Tracking leopards in Rajasthan - Jhalana Wild Safari

Published on 13 June 2023 at 00:07

Leopards, known for their elusive nature and remarkable adaptability, are big cats found across both Africa and Asia. In India, the encounters between humans and leopards have been on the rise due to the encroachment of big cities into the leopard's natural habitat. Nowadays, leopards can be even spotted in the outskirts of large cities. The Jhalana Leopard Reserve just outside of Rajasthan's capital Jaipur has a dense leopard population and offers a great chance to see these cats in the wild...

Where is it?

The Jhalana National Park is located in Jaipur, approx. 10 km from the city centre. Jaipur, also known as the "Pink City", is the capital of India's largest state, Rajasthan. This state is dominated by the Thar desert  in the West and North, and cultivated plains in the South, but the area around Jaipur is dominated by the Aravalli range. These series of hills and mountains consists of lush green forests and is home to Rajasthan's diverse wildlife.

How to get there

You can reach Jaipur via flight. This city has a rich history and offers some magnificient cultural treasures such as the Hawa Mahal, the Jal Mahal, or the Amber Fort. The Jhalana national park is located in the east of the city close to the airport. After booking a jeep safari online, a guide will pick you up at the hotel and take you for a full or half-day drive through the park.


Indian leopard, striped hyena, jackal, nilgai, birds

The experience

December nights are cold and North India is no exception. We were picked up from our hotel by a guide and embarked on an open jeep ride through Jaipur, a still-sleeping city at 5am. Luckily, we had brought blankets from our hotel, as we had underestimated the intensity of the cold. Our thoughtful guide saw us shivering in the back of the jeep and even made a brief stop for a tea break.

After a half-hour ride, we arrived at the National Park. A short registration process and we entered the park. It was still dawn and during our ride we witnessed nature coming slowly to live.  Our first sighting was a small group of nilgais, also known as blue bucks. These beautiful animals, with dark blueish-black fur for males and light brown for females, were numerous and remarkably calm, indicating that no leopards were nearby. We visited different spots within the park known for leopard sightings, but despite our patience, we were unable to catch a glimpse of this elusive cat. However, we did come across some leopard paw prints, confirming the presence of one of Jhalana's 35 leopards. Although we had no luck, we took a short break outside the reserve and admired the sunrise—a breathtaking sight that made us appreciate the morning.

During our break, we were invited by some locals sitting by a fireplace. They were aware of our quest to see a leopard and shared their own stories. It seemed that everyone had encountered this magnificent cat at some point, whether in the city at night or right in front of their homes. Leopards often came to hunt their pet dogs!

Our tour inside the reserve continued, but still, no leopards appeared. We came to understand the unpredictable nature of wildlife safaris—sightings are never guaranteed, and it can be quite frustrating, especially when you realize it might have been your only chance. However, we were fortunate to observe other animals such as the ever-present nilgais, often accompanied by gray langurs, as well as various bird species like Indian peafowls and a beautiful white-throated kingfisher. These encounters provided some solace for not being able to spot the park's top predator. And as for the apex predator, the leopards... I will try again in the future!


If you keep your eyes open while wandering around the "pink city" Jaipur, you might catch some wildlife. Especially around the water palace, the Jal Mahal, birdwatchers can observe some beautiful birds. Camels are often present near famous sights as camel rides are a popular tourist activity. However, it is advisable to refrain from participating in such activities. A lucky encounter I got one morning - a black kite perched near our hotel balcony.

Animal check-list


  • Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus)
  • Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)
  • Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius)


  • Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus)
  • White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis fusca)
  • Spotted owlet (Athene brama)
  • Black kite (Milvus migrans)
  • Great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
  • Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  • Great egret (Ardea alba)
  • Indian spot-billed duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)

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