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Yala Musings - story of a leopard sighting....

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By 11am Yala was oppressively hot and humid on a late January morning. We were all content after a jungle picnic breakfast of pol rotti's with spicy katta sambol, seeni sambol and dhall, (some very yummy, local, Sri Lankan foods) washed down with hot tea and chilled fresh mandarins from the cooler for desert. Everything was served al fresco from the back of the SUV 4WD. En route to the gate, and now ensconced in comfortable leather seats with air-conditioning we detoured towards Buttawa Wewa and then further on to the Jamburagala Rd to check out a leopard we had seen earlier in the morning. In reality we had barely seen him. The elusive "prince of the dark" had been well concealed from prying eyes, deep inside the lush foliage of a large Tamarind tree along the Jamburagala Rd. Would the leopard still be there almost three hours later? Our tracker Priyantha was supremely confident. He was sure this big male leopard would rest in the tree all day and only descend late in the afternoon when the blazing sun had descended towards the horizon. The morning sighting had been but a fleeting glimpse of a few coloured spots of a leopards butt. It had been barely visible through the thick foliage.
Approaching the spot once again with anticipation everyone craned their necks and searched on the tree. Lo and behold the leopard was still there! And we were lucky as it had turned around and had repositioned itself, now facing in our direction. It was still not easy to get a clear view of its face which was obscured by branches and leaves. Yala does not allow any off road driving so we had to struggle to find a vantage point from which we could see the animal. The gravel jeep track was heavily lined with thick scrub jungle. Inching the vehicle forwards and backwards several times over with my daughter guiding me, everyone contorted into various acrobatic yogic positions inside the vehicle to try and get a glimpse. With the help of binoculars and juggling and fumbling a heavy bean bag and the Canon with the big 500mm mounted, we finally found a “sweet” spot from where we could just see him between the mass of branches, twigs and leaves. Some leaves were still obscuring his face, however, every now and then a little waft of the breeze would part the leaves like a cinema curtain and for a few magic moments the leopards face would be just about visible. Damn! A branch still was in the way. And then in all his arrogance the beautiful cat swiveled around and gave me “The Look”……..

For photos of leopards and other beautiful nature from Sri Lanka please visit my above Flickr gallery.


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