Leopard Safari in India. A mini Yala in Southern Rajasthan
Leopard Safari in India – a mini Yala in Southern Rajasthan
It was away back in 2004 that I first heard about the wild leopards of Bera, Rajasthan. I had been visiting many of India’s best wildlife sanctuaries since 1997 and I had enjoyed plenty of luck when it came to seeing tigers in the wild; but a sighting of the elusive Asian Leopard had eluded me. This in part can be explained by the obvious fact that leopards are very cautious around tigers, so a sighting inside the best tiger parks, such as Ranthambhore or Bandhavgarh would be very lucky indeed. In addition, leopards are much more nocturnal in their behaviour – when compared to tigers – so the reality is you are leaving the national parks, just when leopards are starting to be more active.
Where to see wild leopards in Rajasthan?
At this time, all I knew was that there was an owner of a hotel taking clients in his 1960’s antique jeep (complete with a front windscreen that folded down!) to an arid, rocky area, close to the Jawai dam crocodile sanctuary. There is very little natural prey for the leopards in this area, so they survive by killing goats and dogs. I was fascinated by this big cat living in such close proximity to local villagers; whose main income was from grazing large herds of goats amongst the weathered rock formations. It is common to see a Rabari tribesman walking through prime leopard habitat with his substantial herd. It is important to note, that most of this area is simply village lands and government degraded forests and has no protection (as of January 2019) as a leopard sanctuary – although this is being discussed.
Since my first visit to Jawai in 2004, leopard safari in Rajasthan have become a more popular experience for most international and domestic visitors. There are now a variety of interesting hotels and wildlife camps to stay in and since the Bera region is only 2-3 by car from famous cities of Jodhpur and Udaipur; why not stop off for a couple of nights and enjoy both the rural culture and the unique opportunity to see one of India’s big cats. You need to leave the main highway between Udaipur and Jodhpur at Pali drive towards the very scenic Jawai Dam. Check out this stunning drone video we made in February 2017, as part of developing our new website, India Unlocked. This will give you a feel of the type of habitat you find in this area and why it is so suitable for breeding leopards.
My first leopard sighting in India.
On our very first night time drive in this remote and little visited location, we saw a female leopard resting on top of a large boulder. As we watched, a local dog from the nearby village barked at a perceived danger and the female leopards entire alert body and gaze was ‘locked onto’ this call. She was truly beautiful and although photographs were difficult to take, we drove back to the hotel with the memory of her fierce stare and the knowledge that when we left her, the hunt was about the start.
The following day we were even luckier, as from some distance (approximately 400M) we spotted 3 different leopards together on the ridge of a massive rock face. We then spent the entire morning watching them. One was obviously a mating pair; which made the presence of the other younger female within 100 metres of the pair, fairly unusual. We were rewarded with a mating roar, which reverberated around the entire mountain, before heading back to the hotel for a much needed large breakfast.
Best places to stay in Jawai Rajasthan?
All our recommendations for your wildlife lodges in India are based on our personal stays at the property and location, food and of course, good quality wildlife guides to accompany you on your leopard safari in Rajasthan; are much more important than ostentatious luxury. When I stayed in the very basic hotel back in 2004, I encouraged the owner to think about building a semi-permanent tented camp in the Bera region. He never followed by advice, but now a couple of young Indian entrepreneurs – with a deep connection with the local region – have set up camps and are offering some fantastic values leopard safaris in Jawai. Check out our personal videos of Varawal Tented Camp and Godwad Leopard Camp.
How to organise your Leopard Safari in India?
If like us you would like to see Leopards in Bera, then why not look at adding it into your Rajasthan cultural tour. As already mentioned, it is very easy to include as an extension from Udaipur, or Jodhpur and many of our clients combine a tiger safari in Ranthambhore with a leopard safari in Bera. Check our one of our clients favourites – 5 day India Leopard safari in the Bera region . Anytime of year is good for seeing Leopards in Rajasthan; but be prepared for very cold early morning safaris from December to February. This is also a great time to see migratory birds stopping off at the various water bodies in this mainly arid region.