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Photos: Escape into the wilderness, in leopard land

Last updated on: December 28, 2011 15:54 IST

Photos: Escape into the wilderness, in leopard land

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Ajay Jain, Kunzum.com

Believe it or not: There is a village in Rajasthan called Bera, surrounded by forests where leopards roam freely.

The river Jawai flows by the village with the Jawai Dam built across the river. The resulting beautiful lake is home to the Jawai Dam Crocodile Sanctuary. Since these are not a part of a well-known National Park or sanctuary; most people don't know about it, not even Rajasthanis.

You will not see any madding tourist crowds here – go wildlife spotting freely, but remember you are on your own here. With leopards for company.

Note: The animals were too far for my equipment – hence the lesser picture quality. But I sure got great views with high power binoculars

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Ajay Jain is a leading travel writer and photographer and shares his travel experiences at http://kunzum.com.


Photographs: Ajay Jain

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Photos: Escape into the wilderness, in leopard land

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There is no count of leopards, but there are more than a few. I was fortunate to spot a mother leopard with her two cubs. Although they were not very close, I could clearly see them walking along a ridge -- stopping in between, playing on trees, and showing their love to one another in a way only mothers and children can.

As the sun set and they walked away into the dark of the forest, my guide highlighted two diamonds glowing in the spotlights trained on them -- these were the shining eyes of a male leopard on a peak. Awesome!



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And the wild party continued during the morning safari. Having feasted on berries all night, I saw two bears climbing up a mountain in the early morning hours. It seemed more like they were rolling uphill -- again, bears are a rare sight.

I always wonder how filling can berries be for these guys? Antelopes (also known as Nilgai or Indian Blue Bull) were all over the place -- some alone, others in groups. Males are distinguished with their dark grey coats, while females are brown.

Agile leopards feast on them; the lazy just help themselves to goats and cows belonging to villagers living near the forests.



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The forests are also home to hyenas, hares, foxes and birds like Pelican, Greylag Goose, Robin Accentor, Demoiselle Crane, Barheaded Goose and Indian Partridge besides others. Hope you are lucky enough to see them all!




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The crocodiles too make for an unforgettable sight. Big, chunky fellows at over 15 feet in length, they were busy doing what they do best -- nothing. But don't be fooled with their sleepy demeanour -- they are man-eaters.

Ask the poor shepherds who take their herds to the edge of the water -- not too long before I visited Bera, two shepherds are believed to have lost their lives. I saw the crocodiles sun-bathing safely far out on the islands in the lake.

Incidentally, the lake is full of fish, and locals disturb the crocs when they go fishing in their small row boats.



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Travel tips

Your best option to stay here is Castle Bera -- run by Thakur Baljeet Singh (a descendant of Maharana Pratap, one of the state's most valiant kings). He makes for an excellent guide and a delightful host -- making your visit truly memorable. Visit www.castlebera.com for more.

Distances to Bera (From): Udaipur -- 145 km, Jodhpur -- 180 km, Delhi -- 675 km




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