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Author: Robert Postma

The morning is silent save for the hum of my air conditioner in the corner. Inside my tent it’s cool the true sounds of the new day are evident as I turn it off and am greeted by the songs of birds. A new day is dawning. I realize that this is my favourite part of any day. Day break fills me with a sense of the unknown, what will happen today, what will I get to see? A tiger stalking prey through the forest, a leopard searching out a cave to wait the heat of the day away in, perhaps a desert fox playing with its young. One thing for sure is that there will be an amazing sunrise that will take my breath away. Other than that, it’s a surprise here in India. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Photograph by Robert Postma

What began as a chance meeting turned into a trip I will never forget. I had the good fortune to meet Anjali Singh while leading a polar bear tour in northern Canada. Having a common passion led us to chat after the days sightings and she told me that she owned wilderness and safari properties in Rajasthan India under the name SUJÁN. Anjali and her husband Jaisal, have personally designed and created each of the exclusive destination experiences out of sheer passion and an overwhelming commitment to protecting and preserving India’s wildlife, heritage and culture for future generations. She kindly suggested that I go and experience the camps on my own. It was an offer that one should not turn away from and naturally I didn’t. India had never been on my radar before but it certainly was now. Boarding the plane for Delhi I was filled with a sense of excitement, like a kid on the first day of school. The adventure had begun!

While in India, I was able to visit three of SUJÁN’s tented properties, each one was special in its own way. SUJÁN The Serai, close to the fabled city of Jaisalmer was just wonderfully relaxing, an eden in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding villages. The days were hot, nights cool and the food oh so delicious. From here I explore the Great Thar desert, had a cultural tour around the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jaisalmer, and rode camels into the sunset dunes. If I hadn’t known what was coming, I could have easily just stayed there and relaxed my vacation away. It was the perfect way to ease myself into Rajasthan.


Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma

Next was to SUJÁN JAWAI, a wilderness camp hidden way in breathtaking landscape between Jodhpur and Udaipur which offered me up close and personal encounters with the strikingly beautiful leopards. The effortless grace these animals possess is mesmerising to watch and I must admit gave me a twinge of jealousy since I severely lack the ability to walk with any grace myself. I was continuously amazed with the abilities and professionalism of my guides, top class with anywhere I have safari’d in the world. Where I saw only rock or bush, they saw leopards. Even when they were pointed out, it took me a minute or two to locate them. Their camouflage was incredible. In addition to the leopards, the rangers at JAWAI showed me countless songbirds, osprey hunting and the wise owls nesting in trees. We explored temples, rural villages, I walked and hiked, met local farmers as they harvested their crop. There is so much to experience here. A true photographers delight.


Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma

Lastly, what I believe to be the crowning moment in my life was seeing a wild tiger in the forest, with my own eyes. I had only ever dreamed of being able to see them and my dream happened. Even better was that we were the only vehicle at the sighting. That made it more special. Even though the tiger was only laying there looking at us it was worth all my efforts to get here. To have a tiger stare you down is akin to a spiritual experience. One I would love to have over and over. In Ranthambore National Park, I also got to see leopards, many different prey animals and the ever so cute Northern Scops owl. Not to mention the hundreds of peacocks and birds in addition to the enchanting Banyan trees. The banyan is one of my favourite three trees now. It was my own jungle book coming to life.


 


Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma
Photograph by Robert Postma


SUJÁN Sher Bagh in addition to the other camps in the SUJÁN repertoire truly live up to the “luxurious” branding. Not only can you sit and relax in absolute solitude, but you can get a massage at the full service spas. I treated myself at each camp and am a better person for it. The last thing I want to mention are the showers and soaps at the camps. I found I had to tear myself away from the shower! They were divine to put it bluntly! How they manage to have the quality of the shower at the camps was beyond me! And the aromatherapy of the soap was calming. I took some bars from each camp to be honest. Guilty as charged. I catch their scent every once in awhile in my house back home in the Yukon and am instantly teleported back to India. The memories come flooding back, so does the longing to be amongst the people, culture and wild animals. It is calling to me, and I will listen. You should as well… it won’t disappoint you!


