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Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Rajasthan - Kutch Nov 2018
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After a very delicious Indian breakfast at the Almond Tree hotel in Jodhpur, we drove south towards Bera, our next stop. We drove on Hwy 62 again, and about 20kms before Pali, we came to a stop at the Bullet Baba shrine.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Off came the shoes to enter this outdoor shrine
Off came the shoes to enter this outdoor shrine

Legend has it that in recent past, on 2 December 1991, Om Banna (formerly known as Om Singh Rathore) was traveling from the town of Bangdi near Pali, to Chotila, when he lost control of his motorcycle and hit a tree. Some say he was drunk. He died instantly and his motorcycle fell into a nearby ditch. The morning after the accident, local police took the motorcycle to a nearby police station. The next day it was reported to have disappeared from the station and was found back at the site of the accident. Police, once again, took the motorcycle, this time emptying its fuel tank and putting it under lock and chain to prevent its removal. Despite their efforts, the next morning it again disappeared and was found at the accident site, chains broken. Legend states that the motorcycle kept returning to the same ditch. It thwarted every attempt by police to keep it at the local police station; the motorcycle always returned to the same spot before dawn.
After all of the ghostly happenings, the motorcycle was moved to the site permanently and a shrine was erected including a concrete dais and glass enclosure for the bike. Each day hundreds of passersby stop to bow down to the spirit of Om Banna the Motorcycle God (known colloquially as Bullet Baba, named after the Royal Enfield branded Bullet motorcycle he was riding) who is believed to offer protection to distressed travelers. They leave flowers, food, incense, and bottles of liquor offerings to ask for the deity’s blessing.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Bullet Baba
Bullet Baba
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan The temple even has its own priest who rituals and tends to the upkeep of the site.
The temple even has its own priest who rituals and tends to the upkeep of the site.

The tree into which Rathore crashed still stands in front of the shrine, and is now festooned with prayer strings, bangles and ropes. All travelers are expected to stop and pay homage here, otherwise they may not reach the end of their journey with all body parts intact. Only in India.

We continued onto Pali and kept going till we reached the small town of Bera, and drove to the nearby to the Bera Safari Lodge.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Bera Safari Lodge
Bera Safari Lodge

Dilshad had researched and come across this as we were planning our travels. Turns out, this place has the largest concentration of wild leopards in the planet; yes the world. There are many leopards that reside here within an 8sq mile area of rocky hill outcrops and flat irrigated small fields, and thorny scrub. So you are much more likely to see a wild leopard here, than in Africa.

We were met at the lodge/homestay by Shatrunjay Pratap and his family; the owners of the lodge. Shatrunjay gave us a brief rundown about the leopards and this area. Years earlier, he had decided that leopards should be protected and provided their space in this area where leopards were present. The Govt had been granting mining licenses for this area, for mining slate and granite. Shatrunjay fought the Govt, and found a clause that mining and heavy industry is not allowed within a certain distance of a heritage site, and worked that to the leopards benefit. So this area is not a national park or animal reserve, but the local Rabari tribes people villages and homes.

The leopards’ conspicuous presence is due to a unique relationship with the Rabari villagers, who are a tribal caste of semi-nomadic cattle herders and shepherds believed to have migrated to Rajasthan from Iran via Afghanistan a thousand years ago,. They are devout Hindus, and devotees of Shiva—the god of wild things, who is always depicted clad in a leopard skin. So while in the rest of India, leopard and human encounters are usually deadly for both sides, here in Rabari land, they have peacefully co-existed for a hundred years. The leopards hunt for wild dogs, foxes, antelopes etc etc and also will prey on the herdsmen’s sheep, goats and cattle. The Rabari are content to claim the half value they get from the State Forestry Dept for the kills of their herds, and many times, they don’t even claim anything; “If any leopard kills my livestock, Lord Shiva will give me double”. So the leopards are not chased or hunted by the local Rabari’s, and since the leopards get enough to feed on from easy prey, they don’t bother humans. A most interesting relationship.

