Dera Amer, a soiree with the elephants in Jaipur

There’s no better place in India than royal Rajasthan to find elephants. Having the opportunity to meet one of these majestic creatures is a truly unforgettable experience. Questions are often raised about unethical practices and the welfare of these animals. This is where Dera Amer – a peaceful camp just outside Jaipur – comes in…

Nestled within the Aravalli Hills, on the outskirts of the tiny rural village of Kukas, there are two big things that make Dera Amer so special: Laxmi and Rangmala. These two loveable resident elephants were adopted from Amer Fort, where they were saved from a life of ferrying tourists up and down the hill. Today, they are fed, bathed, walked, and spend time with guests at the camp.

The way to an elephant’s heart is a tasty, ripe banana. Guided by a mahout, guests can feed the elephants with a banana (or four) before offering them water (elephants can drink up to 50 gallons of water a day) which they suck up their trunk. Once they’ve had a good amount, watch as the elephant shoots it into her mouth, as well as over her face and body to cool herself off. Guests can also bathe the elephants, scrubbing their forehead and trunk with a stiff-bristled brush. However, most exciting is the opportunity to decorate Laxmi or Rangmala’s trunk – a traditional Indian practice at weddings and festivals. Guests can either freestyle with their own pattern or the mahout can draw an outline to be filled in with an extravaganza of color (the paints are organic and water-solvent so there’s no risk of irritation to the elephant). This is a great experience for all ages but especially for a family holiday with children, in Jaipur.

Running across two campsites, the six luxury tents hark back to the traveling caravans that once traversed the Thar Desert. Channeling salmon hues in keeping with Jaipur’s nickname, ‘The Pink City’, the canvas canopies feature dark wood furniture, woven carpets, intricately crafted ornaments, and jewel-colored cushions and throws. The super comfortable beds disprove any ‘camping’ reservation guests might have, as do the powerful, instantly hot showers. Guests are more than likely to have an entire camp (elephant included) to themselves, giving a feeling of exclusivity.

It’s a seasonal camp, closed between the summer months, but what it lacks in facilities (there is no pool, no spa, no minibar), it makes up for in wildlife with plenty of early morning safaris in search of leopard, jackals, deer and a long list of birdlife. Guests can also go on a guided walk through the Saluwar Forest with the mahouts as they walk the elephants (Dera Amer does not support elephant riding, therefore all of the safaris are walking tours and none of the elephants wear saddles).

Guests dine by candlelight on local ‘Pushkar’ cuisine – the flavors of rural Rajasthan. Almost all of the vegetable produce comes from Dera Amer’s sprawling organic vegetable plot. Traditional dishes of gajarmatar, palak paneer, aloo gobi and smoky chicken tikka are accompanied by mountains of rice and baskets of roti, straight from the tandoor. Guests with a sweet tooth will love the syrupy gulab jamuns for pudding. Though breakfast with the elephants (eggs to order, cereals, fruit, and plenty of bananas) remains everyone’s favorite meal.

These ideas are just a starting point for what your trip to India could include. To start planning your luxury tailor-made holiday to India, please contact us. Each trip designed by Rajasthan Tours is created uniquely for you, working to your budget, style and interests with an absolute commitment to quality. We take the work off you to allow you to enjoy the most memorable holiday experience.