Robert Postma is an Award Winning Wildife based in Yukon
http://robertpostma.ca

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SUJÁN Luxury | photography by Shantharam Pai - 2w ago

Those of you who have been fortunate enough to have visited SUJÁN JAWAI will have had a deep interest in this wilderness coupled with a curiosity for discovering a unique culture. Growing up in Karnataka, little did I know that I would one day be living and working in this unique part of Rajasthan, in wildlife with SUJÁN. An organisation which has taught me the value of putting conservation before anything else and given me a home, very far away from where I belong.

I was born in a place called Bhatkal, in the South Indian state of Karnataka. Karnataka is home to the famous hill range, the Western Ghats. A dense ecosystem composed of a wide array of fauna and endemic flora, so much so that that it has been coined as one of the world’s  “hottest hot spots” for its biodiversity. Sitting on a veranda of my ancestral home, I would witness these hills transform from being parched in the dry summer before transforming into a paradise of lush green during the monsoon. An hours walk from my house, your toes can be in the waters of the Arabian Sea. As far as I remember, my first contact with wilderness started when I went with my cousins to help look for some fresh water crabs. One evening, sitting on a boulder, I remember watching them waiting and waiting for the perfect moment to catch these crabs. I was young and impatient, and after while I grew bored of watching my cousins and decided walk go exploring the woods instead. Roaming around them I fell in love with the raw aspects of nature and it possessed me, but soon, after around 15 minutes, I realised I had got lost deep in the forest. Unable to find my way back to my cousins I tried to retrace my footsteps and return to where we had been fishing. Fortunately, they had seen me going into the forest and when I didn’t return, came looking for me amongst the tall teak trees. Initially I remembered a tremendous feeling of fear but I surprised myself by how quickly this feeling transformed into a love for being lost in the wild. I moved to Hubli to live with my parents and to start schooling but to this day, every summer holiday since then, our family spends it at Bhatkal.


From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.

Some choose their destiny, while for others their destiny chooses them.  Like many young men, I had dreams of joining the Indian Army and driving an armoured tank, so I studied and trained to become an automobile engineer in order to get a commission. The selection process for the Indian Army is one of the most difficult and exhausting examinations. The officers analyse a candidate on how one thinks, works and presents oneself. My first experience of failure happened in these exam boards. Every failure was a learning. Unable to make it in seven attempts, I decided perhaps this was fate telling me the army wasn’t for me. I decided to join an engineering company as a drafting engineer, where I made oil well drawings for petro-chemical companies. Whilst I was good at what I was doing, life in this role felt stagnant. I decided I wasn’t someone who could sit in a cubical with a computer, both starring at each other for 10 hours a day. This restricting office space made my mind often wander to that experience of getting lost in the forest, a place so vast and unrestricted by walls. In short this drew me in to thinking of what I like the most, spending time outdoors. From this, came the idea of entering the safari life.


From the SUJÁN Archives.

Initially, the first opposition came from my family and friends. Yes, change is good but also intimidating: what if it doesn’t work out? What if I end up not enjoying it? Despite all these questions, I decided to persevere and after searching for nearly 8 months, I finally found a place and a team I wanted to embrace, without waiting. It took me a while to locate the exact fit for myself, consider it luck, providence, fate or whatever else you will, one phone call and a couple of interviews later, I have never looked back. I joined SUJÁN JAWAI as a Junior Ranger, and now on the cusp of my fourth year, I managed to bag the coveted Ranger of the Year Award. In some ways, it also allowed me to live my dreams of joining the Indian Army, offering, as only the safari life can, a code of discipline, camaraderie and striving for perfection; values I have grown and cherished for the last three years.

Every day here is a learning experience: be it tracking leopards or trekking in the hills that overlook the camp or or even just a walk around in the wilderness, everything is alive, open, refreshing and new. I was an engineer who never knew what a leopard scat looked like, but now I am privileged to track these magnificent big cats and spend time observing them, learning their behaviour, their temperament and their needs. Every morning, I wake up with just as strong a purpose as I felt when applying for the army and every night I have the fortune to peacefully slip in to sleep under the blanket of stars, after a long and rewarding day in the bush. Every morning, I know that I am on the verge of creating a memory for some visitor to our wilds and that my role here at JAWAI contributes, in some small way, to the larger fight for conservation of our natural heritage.