Staying with Shatrunjay at the lodge, everything is included; as hotels and restaurants are not close by or comfortable. So all meals are included, 2 safari drives every evening and early morning, and excursions to see the local Rabari villages/homes. Shatrunjay organized the various villages in this area, so that they are all on a Whatsapp group, and anytime leopards are spotted or a kill is made of their livestock, they all get notified. This make the spotting of leopards that much easier; though it does take a lot of patience to wait and spot the leopards.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Our first drive to spot leopards was that evening
Our first drive to spot leopards was that evening
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan After waiting for about 15mins, we saw our first leopard climb out of his cave
After waiting for about 15mins, we saw our first leopard climb out of his cave
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan and posed for us; beautiful
and posed for us; beautiful

On the morning rides, it was always chilly, and the jeeps all had blankets and hot tea available for us to warm up with. We did see leopards on all of the subsequent 3 rides; not bad at all. Unfortunately, leopards, being shy creatures, always were on the rocky slopes, far away from us, and well camouflaged, so decent pictures could only be taken using large zoom lenses. In addition, because of poor light in the late evening and early morning, good pictures were not easy to take. Below are some more images from subsequent drives

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Leopard
Early morning hunt time
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Watching us from his strategic location
Watching us from his strategic location

In the evenings, when we were returning to the lodge, it had typically gone dark, but we still seeing villagers walking home, unafraid of the giant cats.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Caught at night with searchlights, near some homes. Next morning, we learnt that there was a goat that was killed that night near where we saw this leopard.
Caught at night with searchlights, near some homes. Next morning, we learnt that there was a goat that was killed that night near where we saw this leopard.
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Beautiful moon
Beautiful moon
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Ever watchful, well camouflaged
Ever watchful, well camouflaged

The Safari lodge had 6-8 sets of very spacious and comfortable rooms; and a nice common dining room. In the evening, before dinner, we all set around a campfire, watching the millions of stars come out (no light pollution here); and had our sundowner drinks, before going in to the Dining room for dinner. Everything came with very good service; excellent and polite staff; all mostly local Rabari’s learning how to manage tourism with precious jobs. The food was always sourced locally, and served as local recipes; Dilshad fell in love with the food; it was always simple, home-cooked, and fresh. This had to be some of the best food we had eaten in India. The lodge was a little pricy for me, but when you consider that it is all-inclusive, you have great comfort and amenities in the middle of nowhere, it does make you realize the cost needed to set up such a facility.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Baati is the local diet; a hard wheat bread with some kind of sattu and onion filling.
Baati is the local diet; a hard wheat bread with some kind of sattu and onion filling.

This staple food (Baati) is popular as it lasts without rotting for a very long time (used by soldiers in wartimes) and because it needs very little water (desert); and is usually crumbled and dal and ghee added to it as a mix.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan A local vegetable curry
A local vegetable curry
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Ali Ram: I had to try out the Rabari turban; :) . And it did weight quite a bit.
Ali Ram: I had to try out the Rabari turban; 🙂 . And it did weight quite a bit.

We took the opportunity to check out the local areas including the villages, and nearby Dam etc. Below are some images from the area

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan This is how to milk a cow; local homestead
How to milk a cow;  tie the  hind legs together, distract the cow with food, and milk away. At a local homestead
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Area around the Jawai Lake reservoir
Area around the Jawai Lake reservoir
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Jawai Dam; it had not rained here in several years, and so water levels were very low
Jawai Dam; it had not rained here in several years, and so water levels were very low
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Local wild monkeys begin fed Baati every afternoon by locals at the dam
Local wild monkeys begin fed Baati every afternoon by locals at the dam
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Waiting
Waiting; note her jewelry
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Local transportation
Local transportation
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Rabari shepherd and his sheep
Rabari shepherd and his sheep
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Friendly lady; the mother of one of our guides
Friendly lady; the mother of one of our guides
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Getting the oxen ready
Getting the oxen ready
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Wild Peacocks were always close by
Wild Peacocks were always close by; early morning
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan We visited this man and his family; he was a nomad cattle owner. Note his nomadic abode behind him.
We visited this man and his family; a Rabari semi-nomad livestock owner. Note his nomadic abode behind him.
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Young village girls off to school
Young village girls off to school
Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Local woman
Local Rabari woman

After an interesting few days at Bera Safari, we left early in the morning and started driving to Bhuj, Kutch.

Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan Our drive so far
Our drive so far
This entry was posted in Asia, Rajasthan - Kutch Nov 2018

55 thoughts on “Leopards, Bera, Rajasthan

  • AmirT April 9, 2019 at 11:42 pm Reply

    Ali, Thx for your continuing blog on Rajasthan. Enjoyed it!

    • Ali Karim April 10, 2019 at 6:00 am Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it; thanks for the feedback.

  • Sadru Jivraj April 10, 2019 at 6:28 am Reply

    Great

    • Ali Karim April 10, 2019 at 6:29 am Reply

      THanks Sadru

  • Ken Davey April 11, 2019 at 6:43 pm Reply

    Very cool! Love the pictures!!!

    • Ali Karim April 11, 2019 at 6:44 pm Reply

      Thanks Ken, for reading my blog and for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Diana Hoffmeister April 11, 2019 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Hey Ali

    Great pictures as always!

    • Ali Karim April 11, 2019 at 6:51 pm Reply

      THanks Diana; appreciate the feedback

  • Moiz April 11, 2019 at 10:13 pm Reply

    Excellent…………..Turban makes you look a rajastani……..lol

    • Ali Karim April 12, 2019 at 6:37 am Reply

      THanks Moiz for reading my blog, and the feedback. I do look dorky in that turban 🙂

  • Ghalib April 12, 2019 at 10:05 am Reply

    Ali, I really enjoy reading your travel blogs.

    • Ali Karim April 15, 2019 at 8:18 pm Reply

      Thanks Ghalib for the feedback; so glad you enjoy them 🙂

  • Zahir Dharsee April 15, 2019 at 9:36 am Reply

    Hi Ali – again a well written and informative article. Your safari experiences reminded me of my safari trips in East Africa. Looking forward to read your write up on Kutch.

    Thanks

    Zahir

    • Ali Karim April 15, 2019 at 8:21 pm Reply

      Thanks Zahir, for the feedback. Kutch was the best part of the trip for me; should have the blog out soon

  • Mehboob Tejani April 16, 2019 at 7:30 am Reply

    Interesting account of Rajasthan trip. Thanks for sharing “ALI RAM” 🙂

    • Ali Karim April 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm Reply

      Hi Mehboob; many thanks for the feedback; so glad you enjoyed the blogs.

  • Mansoor Ladha April 17, 2019 at 9:06 pm Reply

    Ali.

    Enjoyed reading about your trip to Rajasthan. Excellent pictures.

    My wife an I just returned from a five-week vacation from London, Dubai and India. Our tour of India took us to Mumbai, Pune, Panchgani, Dubai and London. During the trip to India, we were able to take a seven-day luxurious train trip through Maharashtra. It was quite enjoyable. Seven weeks of travel has really exhausted us and I wonder how you can undertake constant travelling for months.

    Keep travelling.
    Mansoor.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:30 pm Reply

      HI Mansoor; thanks for reading my blogs and the feedback

  • Fatima Mawji April 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm Reply

    Great trip. Thanks for sharing

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:30 pm Reply

      Thanks Fatima; glad you enjoyed the blogposts

  • Mahamud Jinnah April 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm Reply

    Only in india does a motorcycle crash result in a temple!!!

    Good to know that largest leopard density is in India. What a great place to visit.
    Baati sounds like an Interesting meal. Does not spoil. Wow.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:32 pm Reply

      Mahamud; thanks for the feedback. Yes, India is a most unique place in this world

  • NoorJehan Tejani April 17, 2019 at 9:08 pm Reply

    Great photo !
    Enjoy and be Safe.
    Love, NoorJehan

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:32 pm Reply

      THanks Noorjehan

  • Amin Aziz April 17, 2019 at 9:08 pm Reply

    Beautiful!!!

