Big cats are notoriously elusive and tiger safaris especially require a fair dollop of managed expectations. Which is why Jawai – where leopards are the thing – is so extraordinary. This smart Rajasthani safari camp is in a district of small villages and farms rather than a wildlife sanctuary, and leopards are highly visible, coexisting in almost supernatural harmony with the human population (there hasn’t been a leopard attack in more than a century). The camp itself melts into a landscape of acacia forests and mustard fields, the horizon studded with the smooth-sided granite hills where the leopards live.
Its nine suites are in spruce, canopied safari tents outfitted with chrome campaign desks and crimson lampshades and cushions that echo the red turbans of the local Rabari herdsmen. Winding paths lead to a splash pool, a dining tent, and a clearing where guests feast on thali curry by starlight. This is safari but not as you know it: at dusk, watch the sleek silhouette of a female leopard padding down a rock face, ignoring children on the dusty road, while music plays noisily from a nearby temple. There’s magic at play in Jawai, and it’s of the most bewitching, tail-twitching variety.