Portrait of a Leopard
23/07/12 08:13 AM
For me, one of the highlights of our recent trip to Sri Lanka was always going to be the chance to photograph the elusive and beautiful leopard. One of the best places to see this animal is in Ruhunu (more commonly known as Yala) National Park. The drive from the capital Colombo to the park took us a good 7-8 hours, and we got to our hotel around 2pm. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and then readied the camera gear for our first game drive that afternoon.
The weather had been very dry for a few months, and Yala has a unique characteristic - most of the watrering holes are close to the game drive trails and therefore dry periods are the best time to see animals as they all congregrate near the water holes. However, it rained pretty hard for a while before we started the game drive, and rain usually drives most of the animals to find shelter. The majority of our group decided to skip the afternoon game drive and relax at the hotel due to the weather. but my father and I decided that it was too precious an opportunity to waste and decided to do the drive on our own.
We entered the park around 3pm, and spent the better part of 2 hours driving around the park without seeing much more than spotted deer. However we took the opportunity to photograph some birds, including the vividly colored Little Green Bee Eater.
Our luck turned soon. We were driving through an area named Val Mal Kema when our tracker (Tharindu) yelled "Kotiya, kotiya!!!" (leopard, leopard!). Sure enough, a leopard had paused close to the edge of the trail and was staring at us. It took a few seconds for the safari jeep to stop in the right spot, and by then the leopard had disappeared behind a rocky outcrop. We got our gear ready, knowing that the location probably meant that it was drinking water at a little pool. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later its head popped into view and it lazily looked around. I managed to squeeze off a few frames, and that was about the only good opportunity we got to photograph it as it started walking away from us and into the jungle. Enjoy the photographs!