From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives. From the SUJÁN Archives.
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Author: Georgie Legg

There’s something special and rewarding about cooking and eating what you have grown in your own back garden.

From the SUJÁN Archives. From the SUJÁN Archives.

Our Organic Herb and Vegetable Garden at Sher Bagh is space of sprouting delectables which contains two dozen freshly grown fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, (including five kinds of lettuce alone). We use these ingredients on a daily basis in all our dishes; salads, pastas, curries, teas and not to mention, the bar as well.

There are innumerable reasons why growing your own food is valuable, ranging from health benefits to the inimitable flavour that these produce. It is also remarkably easier to maintain than you may think – all you need to do is recognise a plant’s needs. For example, mint is generally quite a thirsty plant and so needs more water while a herb like basil has a relatively fragile leaf and therefore needs a lighter sprinkling of hydration.

Here are some of Sher Bagh’s favourite vegetable, herbs and spices that we cannot stop using, not only in our food menus but some of our cocktails which have been inspired by this very garden.


GINGER, zingiber officinale

From the SUJÁN Archives. From the SUJÁN Archives.

Ginger, native to Southeast Asia, has such a remarkable, strong, particular flavour, and is best enjoyed fresh from the ground. Ginger was traditionally used to warm the stomach and dispel chills and is rich in Vitamin C. It’s easy to see why, at Sher Bagh, we go through around half a kilogram of ginger every single day! This constant use of ginger is mainly appreciated by our guests returning from their game drives with a cool bite in the air and are met with our warming ginger tea straight off from the jeep. Other than tea, we use it to flavour our curries, sauces, pickles and confections.

AUBERGINE, solanum melongena

The aubergine, or if you live in the US, eggplant, originates from India and Sri Lanka, and is a nutrient-dense food. It is a plant in the same genus (solanum) as tomato (s. lycopersicum) but is also surprisingly related to the potato (s. tuberosum). From its inception the aubergine will produce approximately 60-65 aubergine fruits before the plant dies.

A favourite Sher Bagh recipe that use aubergines is Baingan Ka Bharta, a dish where we roast our aubergines in a tandoor oven, mince them with tomatoes, onions and spices and finally smoke it all over charcoal. This dish is a perfect addition to anyone’s thali.

FENUGREEK, trigonella foenum graecum

From the SUJÁN Archives. From the SUJÁN Archives.

Fenugreek is an annual plant of the legume family indigenous to Western Asia that grows 2–3 feet tall, with a strong odour and small pale yellow flowers. The seed of the fenugreek plant contains plenty of active compounds including iron and many other vitamins and minerals. Due to the raw, bitter taste, we tend to roast and grind the seeds before use, to mellow the bitterness. Besides, from seasoning and flavouring, we mix our fenugreek with potato in our heavenly aloo methi.

YELLOW CARROT, daucus carota

The yellow carrot was first cultivated in the Afghanistan region and then spread to Central and North Asia. It is grown specifically to yield sweeter flavour at maturity while also retaining a firm and crunchy texture. They are easy to grow and maintain as they are resistant to heat, drought, salinity, pests and diseases. Although great to eat raw, they are also fantastic to use in gajar ki sabji. A dish where you  firstly gently boil the carrots in water before cooking them in ghee with a host of  complimentary herbs and spices including cumin, coriander and turmeric to give  the whole dish a delicious rounded flavour.

From the SUJÁN Archives.

MINT, mentha spicata

Mint is grown all year round and is most abundant in summer time, making it highly accessible and attainable in a climate that Sher Bagh is in. Mint has many soothing and refreshing qualities, and is frequently used in our menu such as our green pea and mint soup which just as refreshing cold as it is hot. But our bar team have also used this organic mint as their inspiration to some of our cocktails: we highly recommend trying the green sapphire which our own mint and ginger is used to titillate the taste buds!

From the SUJÁN Archives.
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Author: Rajiv Vatsyayan

This week Rajiv, our Head Chef at SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace reveals one of his favourite summer salad recipes that’s proving very popular with our guests.

The delicious kale is plucked daily straight from our organic kitchen gardens making this a particularly tasty, light lunch option during the warm Indian summers.

Enjoy!

From the SUJÁN Archives.

