique in their way. Each element found in the room has a story. Each room open itself to a private pool, which also faces the lake in either side. The cottages have private dining rooms, along with the common ones too. The dining menu can be customized according to guests’ requirement. 

Other activities such as goat herding, campfire, stargazing, local liquor tasting, horse trailing, & many others can keep you away from the hustle of the city for a short period of time. The property is definitely worth a night stay if you’re exploring the off-beat destinations in Rajasthan. Enlighten your mind & soul by visiting Lakshman Sagar.  

Contact: +91 11 4084 4551; Email-Id: reservations@sewara.com 

3. DEOGARH MAHAL~ The Royal Suites! 

Rajasthan is known for its forts, royalty & culture. Deogarh, in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, is one such destination that represents the authenticity of the culture. It has its history of Rawats (local slang for kings) which is highlighted and can be seen while you visit the palace. A part of the family still resides in the Deogarh Palace while the rest has been converted into a heritage hotel, solely managed by the family. They have three properties, Deogarh Mahal, Fort Seengh Sagar, & Deogarh Khayyam (the tent side). With all the amenities provided, every room in the palace reflects a different era. An activity called the rural ramble takes you on a drive to explore the natural surroundings of fields, cattle and locales. A cavernous rock temple of Lord Shiva also provides a wonderful view of the landscape. The ride leads to the Deogarh lake.  

The place is also a paradise for birders. Various migratory species such as Sarus Crane, white throated king fisher, pied kingfisher, etc. can be seen in the area. Other activities such as Village Walk, Rural rail, romantic breakfast on the top of terrace with your loved one can also be enjoyed. Book a night stay at Deogarh to experience the royalty of Rajasthan! 

Contact: +91-2904-252777; Email-Id: info@deogarhmahal.com 

4. RAWLA NARLAI~ A Heritage Resort 

Another destination to explore for experience the heritage and culture of royal Rajasthan & have a panoramic view of the local village of Narlai. Rawla Narlai~ A Heritage Resort has its history associated with ‘Maharaja Swaroop’, son of Maharaja Ajit Singh. Today, the heritage resort is owned and operated by his Maharaja Swaroop’s’ family, Rani Usha Devi & her sons. Rawla Narlai is a legendary destination that cannot be ignored and is a must-visit for everyone exploring off-beat Rajasthan. 

Other activities such as, high tea at the lake, mystical dinner at the stepwell, royal cavalry, village tours, adventurous leopard sightings, trekking & train safari can also be enjoyed here. Moreover, one can also take a visit to the cave temple. The granite rocks of Narlai make the place a beautiful landscape.  

Contact: +91 9950810813 ; Email-Id: crs@rawlanarlai.com 

5. JAWAI~ The Land of Leopards (Varawal Leopard Camp) 

Jawai has a mystifying blend of the most natural elements that are present on this planet. It provides an unbelievably mesmerizing view of the Aravalli ranges, the Jawai hills, and the Jawai dam. Apart from any other hills or ranges, these rock formations are home to the leaps of leopards and many other wild animals. It has a huge population of leopards that roam free. The Jawai leopard Reserve is not managed by any government organization and is solely handled by individuals. You’ll find hyenas, sloth bears, blue bulls, and many bird species such as Flamingos, Bar-headed geese, Owls, Raptors, Eagles, and many more. For decades, harmony and peace has been maintained between the wildlife & humans. The Jawai Dam gives one of the most surreal views ever seen. 

The best property to stay in Jawai is Varawal Leopard Camp. Lavish accommodation in luxurious Swiss Cottage Tents, each named after the name of a leopard in Jawai (a specialty of Varawal Leopard Camp), thrilling village & wildlife safaris, birdwatching & crocodile sightings, high tea on Jawai hill, theme breakfast are some of the activities that one can enjoy here. The place is a paradise for everyone. Stay for a minimum of 2 nights in a row to explore and enjoy the stories of various leopards of Jawai! 

