Nature Photography by Sash Dias

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Yala (Ruhunu) National Park

Located on the tropical island of Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park was formally declared a national park in 1938. Home to diverse variety of flora and fauna, the high point of any visit to the national park is a sighting of the rare Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera Pardus Kotiya). 
Our trip lasted two nights, which gave us time for four safaris or game drives. As the best time for viewing wildlife occurs right after dawn and just before dusk, this meant waking up at 5:15am each morning to ensure we were dressed, geared up and at the park entrance by 5:45am, and again cutting short our afternoon siestas to be at the park by 4pm.
Our safari driver was the unassuming but single minded Janaka. Single minded in his pursuit of ensuring we saw the elusive leopard to the detriment of seeing any other kind of fauna in the park!
Yala is a mix of dense scrub, trees and the occasional grassy plain. During four game drives, we saw a total of six leopards (four adults, two cubs), elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, junglefowl, kites, bee-eaters and other assorted birds. Though the wet conditions usually result in a lower number of wildlife sightings, this was not the case on our safaris.
Our first sighting was of a leopard around 40 feet from a road in the national park. The leopard seemed to be a large male, and was enjoying an afternoon nap. The undergrowth was making a decent image impossible, so we waited for the leopard to move. Unfortunately, around twenty or more safari jeeps soon materialized, turning the scene into a viewing frenzy.

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