Glamping weekend at: Brij Pola, Jawai

Understated luxury and customised experiences in the heart of Rajasthan's leopard country make this swanky retreat’s charms undeniable.

Please login to bookmark

Approximately 60 leopards are believed to inhabit the granite hills of Jawai. Photo Courtesy: Brij Pola, Jawai

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

It’s the last week of April and most of northern and western India is in the grip of a heatwave. In Jawai, Rajasthan, the temperature reaches a scorching 40+ even on our morning safari drive. The parched and cracked earth inside Jawai Dam bears testament to the ongoing climate escalation. At 500 sq.km., it is the largest dam in western Rajasthan and was built in the 1940s by Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur to create a water reservoir that could be used for irrigation by the nearby villages. “The dam is usually full but last year’s failed monsoon has led to this drought-like condition,” says our naturalist guide Harshwardhan Singh as he expertly steers the 4X4; my husband and I hold tight, keeping our eyes peeled for crocodiles.

Glamping Weekend At: Brij Pola, Jawai

Jawai is an upcoming hotspot for adventure seekers. The region is also popular for family getaways owing to its natural environs. Photo Courtesy: Brij Pola, Jawai

Wild Things

We find several of them sun-bathing, half-submerged in water at one end of the dam. Assorted birds mill about—egrets, herons, lapwings, even a cormorant and a gorgeous pied kingfisher. I fiddle with my binoculars trying to get a better look at the black-and-white kingfisher who continues preening, as if aware of an audience. I have spent most of the morning peering through the binoculars—first at a young sloth bear ponderously making its way down Lob Hill and then at about a dozen chinkara, which bolt as soon as they spot our jeep coming. A leopard sighting would be the cherry on the cake, I think. A split-second later, our tracker Prakash shouts “Leopard!” I immediately train my binoculars in the direction he points; of course, I don’t see it. I’m constantly amazed at both Prakash and Singh’s ability to spot animals at a distance. The Jawai landscape is perfect for camouflage, dotted with massive granite boulders and hills formed by a volcanic eruption 850 million years ago, their grey-speckled brown surface allowing leopards to effortlessly blend in. 

“Do you see those peacocks? Now look diagonally opposite them and you will see the leopard sitting on a rock”, instructs Prakash. I finally spot it, a juvenile imperviously observing the pride of peacocks creating a ruckus. Singh tells us that peacocks like to annoy leopards into moving away from their territory. About five minutes later, it seems to have had enough; in one graceful motion it leaps off the rock and charges towards the peacocks, which scatter off alarmed. 

Luxe Camping 

After that action-packed morning, we return to our camp—Brij Pola, Jawai—which has been home for the past couple of days. Our apartment-sized tented suite (one of only four) is a sprawling 2,500-sq.ft. haven with a large living area, a king-size four-poster bed, and four al fresco sit-outs, one of which leads to a private plunge pool—only two suites have private pools but the camp has a large common pool as well. I love the six-fixture ensuite bathroom with a double vanity, an open-to-sky shower cubicle (plus an indoor one), and a stunning bathtub carved out of a single piece of stone. Another favourite bit is the super-soft animal motif bed linen made by the Jaipur-based animal rescue NGO Help in Suffering. Thoughtful touches at turndown are particularly welcome, whether it’s the soaked almonds left overnight for you to start your day or the local handicraft gifts waiting for you at the end of the day.

Glamping Weekend At: Brij Pola, Jawai

Brij Pola, Jawai’s apartment-sized tented suites come equipped with spacious interiors (top) and a private plunge pool (bottom). Photo Courtesy: Brij Pola, Jawai

One of the highlights that stood out for me at Brij Pola, Jawai were the curated experiences on offer. Morning and evening safaris with a trained naturalist are on the cards of course, but they also include adventure rides on the boulders—hold on to your seats as this roller coaster in the wild is one bumpy ride! Every meal at Brij Pola, Jawai is a different experience as well, whether it’s a floating breakfast tray in your private pool or dinner under the stars atop a boulder hill. The cuisine is also varied, from traditional Rajasthani dishes and live barbecue to Italian and Chinese. One morning, we head to the nearby home of a Rabari shepherd where we are served a very local breakfast of bajre ka sogra with tadke wala dahi (millet roti dunked in tempered yoghurt), mirchi vada (batter-fried chilli fritters), and kachori with kadhi. This was probably the standout meal of our stay; or perhaps it was the evening spent stargazing while scarfing excellent sourdough pizzas paired with a nice French red.

Close Encounters

On the last safari of our trip, we are heading towards the village of Sena (the “n” is pronounced with a nasal twang) for an adventure ride on the boulder hills nearby, when the walkie-talkie crackles. A leopard has been sighted, and not just any leopard but Heera, the former alpha male of Pola area (which gives the retreat its name). “Last year, he was injured in an attack by an intruder male and he was taken to Udaipur for treatment, although his jaw is not yet healed. He has now moved to Sena but he’s not looking to mate anymore, just finding food and surviving,” Singh tells us as we drive to the sighting location. A couple of jeeps are parked at a respectful distance but one is quite close to Heera, practically under his nose. We have a clear sight of him, and even without the binoculars, I can see the scar running down his face. He sits languidly on a rock surveying the territory, sometimes swishing his tail, with the deportment (and pathos) of a battle-scarred former king. 

Glamping Weekend At: Brij Pola, Jawai

Guests of the property can devour breakfast on-the-go amidst the wild west of Rajasthan. Photo Courtesy: Brij Pola, Jawai

On our way back to camp, we stop at another location to gaze at a pair of year-old cubs, variously called Luv and Kush or Jai and Veeru. Alert and agile, they are a stark contrast to Heera. “Leopards have a lifespan of 12-15 years but they generally die at about 8-9 years because of attacks or diseases”, says Singh. Seven-year-old Heera may be past his prime, but the next generation is already waiting in the wings. 

 

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

Essentials

Brij Pola, Jawai is a 145 km/2.5-hour drive from Maharana Pratap Airport, Udaipur; doubles per night from Rs. 65,000 for the Jungle Plan, which includes experiential meals, two safaris, a private butler and naturalist, and more (taxes extra).  

 

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
  • Prachi Joshi is a Mumbai-based travel and food writer who is obsessed with coffee and all things Italian. She tweets and instagrams as @delishdirection.

COMMENTS

Please Login to comment
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE