Did I mention Nana was a good tracker? His good judgment entered the realms of fantasy as on his instructions we turned Siyambalagaswala pare and surprised a leopard picking its way through the puddles on the road. The other jeep was in front of us and as we swerved behind it to get into position for a photograph the leopard (apparently) did a spirited leap over a puddle and bolted into the undergrowth. I say apparently because after a first glimpse of the leopard, I was so caught up in making sure my camera gear was ready I missed out on the acrobatics.
As both jeeps came to a halt, our luck held out. A beautiful female leopard stared suspiciously out as from the bushes as we clicked a few frames. She was a bit frisky though and didn’t stay for too long, moving off away from the road and into the bush. After hanging around to confirm that she wouldn’t be gracing us with her presence again we moved on. The bush was hot and dry as we drove slowly through the park, not much stirred due to the intense heat. Our drive was however briefly enlivened by a crocodile that apparently was into fashion, sporting a green halter top of algae and determined to take on the jeep in a game of chicken.
We swung back to Gonalabe pare to see if the leopard cub had returned. As we passed the thicket where it was thought to frequent, Nishan requested a quick reverse as he thought he had spotted something. I swear I saw something then that was golden coloured in the midst of the trees but as hard as we stared and stared nothing resolved itself out of the confusion. Finally we moved on and swung back to be greeted by a cavalcade of jeeps which had taken our spot that we had exited a few moments ago. Everybody much to our chagrin was excitedly staring at the cub that we had somehow missed out on. Disgusted at our incompetence and not wishing to get asphyxiated by the diesel fumes we moved swiftly onwards. A short while later we were provided a close up of an extremely stern looking Greater Adjutant stork, atop a rock on which I had on a previous trip seen a leopard.
Greater Adjutant Stork
Unfortunately our luck really seemed to run out at that point and the rest of the round didn’t come to much. A large bull elephant did provide some lively moments though probably not as lively as we would have liked, with him showing a complete lack of interest in charging. On a side note, is it just me or is there a serious dearth of elephants in Yala. I have very rarely seen any of the family groups that used to make the park rounds so interesting in the decades past with their infants and rambunctious aunts. These days it’s mostly a few older males and the (very) rare family unit that seems more intent on feeding than charging.
We regretfully exited the park as dusk came down keeping in mind that one tracker between two jeeps was definitely not a good idea and making a mental note to keep stalking the leopard cub until we got some usable shots.
(To be continued)