Leopard safari – Jawai conservation zone

Oh my goodness, I was excited for this. We piled into the open top jeep, setting off at a such belting pace down the bumpy track that we felt we were in danger of flying out the back. Sunglasses and hats were needed just to stop those insects with a death wish flying into our eyes.

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My forehead was embedded with dead insects following our high speed drive through the village

We whizzed through the village, tooting the horn constantly and occasionally swerving off the road to avoid villagers and bikes. A sharp left hand turn saw us hang on to the bar for dear life as we came to a sudden stop with the front end of the jeep half way up an embankment to look at the crocodiles in the lake.

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Sunbathing crocodile
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Egrets and herons flying around above the crocodile

Some small boys beside us started making a noise like a firecracker to get the birds to fly. The crocodile quit his sunbathing and slid into the water. Off we set again at full speed but had to slow down occasionally for local traffic……

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Traffic jam – Rajasthan style

A few miles further on, o driver turned left off the road, kicked the jeep into first gear and headed straight up the rock face ahead of us watching all the time for signs of leopards. We felt like we were on an episode of extreme Top Gear as some of the places he drove seemed physically impossible. This guy clearly loved his job!

The sun was starting to get lower when both our driver and guide suddenly spotted the tiny head of a leopard in a cave half way up the rock face opposite and pulled up to get a look. It took us quite a while to see the leopard even with them explaining to us exactly where to look. 1 o’ clock past the horizontal boulder above the green bush….. Wonderful when you got it, really frustrating when you didn’t and others did. Suddenly we saw it too, our first sighting of a wild leopard! This was a mother leopard and she apparently had two seven month old cubs in the cave with her. They also told us that she was about one month pregnant again.

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Eventually the leopard took pity on us and came to lie out in better view.
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It was such a privilege to see such a beautiful animal in the wild
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Rolling over to have a good scratch
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Queen of all she surveyed

We sat and watched her for ages and all the time, just behind us, the villagers were finishing up their day in the fields completely unconcerned about this beautiful predator up on the rocks.

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Bringing home cow food from the field at the end of the day

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These cute children kept waving at us as we sat in our jeep on the rock

Mama leopard didn’t show much sign of getting up and moving about, and the light was going, so our guide asked us if we wanted to go and see sunset over the lake from the other side of the rock. It was a real dilemma as of course we wanted to see the sunset but we didn’t really want to miss any leopard action either. In the end we were convinced that we might have another opportunity to see leopards in the morning but this was our only chance to see this view of the sunset. Queue another race along bumpy tracks, ducking to avoid whiplash from the bushes either side.

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We had to veer off the track to pass these local ladies on their way back to their village.

Back into first gear and another 45 degree ascent up the rock face to view the sunset. Wow, just wow – this was probably the most stunning sunset I have ever seen.

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Sun setting behind the Aravalis mountains. The reflection on the lake was spectacular
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Jumping out on to the rock for a photo opportunity. Apparently the leopard we had seen was just over the ridge!

Even though it was getting dark, our guide asked if we would like to go back and see the leopard one last time. It was of course a complete no brainer, not least because racing along in the jeep was so much fun. We were rewarded by the sight of both the mother and her male cub up and about. The light was really going so it was hard to get any photos, but it was incredible to see him jump on his mum in play and the two of them wrestle together before finally heading off up the rock face to hunt.

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Playful cub about to jump on mummy

It was dark by the time we drove down off the rocks and back out on the road to head back to Leopard Camp. We must have looked quite funny still with our sunglasses on and scarves wrapped round our faces.

Back at camp there was time for a shower – (the joy of decent water pressure!) – before heading out to join Shelley and Linda for a drink and snacks around the fire. Unfortunately Jacquie still wasn’t feeling great so got an early night but Jackie and I enjoyed a fabulous dinner under the stars before turning in for the night. This really had been an incredible day.

Dinner under the stars
Drinks around the camp fire
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