Ingredients

Kale leaves – 1200 gms

Green apple sliced – 1000 gms

Organic quinoa – 250 gms (02 cups)

Flax seeds – 100 gms

Chia seeds – 100 gms

Yuzu Juice – 100 ml

Extra virgin Olive oil – 50 ml

Salt – 60 gms

Pepper – 30 gms

Micro greens – 100 gms

Method

Dressing :

  • Take Extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl.
  • Emulsify the olive oil in yuzu juice, whisking constantly.
  • Season the dressing with salt and pepper and keep aside.

 

Quinoa :

  • Wash the quinoa in running water for 5 minutes
  • Allow it to soak in water for 15-20 mins.
  • In a flat bottom sauce-pan take quinoa and add water (04 cups) with few pinches of salt, cover it with the lid.
  • Allow the quinoa to cook at a low heat for 20 mins (approx.) until all water is absorbed.
  • Take the pan off lid, remove lid and gently open the quinoa with the help of a fork.
  • Transfer the coked quinoa in a bowl and allow to cool.

 

Salad :

  • Pluck the kale leaves in smaller pieces and put them in a salad mixing bowl.
  • Thinly slice the green apple and add to the salad mixing bowl
  • Add cooked quinoa to the mixing bowl.
  • Add dressing to the salad and gently toss all ingredients, for all ingredients to get dressed properly.
  • Pile-up the tossed salad in a chilled salad plate and finish by sprinkling Flax seed and Chia seeds from top.
  • Garnish the salad with some fresh microgreens.
  • Serve the salad immediately.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.

 


From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
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Our Founders & Owners Jaisal and Anjali Singh are part of an entrepreneurial tradition that goes back 130 years. As scions of India’s leading conservationist and industrialist families respectively, Jaisal and Anjali have personally designed & created each of our unique destination experiences which deliver luxurious, authentic and most importantly sustainable hospitality experiences in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

SUJÁN’s Jaisal and Anjali Singh. Photograph by Vedant Thite.

Our association with Relais & Châteaux goes back almost a decade. SUJÁN Sher Bagh was the first tented property in India to be invited to be a member of the Relais & Châteaux family and since then, SUJÁN The Serai, SUJÁN JAWAI and SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace all proudly carry the fleur de lis hallmark.

The vision for Relais & Châteaux is to encourage the diversity of cuisines and hospitalities of the world, as well as support and endorse the variety of individual and unique properties. Relais & Châteaux aims to promote the Fine Arts of Living and its values through the sharing of knowledge, education and preservation of resources.

The SUJÁN Family along with the rest of the Relais & Châteaux members, share a common passion for making a better world through cuisine and hospitality.

 


From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.

 

Some words we wanted to share with you this week from the Relais & Châteaux vision:

“In a world that is rich in its differences, people from all cultures have always placed importance on two timeless traditions: Cuisine and Hospitality. Throughout history, these two traditions have contributed to happiness, fellowship and the art of living well: or what the French call “l’Art de vivre.” It’s therefore critical to our humanity – if not mankind – that cuisine and hospitality be cherished, preserved and continually revived, ensuring both can always play a role in our capacity to live well together.

For the past two decades, food, cooking and dining have gone through some significant and troubling changes. The actions of many large-scale food producers and dining establishments have had a profoundly negative impact on the health of both our planet and our consumers. As a result, some chefs have embraced the styles and trends imposed by the industry, which are, in truth, inconsistent with the original tenets of our profession. Others have focused more on ostentatious presentation, slipping even further away from the genuine role that cuisine can and should play in our lives.”

At Relais & Châteaux, we strive to be true artisans and representatives of the restaurant and hotel trade. We see ourselves as both heirs and gatekeepers of not only the rich cultural history of hospitality around the world, but also the wonderful variety of cuisines within it. As a fellowship, as a family of chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs, we have made a conscious choice to be true to the mission bestowed upon us: to preserve and share true culinary techniques and to eschew shortcuts that diminish excellence. For it’s through this use of authentic methods and ingredients that we are able to truly share all that is good and beautiful in this world. For it is through these practices and beliefs that we truly express and enrich our humanity.