    Envious Perhaps one day!

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:32 pm Reply

      HI Amin, thanks for the feedback; I really appreciate that.

  • Muslim Harji April 17, 2019 at 9:09 pm Reply

    Asante….Merci…Thanks.
    Love to Dilshad
    Love, Light & Cheers
    Muslim Harji

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:33 pm Reply

      Thanks Muslim

  • Ashraf and Parviz Manji April 17, 2019 at 9:10 pm Reply

    Hi Ali,

    Very nice pictures.

    Thanks

    You look good in the pagri

    All the best & enjoy your trips.

    Ashraf/Parviz

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:33 pm Reply

      THanks Ashraf & Parviz; I look like a dork in the pagri 🙂

  • Shafana Lalani April 17, 2019 at 9:11 pm Reply

    Wow, love the picture of the leopard.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:34 pm Reply

      Thanks Shafana

  • rafique hassan April 17, 2019 at 9:11 pm Reply

    Looking good buddy
    Enjoy yourself

    Rafiq

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:34 pm Reply

      Rafiq; I knew you would like the pagri on me 🙂

  • Rahim Rashid April 17, 2019 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Nice

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:35 pm Reply

      Thanks Rahim

  • Sadru Walji April 17, 2019 at 9:13 pm Reply

    Interesting

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:39 pm Reply

      THanks Sadru bhai

  • Sabira Sajan April 17, 2019 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Amazing !! Thx for sharing

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:40 pm Reply

      THanks Sabira; glad you enjoyed the blog

  • Nick Merali April 17, 2019 at 9:15 pm Reply

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:55 pm Reply

      THanks Nadir

  • Nasarullah AZIZ April 17, 2019 at 9:15 pm Reply

    Keep it up Ali. Great job. Wish you a very happy vacation.

    Nasarullah

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:40 pm Reply

      Nasrullah; so glad you enjoyed the blog. And thanks for the encouragement

  • Bera Safari Lodge April 17, 2019 at 9:16 pm Reply

    Greetings

    Sorry to reply late as I was travelling, thank you for the fantastic write up. Leopards & Shepards is almost done few sequences are pending, Nat Geo team will come this summers and compleat it.

    Best wishes
    Shatrunjay

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:41 pm Reply

      Thanks Shatrunjay; glad you liked my blog

  • Shamim Virji April 17, 2019 at 9:17 pm Reply

    Good experience. Please keep yourselves, safe & healthy. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards,
    Shamim.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:42 pm Reply

      THanks Shamim, for the kind words. Glad you are enjoying our experiences

  • Nazneen Adatia April 17, 2019 at 9:18 pm Reply

    Hello Ali, thanks for sharing such beautiful pictures, so bright and colorful. I have to plan a trip to see these places.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    My love to all.

    Naz.

    • Ali Karim April 17, 2019 at 11:42 pm Reply

      THanks Naz. You should definitely go again to Rajasthan

  • Pingback: Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat - Ali Karim Travelog Asia

  • Aly Manji April 29, 2019 at 8:59 am Reply

    Outstanding photographs Ali!

    It seems like you had an awesome time.

    Thank you for sharing!
    Aly

    • Ali Karim April 29, 2019 at 10:31 am Reply

      Hi Aly,

      Thanks for the feedback; so glad you enjoyed the blogpost and the photographs. Appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback.

  • Nasir Jivraj May 3, 2019 at 11:32 am Reply

    Finally read the blog on leopards.. What a relationship with tigers and people. Even the people who walk thru
    the jungle dont get attacked by the leopards – amazing

    • Ali Karim May 3, 2019 at 11:38 am Reply

      HI Nasir; yes it was indeed eyeopening. Thanks for checking out my blog.

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