I am not exaggerating: this mini vacation, spontaneously planned a few weeks back, was one of the best trips of my life. This place was THAT good. Location: Jawai Bandh, Rajasthan
The first most genuine reason is the rare sightings of the beautiful leopards. In a span of three days, I had the luck of sighting these gorgeous creatures at least seven times. And even luckier: watching two adorable playful cubs cuddling with their mother. On another day, we played pee-ka-boo with another female leopard from behind the mountain rocks. And we followed a male leopard mark his territory at the bottom of a mountain for a good half hour.
The experience for leopard spotting in this area is very different. The terrain is untouched by humans, yet there is a friendly wilderness about it. The safari rides are similar to that of a rollercoaster – I don’t recommend for hip-pain candidates or the faint hearted. The ride is on rocky mountainous roads, and the village dwellers are the kindest you will ever meet. As you drive through the locality, the children will wave ‘bye’, give you high fives and blow kisses. If you ever needed a moment of free love, this is it right here.
The animals and humans peacefully co-exist in close proximities and fear is non-existent. The breath-taking views and landscape is a treat to the eyes and soul. The air is fresh and the birdlife is exquisite. I saw FOUR Indian eagle owls mingling together, a mongoose couple, a whole bunch of rare birds such as woodpeckers, northern pintail, grey hornbill, spoonbill, oxspray and pelicans. I even caught a glimpse of a rare viper snake slither across the path. Massive beehives adorn the mountain hooks, which are a sight to see. And along the crocodile-infested water body, a lone open-jawed crocodile bathed in the sun.
Every moment was an exciting experience without a dull minute.
Now, the most important – food. I ate every morsel served and managed to loose a kilo in the process! Dining in the outdoors, surrounded by mountains and nature, food did what it did best – satiate and comfort.
Each meal ended with a small dessert, which really was the highlight for me. I had a beautiful wine poached pear with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. I even had a go at the poached blueberry crème brûlée, something that I don’t usually opt for. And the brownie, my god, the brownie was an utter delight, soft, sinful and oh-so-delicious. Brick oven thin crust pizzas, light as air, were devoured daily with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and roasted vegetables. Drinks were laden with my favourite thyme and rosemary, all freshly picked from their organic garden patch.
Dinners are taken in a different setting on each night, and you’re still ensured hot food (very important!) especially when it is an Indian thali. The dishes are made with the perfect blend of spices, less oil and various flavourings.
Pre-dinner drinks are taken by a bonfire, where you mingle with other guests if you’re feeling social, or if you’re like me, settle down with your Kindle.
The hospitality is impeccable; the décor is minimal, clean, modern and very One King’s Lane! Do a spot of writing at your outdoor desk, facing the wilderness – needless to say, it was very hard to leave. Watch the breath-taking nightfall and spend some time with your thoughts under the millions of stars twinkling above your head.
It is true that one can be completely rejuvenated in the forests and the peaceful solitude of the surroundings. This is an experience that needs to be had to understand.
Lodge details: Jawai Leopard Camp, Sujan Luxury