This is the story of my trip to a different Rajasthan, where leopards live in harmony with shepherds and where imposing Bengal tigers emerge majestically behind the walls of ancient forts.
The stunning image of a tigress awakening behind the walls of an ancient fortress, in Ranthambore National Park, has been, without a doubt, one of the most powerful images of my last trip.
In the Indian state of Rajasthan, known for its majestic palaces, impressive forts, and imperial cities, there are also more remote places where culture, history, and wildlife mingle in a natural environment of great beauty.
To describe the first thing I felt when I entered Jawai, "the land of the leopard," let me share one of the experiences of Jaisal Singh, founder, along with his wife Anjali Singh, of The Sujan Life, the Indian brand of boutique accommodations that puts a special focus on the conservation of the culture and wildlife of the territory in which they are located.
Jaisal explains that one of his most revealing leopard encounters was one evening at sunset in the Jawai region.
A leopard comfortably lounging on a high rock observed in the distance the chanting and celebrations of a small village nearby.
One of the things that have surprised me most about this region is the harmonious and balanced coexistence between man and wildlife.
India in its purest form!
Jawai is an area of great beauty, a mixture of a desert landscape and impressive rock formations, rich in cultural heritage, located in the southwest of Rajasthan.
There, among fascinating and millenary granite rocks, dotted with small temples, lakes, and wheat fields, lies SUJAN Jawai, an exceptional accommodation, with sumptuous tents that impress upon arrival, for their "state-of-the-art design", in reds and blacks, spacious rooms, elegant bathrooms and private terraces with panoramic views of the Jawai desert.
Especially recommended is the Royal Panthera Suite, which we were lucky enough to enjoy, with a private heated pool all year round, a real luxury, especially in the hottest months
Arriving in what seemed like inhospitable territory, in the middle of nowhere, we were met with the first of the surprises. Next to the guide and driver who would accompany us during the whole stay, there was a man with an extraordinary presence, dressed in what looked like the traditional costume of some tribe, crowned with a spectacular red turban. He was a member of the Rabari tribe.
Originally from ancient Persia, the Rabari tribe lives in harmony with the leopards present in this region. They leave with their herds at dawn and return to their community at sunset.
When they lose one of their animals because it has fallen prey to a leopard, they consider it an offering and part of their coexistence.
Visiting their community, sharing conversations with their priests and laughter with some of the community members, are one of the must-do experiences in this place.
The culinary journey at Sujan Jawai is spectacular. Truly impressive all that the chef and his team are able to do in such a remote place, with seemingly few resources nearby. Own orchard, farm, aromatic herbs, they know how to use everything to perfection so that the culinary enjoyment is excellent.
One of the singularities of observing wildlife in a place like Ranthambore National Park, is that here, in addition to the natural and scenic beauty, the animals move among spectacular temples, walls of ancient forts and well-preserved palaces. The cultural and historical component, together with the impressive presence of Bengal tigers, a multitude of antelopes, hundreds of birds, bears and other species, makes this a totally unique place.
One of the keys to making the most of this visit is to stay in the right place and have the best guides and drivers.
SUJAN Sher Bagh is the perfect place for this. Thanks to the expert knowledge of the territory by its owners, who visited this park since they were very young, and the team that accompanies them in SUJAN Sher Bagh, the experience of the trip and knowledge of the tigers is perfect.
In addition, staying in the wonderful tents of this camp is a delight.
With a very different style from their property in Jawai, here the soft colors, wood, brass, art pieces and vintage books transport us to the time of the first classic safaris.
The collection of photographs by Jaisal Singh and his wife Anjali is worth a visit by itself!
Ranthambore National Park is a park much loved and appreciated by Indian travelers and, therefore, very popular. This is why it is essential to have the best of guides and the best possible vehicles. SUJAN Sher Bagh makes it possible. It is not a minor detail, we have seen other travelers wait long hours to see the majestic tigers, whereas in a single morning, the expertise of our guide and his driver, allowed us to observe numerous of them, in multiple and different situations.
In the suites, all the details are taken care of to the maximum, from Ayurvedic products in the bathroom, with essential oils to prevent mosquito bites, to beds where you can rest wonderfully or the excellent and efficient laundry service. Outside of them, its delicious gastronomy, the different enclaves to enjoy a magical dinner under the stars, the impeccable service, and the friendliness of the staff. It is a must.
From what was a fortress of the fourteenth century, part of which is preserved and houses their wonderful Spa, Six Senses Fort Barwara has created a sanctuary of wellness and enjoyment in the heart of Rajasthan.
It has been carefully restored, expanded following the architectural foundations of the original building and converted into a spectacular accommodation, with spacious and elegant suites, which have preserved the legacy and historical flavor of the place.
Its beautiful gardens and spectacular swimming pool, possibly the largest in Rajasthan, make it a destination in itself, where you can enjoy a few relaxing days, as a break in a trip to Rajasthan.
Six Senses Fort Barwara has paid special attention to offering the traveler the best dining experiences. Not only in the Indian food section, but from other continents. And it has succeeded in doing so. Its kitchen and the team that runs it are excellent.
Upon returning from India I have been asked, what did you like the most? The answer seems difficult in a country with so much diversity in so many aspects, but in addition to the impact of leopards and tigers, what undoubtedly made me fall in love, is rural India. Largely oblivious to all the changes the country is going through today, in rural India, you can see people cultivating their fields, children walking happily and playfully to school, the elderly chatting in the shade... Here, you can enjoy a much more leisurely pace, different colors, and authentic and genuine gestures of interest for a traveler that they are not used to... Really interesting.
Amanbagh is ideally located to enjoy all this environment. Surrounded by the millenary Aravalli Mountains, it is the perfect oasis to end a program in Rajasthan. Elegant and discreet, this accommodation offers an experience with all the quality and service characteristics of AMAN, with a team of very well-trained professionals and with an extraordinary interest in promoting its cultural and natural heritage.
Our stay with them had an original and fun surprise in store, a Camel Polo championship! As the name suggests, it is about playing polo on the back of a camel.
Believe me, for those who have not tried it, laughter and fun are guaranteed!
The stop in Delhi, at the beginning or the end of a trip to Rajasthan, is usually unavoidable, so in addition to visiting the must-sees of this stunning city where almost 19 million people live together, it is worth escaping from the usual circuits and explore the lesser-known Delhi.
I was especially interested in knowing Lodhi Colony Street and specifically, "Lodhi Colony Street Art". This is a collection of iconic buildings and architecture from the late British era in India, which took on a new prominence starting in 2015. It was then when a group of renowned artists from around the world and also from India, were invited by the St+Art India Foundation to reflect their art, claims, statements, demands and various stories, on the facades of some of these historic buildings.
A trip to India that I loved, because of the spectacular mix of wildlife, history and local culture. There is still a lot to discover there, so we are already preparing the next one!