This strong emotion of taste, however, does not exist on its own or spring solely from the plate. Rather, it is deeply connected to one’s surroundings and an authentic and generous welcome into them. This fundamental realization is the foundation on which we build our commitment to supporting cuisine and hospitality and, through this commitment, making the world better for future generations.

 


Chef Rajeev with his picks of the day from the gardens at SUJÁN JAWAI. From the SUJÁN Archives.
Chef Hawal with one of the gardeners at SUJÁN The Serai. From the SUJÁN Archives.

 

At SUJÁN we strive to take our guests right to the heart of India’s heritage and to share real connections with our culture. Each of our properties is truly distinct to it’s immediate surroundings. Our carefully designed menus use the nourishing homegrown ingredients, handpicked from our organic herb and vegetable gardens that add great value to an entirely fresh gastronomical experience. We serve sumptuous local delicacies, source our supplies from local farmers and fishermen, incorporate traditional inherited recipes from the region that pattern our daily changing menus, that are meticulously planned to take guest on an authentic culinary journey.

One of Sher Bagh’s most popular vegetables from the garden are the aubergines that we use for ‘Baingan Ka Bharta,’ a dish where the aubergines are roasted in a tandoor oven, then minced with tomatoes, onions and spices and finally smoked over charcoal! At The Serai we grow bushels and bushels of mint and tulsi that are the core ingredients to our refreshing homemade nimbu paani. If you haven’t sampled SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace’s juicy and delicious home grown tomatoes in yellow, green and glowing reds then you are missing out! The mixed leaf salad at SUJÁN JAWAI tastes so flavoursome you can get through bowls of it in one sitting. Think artichokes, peppers, cabbages, salads, chives, fennel, carrots you name it, the organic Gardens at each of our SUJÁN properties are blossoming with delicious fresh produce. Our guests love learning about our home grown produce and how the chefs incorporate the ingredients into their recipes and traditional methods of cooking. The joys of growing our own food means there is never any worry about the freshness. When it’s time to head home, many of our guests have left armed with a notebook of recipes from the Chefs, a basket full of fresh supplies and seedlings ready to implement their own mini SUJÁN kitchen gardens back home!

From the SUJÁN Archives.
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Author: Katya Ignatieva

As this season at SUJÁN Sher Bagh is almost over, the team have been looking back and reflecting on all the fantastic sightings & adventures in the Ranthambhore wilderness that we have shared with our guests. This season has been particularly interesting as many of our tiger sightings have been of the offspring of some of Ranthambhore’s most legendary big cats. Ranthambhore is rife with sub-adult cubs and in many aspects has turned into a jungle youth club with ill-disciplined young males, catty cat-fights and that transitional adolescent phases of being grown-up yet still mischievous, daring but then still reverting back to mum when needs be!

T41’s male cub. Photograph by Vedant Thite.

 

When the thermometer hits 45 degrees, some mammals reside to what is described as ‘the air-conditioned part of the park’. Descending from the high plateau of dry golden grass and bare dhok trees in zone 4, T41 (Laila) and her single male cub enjoy an oasis of luscious green trees and bushes stretching along a deep ravine with many interconnecting pools of enticing cool water. As the ‘only child’ her cub has not experienced ‘play groups’ and the jostling of sibling rivalry, but in the world of the tiger, this does not seem to be a hindrance and indeed can be an advantage. He is able to bask in his mother’s undivided attention as she teaches him all the skills he will need to become a self-sufficient adult.

 


Swiped! T39’s cubs have a rift in the golden sunlight. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.
T39 and her 2 female cubs. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 

Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.
One of T60’s male cubs lunging into a watering hole. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

Neighbouring T41’s territory in an area called Semli, this is Krishna (T19’s) territory. Having been ousted from the Raj Bagh Lake area by her daughter (T84), T19 (now 11 years old and an experienced mother) has claimed her territory to the north. On her third litter now, she has two male cubs and one female cub. Krishna’s territory is similar to T41’s, but without the five star luxury of the oasis, instead, she enjoys several water holes and a network of caves situated far from the prying eyes of any intruding male tiger, a place where her cubs often take shelter. Unlike T41’s sub-adult male, Krishna’s cubs, being just under a year old, still look very young with their oversized ears and big eyes. Rather amusingly for our guests, when spotted they often seem very wary and nervous and are easily spooked by the most innocent of things such as a jumping frog or a diving bird! These siblings, we predict, will remain together over the monsoon months.

Driving south from Ranthambhore Fort gives our keen safari guests a very different feel for the park. The sun arrives much later in the day, compared to the higher plateaus. The temperature, by comparison, is cool as the long track we drive along is overshadowed by massive, imposing cliffs. There are many areas of the park that see daylight from the moment the sun rises, and there are areas that are in the deep shade until late morning. The black-faced Langurs and Cheetal will only descend from the warm high grounds when the sun is well and truly out and shining! Here in zone 2 resides the much loved tigress Noor (T39) and her three female cubs. This sisterhood is on the verge of breaking up and becoming independent, but in throughout this season, we’ve spent a lot of time watching them all together. On occasion, there is one sub-adult who seems to be left out of the family unit and has the nickname ‘the lonely female’… but maybe she is just more mature than her sisters. It won’t be long before they all go their separate ways and certainly when we return in September we expect them to be out on their own.

 

Krishna’s cubs cool off in the water together. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 

Heading further south to the area of Gudha you hit a clear tiger territory line. The landscape flattens out and becomes sparse, less visible water and therefore less vegetation. Here reside two male cubs of T60. These sub-adults are almost fully grown, and they seem to be on the verge of packing their bags and heading their separate ways. At the start of the season back in October we were already seeing them venturing out more and more unaccompanied by their mother, so it’s only a matter of time that they finally make that leap. They are magnificent males to watch wonder through the wilderness.

 


A shaggy coated sloth bear cub. Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.
A sloth bear cub, not afraid of heights! Photograph by Katya Ignatieva.

 


Photograph by Anjali Singh.
Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.

 

Whilst many of our guests come here in search of the majestic tiger, all leave having been enriched by so many other wonderful wildlife sightings too. We’ve had fantastic sloth bear sightings, including many Sher Bagh guests spotting small bear cubs adorably clinging onto their mothers back, as they wonder climbing trees and foraging for termites. We’ve also had unusual, personal and up close sightings of leopards this season. These graceful cats usually tend to stick to higher ground in Ranthambhore away from the tigers but this season they seem to have been venturing down a lot more, sharing hugely exciting safari moments. As well as these terrestrial animals, Ranthambhore birdlife never ceases to disappoint. Every avian exists as part of a vibrant ecosystem teeming with all manner of flora and fauna, and with 360 species of birds, every guest has had their fair share of incredible viewings, such as a serpentine eagle making a kill of a snake, 2 spotted owlets huddled together in a tree cavity, vultures circling the skies, green bee-eaters smashing the heads of their prey against the bark of a tree.. the list goes on. All in all, the experiences and memories made here in Ranthambhore never seem to foil, with the wildlife being so unpredictable you never know what you might stumble upon.

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Today marks the annual day dedicated to endangered species. This day provokes a necessary conversation on how we, as humans, are able to counter the imbalance and decline of a lot of our most favoured species. The IUCN Red List, a catalogue of all species that are threatened with extinction, currently claims the list hold over 41,000 species, covering all classes of vertebrates and invertebrates, fungi and flora and even certain single celled organisms. This day is dedicated to each of these wonderful organisms and species.

Leopards such as this female, live in Jawai in close proximity to humans without conflict. Photograph by Adil Arif.

SUJÁN is lucky enough to have camps where you are able to observe such species in a manner which allows each to behave their natural wild way.

Leopards in the Jawai area are considered guardians of the hill temples. These temples, most being dedicated to the goddess Mata Ji, will have depictions of big cats. Photograph by Shantharam Pai. The Tx2 campaign has played a large role in creating a rise in tiger population for the first time in 100 years. Photograph by William Asquith.

The area around SUJÁN JAWAI has stood the test of time as the local human population have for centuries defied normality and lived among the Indian leopard. These locals, being mostly agricultural or pastoral farmers, do not just tolerate these rosetted cats but revere them, perceiving them as the guardians of the hill temples which dot the Jawai landscape. The area has become an epitome for a mature understanding between man and animal. So much so, that a female mother occupies a hill range at the bottom of which Sena village sits with the population of around 1400.

