The Jawai Community Reserve in the west of Rajasthan is one of the best wilderness hideaways in India. Tucked away in a remote corner between Udaipur and Jaipur, the rugged landscape gives way to a stunning reservoir and wetlands.
There is a large and prolific population of leopards who roam uninhibited across the area. What makes this region truly unique is that Jawai is not a protected reserve. Despite there being several small tribal settlements and villages in the area, there is rarely any human-animal conflict with these gorgeous felines.
The other apex predators in Jawai are the gigantic crocodiles who live in the waters of the reservoir.
Beautifully camouflaged against the muddy banks, you won’t be able to spot them until they make a sudden move — usually to ambush an unsuspecting victim! Jawai’s crocodiles are some of the largest specimens in the country, but despite their enormous size, they can move very fast when they have to.
Extensive wetlands that surround the reservoir are the winter roost for several migratory birds that fly to Rajasthan in the winter from as far as Northern Europe and Eurasia. In the winter, one can spot thousands of flamingos, geese, ducks and several other species of waterfowl.
The surrounding forest is full of scrub and thorny bush, interspersed with indigenous varieties of cactus.
The steep and craggy cliffs are full of deep caves, which are ideal hideouts for leopards, which feed on a prey-base of herbivores and rodents.
One of the best ways to soak up the beauty of this wilderness is to camp. Jawai offers a range of options from luxurious tented suites to ruggedly comfortable camp sites. You can also base yourself in the historic town of Ranakpur, which is close by and famous for its ancient Jain temples, and take day trips into the reserve.
Jawai is ideal for those who have a passion for the outdoors and enjoy nature. It works well as a stop between Udaipur and Jodhpur, and is easily combined with a visit to the temples at Ranakpur.
The best time to visit Jawai is between November and March/April, when the climate is crisp and the migratory birds come to roost for the winter. The combination of leopards and the rural Rajasthani landscape, makes for brilliant photography. The beauty of this region is that the Rabari tribes and the leopards lead a peaceful coexistence with one another and its not uncommon to see a leopard strolling up a village path, while the villagers remain unperturbed.