Like many of my wildlife photographer friends who have not visited this place earlier, I too had little apprehension about a wildlife Safari Park so near to the highly populated city of Jaipur.
During my last visit to Jaipur for an interview with the eminent wildlife photographer IFS Mr. Arijit Lahiri, I was fortunate enough to be suggested by Mr. Lahiri to visit the park. This time, I finally decided to experience this leopard land.
Spread in an area of 23sq km Jhalana Leopard Safari Park is not only home to 30-35 leopards but also a safe haven for Striped Hynas, Desert Fox, Golden Jackal, Chital, Indian Palm, Nilgai, and Civets etc. Jhalana is also a surprise package for bird watchers: A home to number of familiar and rare species of birds that includes Indian Pitta, Dusky Eagle, Owl, Spotted Owlet, short eared owl, northern goshawk etc.
The gypsy started on a November morning as the sun peeping through the Aravallis. Aching chillness filled the air, the early birds chirping around the juliflora and khejri trees . One look and you will be enthralled by the unique landscape of rocky Aravalli on one side and a forest of evergreen and deciduous trees stretching out on the other. North of Jhalana is the Amagarh Reserve Forest, which is separated from Jhalana by a busy National Highway. The western and the southern boundary of the Jhalana forest adjoin heavily populated suburbs of Jaipur City, and the eastern boundary has villages and new settlements.
With the golden sunlight caressing the soul, our gypsy passed through the small grassland and in a few minutes started climbing up the typical curvy Aravali hills. One sharp turn and right in front we saw another gypsy standing there with passengers focusing excitedly towards a nearby tree. Not 30 mins passed after we entered the main gate; there we were, standing face to face with the magnificent Bahadur – the famous male leopard of Jhalana.
The gorgeous predator with all its glory stood comfortably on a huge tree trunk. After obliging the lensmen with a few moments of front face-pose the spotted beauty decided to climb down the tree and swiftly disappear beyond the green kumta plantations behind.
The majestic morning sighting set the tune of the entire safari as it always does. The amazing bio diversity of its own the typical Rajasthan forest land is a place where any nature lover would love to spend as much time as possible. The environment has its own charm and magic that make you longing for a lazy and stretched day watching the green and brown landscape, the owls watching you with one eye opened, hyenas searching for the food, spotted deer cautiously crossing the road or the nilgais gazing the green grassland.
The day ended with a young Leopard suddenly deciding to leave the ‘kill’ and making a sudden chase towards a full grown blue bull who both shocked and panicked started running randomly much to the delight of the waiting photographers.
The history records about the existence of both tigers and leopards in the hill ranges of Rajasthan, including the Aravali range. In the early 19th century, Jhalana was a popular hunting ground with eminent state officials being frequent visitors. The old Shikar Audhi (Hunting Palace) stands as a testament to its popularity. The last tiger was shot in 1948, and its cubs were relocated to the Jaipur Zoo. Since then, leopards have been the apex predator here.
With the rapid increase of urbanization over the decades, the amazing story of co-existence of leopard and locals today, has been the testimonial of leopards’ unique ability to adapt as well as the success of wildlife conservation project by the Forest department of Rajasthan. The only reserve in the country dedicated to leopards, Jhalana is one of the finest examples of successful human-animal cohabitation stories in the world.
How to reach
Jhalana safari park is 5 km from Jaipur city which is connected with all major railway networks and airport. Jaipur is about 5/6 hours drive from Delhi.