Contact: +917742133581 ; Email-Id: bookvarawal@gmail.com 

6. RAVLA BHENSWARA~ Ancestral heritage 

A heritage site highly famous for its legendary Rajput hospitality and is a home to the noble family of Bhenswara. The castle was built about 240 years ago by Thakur Jagat Singh Ji Rathore. Bhenswara is also famous for various thrilling safaris, such as leopard safari, village safari, and other adventurous activities such as trekking & Rural rumble.  

The rooms of the Ravla Bhenswara are a perfect blend of the traditional lifestyle and luxurious comfort. The walls are painted with murals or glass bangle work, which is a specialty of Rawla. Every room has its own story to tell. Stay for a night in Ravla to experience the lavish lifestyle of Bhenswara.  

Contact:  +91-9828070734 , +91 8890395971 ; Email-Id: bhenswarahotels@gmail.com

For a better understanding of the itinerary, refer to the customized map:

Neelam~ Jawai Leopard

The Ferocious Neelam!

~A story of a magnificent female leopard of Jawai

Growth; What do you understand by it?   

Growth is an inevitable truth of life that one has to always come across, no matter what. A truth that no living species on earth can avoid; an evidence of evolution; the mere existence of the process of reproduction. Personal growth is known to transform a living being into a stronger version, that overcomes all sorts of problems and protects what it owns.   

The month of July, 2013 is accurately engraved in my memory. It was the scorching July sun and I was on an expedition with a group of Spanish Guests, who were extremely exhausted with the heat, aggravated with disappointment. We wandered for three hours and hadn’t spotted a single leopard in the area. On our way back to the camp, I stopped the gypsy at the only place that relieved me, the tea stall outside Varawal. While sipping my chai from kulhad with deep disappointment and enervation, I got a phone call from one of my trackers. He informed me that a leopard & hyena had been found fighting at a spot that was near to the tea stall. Without any second thoughts and further discussion, I took my guests to the spot.   

We reached the place and spotted the hyena trying to scare a leopard off who was on the rock in the headlight of our gypsy. There she was~ the ferocious one. The aura in her eyes reflected her newness to the situation of the fight and the world of cruelty. From the first look, I suspected that she might’ve just been separated from her mother. At that moment, I didn’t understand the reason behind their fight. With a thought that its unethical to disturb the activities of wildlife, I took my happy-with-spotting guests back to the camp. With the hope of finding her again, I gave her a name~ Neelam.   

Neelam, Jawai leopard, Varawal, Wildlife, Mumbai travelers, Foliage Outdoor
The ferocious Neelam!

New leopards separate from their mothers at the age of 12-14 months to find a territory of their own, along with mating partners. She made a magnificent appearance which made me curious as to what might’ve invoked the fight between a new leopard & a hyena. With a determination of unraveling the mystery, I went to the same spot the next day. I was surprised when I found a dead goat on that spot. Realizing that the reason behind their fight was food, I started looking for her. I found myself lucky when I spotted her on a hill. She gave enough spotting to be seen for existence from a crack, only to disappear again after a few months.  

Neelam, Jawai leopard, Varawal, Wildlife, Mumbai travelers, Foliage Outdoor
Neelam, spotted!

It is believed that a destination becomes more special if the journey is spectacular and indulging. It took me two months to locate her again on a different hill. Every day, I wandered on my patrolling bike in search of her. I was taken by surprise in the month of April, 2015 when I saw her with her first litter of 2 cubs, a male & a female who I’d named (later,) Heera & Panna respectively. Mother-leopards tend to hide to protect their cubs & bring them in the presence of humans only after 2 months. They might be called “Ghost of the forest”, but they know if you’re watching them. At least in Jawai, they do. Due to a lack of equipment, I couldn’t capture her shot then. However, in the month of July, 2015 on an expedition with a group of traveler photographers from ‘Mumbai Travelers’, we managed to get a shot of Neelam & her cubs. For a series of months, it was her routine to sit outside her cave along with her cubs & we had great spotting!   

Neelam, Jawai leopard, Varawal, Wildlife, Mumbai travelers, Foliage Outdoor
Neelam, with Heera & Panna
Picture Credits: Mr. Jogi Prajapat, Mumbai Travelers

The first territory of a female where she lives with her cubs is always owned by the male she mates with and the father of the cubs. However, it is the sole responsibility of the female to take care of her cubs. Her cubs made me curious about her mating partner. On a particular morning, I spotted Neelam with her cubs going inside the cave. She looked alert then. In the evening, I was on a safari with a group of guests and we saw her running with Heera (male cub). Panna (female cub) was alert. A sight of another male leopard, Marshal, in Neelam’s territory was seen just later.   

Male leopards tend to kill other males to mate with a female. Marshal could’ve come to the hill for only two reasons: One, to kill Heera so that he could mate with Neelam & claim the territory or two, this was his territory! Marshal, walked around marking of the cave, sprayed (I.e., urinated) and then left. Another day, the daily routine of Neelam with her cubs sitting outside the cave on her signature spot: The Tea Rock ~ Left Cave, was followed with a sight of Marshal, who happened to exchange looks and then he walked away. This particular sight wasn’t usual. This could only mean one thing: Marshal was Neelam’s first mating partner!   

Neelam, Jawai leopard, Varawal, Wildlife, Mumbai travelers, Foliage Outdoor
The Male Leopard~ Marshal

A leopard raises her cubs, teaches them hunting, for a period of 7-8 months after which, she leaves them to be on their own. Neelam raised her cubs in the territory of Marshal. She left them to be on their own after 10 months from their birth. Meanwhile, a leopard searches for a mating partner. It hunts, it lives its own life and continues to find a mating partner. I was wondering as to who would be her next mating partner when I spotted her mating with Marshal on a rock. I wasn’t surprised. Nevertheless, I was waiting to spot her 2nd litter!   

After a few months, in the first week of December, 2016, I spotted her in one of Marshal’s territory with her 2nd litter of 3 cubs~ all males. She was the first-ever leopard in Jawai to be seen with 3 MALE CUBS! This made her even more special in the area. Guests demanded to see such sights. The cubs were a month old when they were first spotted. On fine evening of 18th January, 2017, I took a group of traveler guests from ‘Foliage Outdoor’ to spot Neelam. Near sundown, we saw Marshal marching towards Neelam from a crack & attacking her. The whole situation confused me. We couldn’t stay more because of the sundown.   

After an extreme period of inquisition with my mind, I went to the same spot the next day. I was shocked to find Marshal wandering around his whole territory like a king, who claims a kingdom after a fight. Marshal looked angry. I looked around in search of Neelam and didn’t find her. With a sense of disappointment, I wondered if she’d gone. However, a week later she was seen in some other territory with all 3 cubs.  

On the morning of 31st January, 2016, one of Neelam’s cubs from the 2nd litter, was found dead on a rock!

Neelam, Jawai leopard, Varawal, Wildlife, Mumbai travelers, Foliage Outdoor
The Male Cub, 2nd litter was found dead!

This was a dreadful sight to look. The cub was bleeding and there were pug marks of leopards from a fight. Due to the series of events, I’d suspected Marshal had killed the cub. The fact was disturbing. Leopards often fight when they’re claiming a territory or want to mate with the same female. However, the cub was only 4-5 months old, and was not fit for any activity above. Also, it was Marshal’s cub! Neelam disappeared with the remaining 2 cubs and wasn’t spotted for weeks. Where did she go?? There was another question that left all of us bugging: Why did Marshal kill his own cub?    

Comment below if you suspect something. An answer? Or you might’ve to wait for another week for the right one!    

~~NOTE: The story has been written from Mr. Pushpendra’s (Owner’s) point of view. All the experiences described in the story are his personal experiences and has nothing to do with the writer~~  

~~Special thanks to Mr. Jogi Prajapati, tour leader & co-founder of Mumbai Travelers from Mumbai, Maharashtra & Mr. Rahul Rao, tour leader at ‘Foliage Outdoor’ group from Pune, Maharashtra~~