Tiger numbers have drastically dropped to 3200 in 2010 from a believed 100,000 at the start of the 20th century. However, within the eight years, the momentum is starting to shift with initiatives such as the Tx2 campaign. Aimed to double the number of tigers by 2022, this commitment has seen a combined effort of thirteen countries in Asia to reach the 6000 mark. This was a pivotal agreement in tiger conservation as 2016 saw for the first time a stop in the ever-decreasing tiger numbers in 100 years. Although the total population has increased a number to just below 4000, in conservation, however, it is still not enough.

Allocating more land exclusively for wildlife habitat will benefit tigers such as this adolescent male, close to independence and soon looking for a territory of his own. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev. Although protecting the already existing tigers from poaching is a primary concern, it is no longer enough to believe that this alone is sufficient to boost the tiger population. Photograph by William Asquith.

Human effort, like tiger numbers, needs to blossom. Although it remains a primary concern, it is no longer acceptable to protect the currently alive tigers or leopards and believe that alone will suffice in boosting population numbers. Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, writing for The Spectator put out a target to reach 10,000 tigers in the wild by the end of 2050 (https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/04/we-need-10000-tigers-in-the-wild/). In this day and age, the responsibility of conservation no longer falls solely on the lap of NGOs, safari camps and wildlife enthusiasts, but also extends to countries’ governments such as banning trade on items such as tiger parts and ivory or providing more land exclusively for wildlife habitat. Rajasthan Forest Department have been very active in creating these new areas for wildlife. Kela Devi being one example of an extended corridor from Ranthambhore National Park to Kuno Wildlife Santuary in Madhya Pradesh where you are able to see wolves, sloth bears, leopards and tigers all in the same area. On top of this Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve had been given the status of a tiger reserve in 2013 and this year saw it’s first tiger inhabiting it’s core area.

This day also extends an awareness to the other lesser-known endangered species. The Desert National Park, Jaisalmer is one of the very few habitats for the Great Indian Bustard. In 2015, a census counted there to be a mere 11 of these winged wonders in the Thar Region. Now there are believed to be nearly three times that number (31). Huge praise must go to the team at the Desert National Park for being able to reach such a growth in three years and it is something that SUJÁN The Serai will try to become much more involved in by raising awareness of and assisting in any way the National Park in protecting these magnificent birds.

Today is a day to encourage everyone around the world to remove the familiarity of passive support and to take on the principled probity of participation.

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Out of the 10,000 bird species that inhabit this world, around 2000 of them are migratory. The Indian subcontinent plays host to a number of migratory birds in summers as well as winters. It is estimated that over a hundred species of migratory birds fly to India, either in search of feeding grounds or to escape the severe winter of their native habitat.

Today World Migratory Bird Day aims to reach out to a broader audience and amplify the message for bird conservation. The theme this year is unifying Earth’s major migratory bird corridors: the African-Eurasian corridor; the East Asian-Australasian and the Americas corridor.

Migratory birds are vulnerable. After very long journeys they face countless dangers. These may include the destruction and degradation of the natural habitats they are travelling to, the loss of critical stopover sites such as coastal wetlands.  Illegal killing, poisoning, pollution, and collisions with badly-sited infrastructure such as power lines are also problems.

“Migratory birds connect people, ecosystems and nations. They are symbols of peace and of an interconnected planet. Their epic journeys inspire people of all ages, across the globe. World Migratory Bird Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great natural wonder of bird migration – but also a reminder that those patterns, and ecosystems worldwide, are threatened by climate change,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Bird lovers from all over the world are able to visit us at our SUJÁN wilderness camps to get a glimpse of some of these rare migratory species of bird. The beauty of the birds, combined with the splendor of the natural environment provides the perfect setting for a nature lover.

A couple of Ruddy Shellducks shoot across the road. Photograph from the SUJÁN Archives Three Bar-headed Geese sit on the banks on Jawai Bandh in the evening light. Photograph by Jaisal Singh A flock of painted storks on the banks of Rajbagh Lake in Ranthambhore. Photograph by Jaisal Singh Little Ringed Plovers at JAWAI. Photograph: Vedant Thite Great Thick-Knee or Great Stone Curlew having arrived at Ranthambhore.Photograph from the SUJÁN Archives Indian Silverbills perched on the head of a Pampas Grass at SUJÁN JAWAI. Photograph: Vedant Thite
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You are driving, meandering along Ranthambhore National Park’s network of tracks that enable you to see what the area has to offer and suddenly your jeep stops, pugmarks! Fresh paw-prints dot along the track and it takes you back to when you were 5 years old and playing “Connect the Dots” where the end prize could be a beautiful female tigress. As you follow the trail of breadcrumbs, the impressions left behind by a tigress’ recent presence, you yourself come away with an impression that these tigers prefer to walk on the track, rather than the scrub to your immediate left and right where it seems to be more concealed.

