Tigers have always been the prime focus of wildlife conservation and tourism, Leopards are more elusive than Tigers and not easily sighted. Unlike Tigers they are present in every forest as well as countryside area. Tigers have many stories, names and documentaries offering idea on their life. Tigers can be tracked based on monkey and deer calls. Leopards can neither be tracked not have a territory where you are absolutely certain of their presence. Therefore Leopard sightings are always a pleasant surprise and remain etched in the memory for all times to come.
Until very recently Leopards were just an additional dimension to an otherwise Tiger focussed Wildlife Tourism. Now you are able to travel to wildlife destinations that where the focus is around sighting a Leopard. Some of the destinations are as under.
Bera / Jawai Bandh
Bera / Jawai Bandh are twin destinations between Udaipur and Jodhpur (130-150 kms from each), renowned for their Leopard sightings. A combination of rocky landscape and conservation focussed villagers has contributed in Bera / Jawai Bandh emerge as premier eco-tourism destination and one to arrive for Leopards. The area is not under any reserve forest or restricted zone, which allows travellers to undertake night safaris, late evening drives and free exploration of the area. Fewer number of stay options have ensured that it remains out of bounds for average local tourists. Because of Rocky backdrop and superb countryside around, Photography experience offered here is superlative, therefore attacting Wildlife Photographers from all over.
Jhalana in Jaipur outskirts has emerged in last 5 years as a Leopard destination. Spread over 20+ sq km the reserve forest areas sees Leopards from nearby hills descend for water and in search of a kill. Jhalana is perhaps most easy to access park and only recently safaris here have been organised. Jhalana in a few years of its existence has consistently offered some stunning sightings and is now a favourite options for wildlife photographers to arrive for a quick wildlife getaway.
Betalghat is a hilly forest area at 25 kms off Corbett – Ranikhet route where the rocky terrain have very good Leopard population which is a certain sight during late evening drives. While most of the wildlife travellers focus on Tigers in Corbett, a select few arrive at Betalghat for a Leopard experience (There is only one stay option here and therefore experience is exclusivity).
Kabini and Bandipur (Karnataka)
Kabini and Bandipur are two reserve forests in Karnataka renowned for their Leopard sightings. Images of Leopards perched on a tree resting and offering spectacular shots have become most renowned and Wildlife Photographers from all over arrive here for that. Both Kabini and Bandipur have limited stay options and therefore have retained that exclusivity of wildlife experience (unlike Central India Parks).
Black Panthers of Kabini and Tadoba
Tadoba (Maharashtra) and Kabini (Karnataka) are most renowned for the presence of solitary Black Panther. These are very rarely sighted and are sought after by all wildlife photographers (India and Abroad). Black Panther in Kabini is fully black, the one in Tadoba is darker than the average Leopard retaining its spots. As they both are unique, they have fascinated travellers who constantly arrive for a chance of a once in a lifetime sighting.
Yala National Park (Sri Lanka)
Yala National Park in Southern edge of Sri Lanka is most renowned for having highest density of Leopards in the world.
Leopard Tourism is getting popular. Unlike Tiger, Leopards are not well protected and are vulnerable to illegal baiting and Poaching. Therefore it is important for Govt. of India to recognize and make sure that tourism related to Leopard is given right impetus without compromising wildlife conservation ethos.
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