T84, also known as Arrowhead, strolls down the road after resting in the long grasses by Rajbagh. Photograph by William Asquith. A female cub of T39 having cooled off in a small watering hole walks along the tracks for about 30 minutes before we left her. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev. An overlap of a pug mark of a female tigress just on entering the park. A tiger will seem to prefer walking on the clear roads which gives less chance to injury than through the dense scrub. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

Although a tiger will use the forest canopy and vegetation as a means to relax under a natural parasol away from the sun’s extreme heat or to escape notice when stalking prey, there is a common tendency for tigers (and actually most big cats) to prefer walking on the jeep tracks for a couple of reasons.

The first and more a general reason is that tigers being predators who predominantly rely on their paws for a variety of reasons. When stalking, a tiger’s legs and paws have to be able to support its own weight when crouching with its body only a couple of centimetres of the forest floor. A tiger’s pads enable them to get extremely close to their prey unnoticed as they are very soft. This allows them to move silently through the forest. Again, when hunting, tigers often leap with their hind legs and catch their prey by latching on to their target with their claws that can be as long as 4 inches long before using their teeth to kill the animal. These two examples just show how important a tiger’s paws are for survival. For a tiger to know what exactly it is treading on is a major cause of concern as a thorn can easily penetrate its pad and make it hugely difficult to stalk or hunt effectively. An injury to its back pads may hinder its leap while an injury to its front pads will inhibit its ability to move through the forest floor silently or effectively latch onto its prey. It is now possible to see part of the reason why these incredible cats walk along the clear tracks. With less debris on these routes, tigers are able to move through their territory quicker, and with less risk of injury to their paws.

T41 and her male cub came onto the road as it was a direct route towards this beautiful evergreen valley to cool off in the water. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

Interestingly, there is a second reason why you can see tigers in Ranthambhore National Park walking along the tracks. Even before Ranthambhore had received it’s National Park status in 1980, the Forest Department of India moved around the park first by foot and then eventually also by jeep. As they were tracking these tigers they often saw pugmarks of these pre-existing tracks that ran through the forest. Ancestral knowledge passed down through their mothers for generations, shows that tigers had been using a conjoining network of preferred routes when moving through the forest. With constant use these tracks had become wider and wider. Therefore when Ranthambhore opened its gates to the public, it seemed too destructive to carve new tracks through the forest for jeeps to move about when the tigers themselves had created an intricate web of routes that spread across the whole of the park already. It’s something to remember if ever you are lucky enough to observe one of these majestic cats walking on the track that this track has been created by a long lineage of tigers mapping the forest floor and continuously teaching them to their offspring.

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Author: Katya Ignatiev

A second surprise. I have to confess that I didn’t see him right away. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

 


Through the dense jungle canopy, we were lucky enough to watch two of T19’s cubs. Coming onto a year old, these cubs have been a joy to photograph as they become more and more confident by the day. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.
Cooling off in a cavernous crack, T39’s female cub is often sighted alone as she prepares for her independence. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

 


T19 quenches her thirst in a hot summer evening. These water bodies are a life support to all animals, both prey and predator, especially in the rising summer temperatures. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.
Finding a bit of shade in a welcoming patch of grass, T41’s male cub inquisitively gazes across a cool oasis. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

 

Paused in time. T41’s Male Cub caught yawning. What I particularly love about this photo is the drop of water suspended in the middle of his gaping mouth. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.

 


A rare sighting of a couple of male jungle bush quail sitting out in the open. These tiny birds measuring only 17cm long and regularly hide out in thick grassy runs. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.
A beady eyed scops owl comfortably perches in a tree cavity. With his feathers mimicking the tree itself, this bird has the perfect camouflage. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev.
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